Here I am taking few moments, starting a new note on what is looking like a beautiful May spring day. There is some amount of irony in considering what I am going to be writing about settled alongside the awareness that reviewing readership statistics from WordPress will, most likely, show the usual picture. That would be that the readership of my free rambling here will number in quantities best described as “several”.
You know, because the world really needs another guy yammering on the interknots.
I suppose I could look at this in a variety of different ways. I could contemplate an old idea I had years ago when the general public first started becoming aware of this thing called “the internet” as the newly concocted system dubbed The World Wide Web began flying around the network. One of my first thoughts about all that at the time went something like: the best thing about the web is that now, anybody can publish… the worst thing about the web is that, now, anybody can publish.
I thought that was a little funny, meant only slightly as a joke, a slight joke that had truth to it, and that has not really changed at all in the two decades and counting since that observation in the mid-nineties. I keep my own little corner of the web in perspective, knowing that in the bigger picture, what I have to say is pretty much lost in the vast array of digital noise.
For some weeks now, since my last little essay musing about the idea of “the market”, I had been thinking about getting back to this topic a little more, since it obviously is a broad subject to tackle, and there was a huge heaping load of more to say. Right now it comes back to mind having read a recent installment of the Clusterfuck Nation blog from writer James Howard Kunstler.
Actually, the specific item that prompted more thinking about this was an additional note about his publication of a new work of fiction. Kunstler’s name should be familiar to the occasional readers wandering in and reading my little corner here. His note is not merely a new self promotional item hawking his wares, as he talks not only about the new novel itself, but the larger matter of a professional writer trying to actually make a living from the financial returns on their endless hours, days, weeks, months of work.
To put it simply, the picture he paints of the current publishing business is not entirely wonderful, and not only for him. That is quite a large subject with a few facets to it, and it relates more than a tiny bit to the current state of the music business including the segment of that business involving recorded music.
In my thinking about the current state of things in broad ideas of “the market”, quite a lot has churned around in my mind since an event happening since my last note, the death of guitarist Allan Holdsworth.
Right away, there is something significant in considering what sort of response this notice might gather. In short, the usual might be something like “Allan who?”. There certainly are many people who know very well who the man was, and recognize that he was a towering giant among men, one of the greatest musicians to have practiced the craft. In the larger sampling of humanity, on the other hand, to be plainly realistic, that number of people is something like a statistical noise blip. You might sample a thousand random people with a query about Holdsworth and find zero people who knew the name, never mind knowing his work.
Given that he does, as I said, have some substantial level of notoriety among what you might consider to be something of the musical cognoscenti, there is a sort of common misconception among many people that holds the belief that if a musician is fairly well known, and especially if they have had a long career, that they must be rolling in cash. The reality is often very different. When Holdsworth died a few weeks ago, along with the usual spread of the news via the web including the social media world came a story of someone setting up an online digital collection fund for his family to try to gather enough money to give the man a proper funeral. The word “tragic” is overused and slightly abused, and this story is one that merits the use of the word to describe it.
Now, if people unfamiliar with Allan Holdsworth go and check out some of his work, many people are likely to find the stuff to be a little impenetrable and come to a conclusion that it would be not be very popular music. Nearly all of it was extremely complex and not at all what you would call light listening. It could be very easy for people to miss the point, not only in the music itself, but the suggestion that it should have met with much more financial reward. The sheer excellence and energetic imagination and performance of the stuff should have brought a larger audience and more economic benefit to Holdsworth and his associates. It would have been unrealistic to expect that he would have been a household name with luxury homes around the world, a collection of exotic cars, boats, and aircraft, and whatever, but he should have been very comfortable, indeed.
Of course, the current state of the music business is pretty strange anyway, and that probably needs a book or three to fully examine things.