Another year gone and another fall in music sales. Since the early 80's the warning every year from the record industry has been one of impending doom, usually with a finger pointed at pirates.
Who can forget the infamous "Home Taping Is Killing Music" that greeted you inside LP sleeves, like a police officer waiting round the corner, it would leap out at you and make you feel guilty even when you weren't. The golden days of live bootlegs are also a hazy memory, where you could pop along to Camden Market the Sunday after a gig and buy a recording of it on cassette. Despite industry pressure, tapes escaped a special "music tax" but not the impending march of technology. Cdr's MP3 & file sharing are now the corner stone of the major labels yearly epitaph.
The other main gripe I hear comes from the "man on the street" and is quite simply "People don't write good songs anymore". Personally I don't go along with this, but because I hear it from so many young people in particular, it would be remiss of me not to mention it.
Now I come to you with no hard evidence, spread sheets or solutions. I may be completely wrong.
But here is a thought to consider:-
I guess it became more popular and refined in the 70's, but the opportunity of dropping in; taping over the bit you played wrong, became the industry norm. An experienced tape operator could "punch in" over a mistake or fumble and give the illusion of a faultless performance. Many great records have been made this way and it is no shame on the musicians that did this but there was a certain charm in those early 50's & 60's records that contain mistakes.
By the 80's the drum machine had become a studio standard, the wavering tempos of the past banished to history books and hard liners, even REAL drummers had to learn to play to click tracks and a few seasoned session men struggled with this, furiously attending clinics and sitting for hours playing along to a metronome. Now, it's not unusual to play drums and not use the sound of the kit but to trigger samples of drums in order to achieve the perfect sound.
Over the last couple of decades the computer has become the focus of just about every studio, from high end £3000 a day to bargain basement recording facilities, with it, the ability to manipulate every sound's tone, pitch & timing to absolute perfection. Auto tune for vocals is present on most chart releases and now used for live performance along with pre-recorded vocals and music in an effort to achieve an Utopian audio experience.
Maybe though, all these things are chipping away at the one thing we value the most. To be human.
Maybe songs today are as good as they used to be, just lacking in spirit?
Does the more precise, perfect and mechanical Music become, make it more difficult for us to engage with it emotionally?
Just a thought, what do you think?