2020: Thoughts for the New Year

2019 was a great year at GuitarAttack World Headquarters.  We experienced many ups and downs, but overall things worked out pretty well for the entire crew. 

That being said, all of us sit around and think about things...some probably more than others.  After thinking about a bunch of things, here are a few I’m going to throw out and ask for your opinion.  If you want to talk back, go to the Forum and have at it.  If nothing else, you’ll have something to think about as we run head-long in to 2020.

1.  Do do you have your own website?

Unlike a lot of posers out there, I’ve been involved in the internet since the late 1990s.  This site is a shrine to my journey into guitar repair and building.  Facebook and Instagram probably can’t do what your own website can do, but maintaining a site, particularly for a number of years, can be time consuming and difficult.  I encourage each of you to get your own site, build a shrine, and build a community.  Why, you ask? Two reasons -- you might actually inspire somebody to try something new and develop a new skill.  Also, some random person can’t come and shut you down because they don’t like you or something you say.  There is something to say about the goodness of free exchange of ideas and freedom of expression, and this is my spot for that..

2.  Does music suck?

Yes, it generally sucks.  While it’s never been worse, it’s never been easier to make and distribute.  Maybe we just get to hear more bad music now because everybody records.  There are no gatekeepers – everybody gets a shot.  Add in to this the revelation from Debra Dugan in January 2020 that the Grammy’s are fixed.  NO WAY? (this is my shocked face)… Who would have ever believed that?

Of course it’s fixed, just like a lot of those talent shows on TV.  Television has to be fixed to be enjoyable.  Watching regular people going about their regular lives normally doesn’t make us binge watch a show.  It’s like those reality shows on E! and other networks: They give the impression that they are all off the cuff, random, and real…while they have three camera people and a producer standing over the talent in the same room, fanning the flames of conflict.  That show based in Nashville about the family moving from Atlanta to take part in the boomtimes in Middle Tennessee is about the dumbest, and is also one that enjoys incredibly high ratings.  Who comes up with those dumb situations? The family? The Man?

When is the last time you watched a Grammy's show? Do you believe The Voice and American Idol are completely objective, real, and free from interference from the sponsors and producers? Can you name a winner of the Voice or American Idol since Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson? The story is that the singing shows “focus group” performers before they advance.  Everything else is on TV, too.  If you invested and borrowed a ton of cash to promote one of these shows would you leave it completely to chance and hope somebody interesting advanced and won? Today the quickest way to become famous in music is to be famous first.  Who wants to be famous?

3.  What is success in the music business today?

Like I’ve said for a long time, and based on my experience working in Nashville, which is peripheral, making an OK living is success now.  Gone are the CD sales and big advances.  It is a tough business, but there is an unlimited supply of musicians willing to play for free, and that is what a big, impersonal business likes.

I recently talked to a guy I worked with in Nashville.  He is a very talented drummer, and I asked if he is still playing.  He said he is playing all the time, but all the gigs are “bro gigs”.  That is code for “playing for nothing.” Nobody had a KISS or Aerosmith poster on their wall back in my day to play “bro gigs”.  That should not be the aspiration.

Case in point: I played a lot of gigs in 2019, and one sticks out in my memory.  We played a small festival gig back in Summer 2019 in a very pretty little town in Tennessee.  It was typical for a festival gig: Leave the house early in the morning, stand around waiting for a sound check, and baking under the afternoon sun.  This was one of those “spend fourteen hours to play a two-hour show”, and I was beat when we finally got the entire thing torn down.  I got paid, then I started thinking about what the band got paid for the show.  When I found out what we got paid as a unit, it was clearly not enough, and it made me sad to think that is all we were worth.  However, if we had turned it down, somebody would have played for nothing.  Is live music worth anything at all?

Billy Corgan of the “Smashing Pumpkins” came out a few weeks ago and said bands shouldn’t bother playing gigs; rather, they should focus on becoming internet stars on YouTube and Instagram.  Much easier than playing, and much more lucrative.  It’s like when I watched “Jackass” on TV with my son when he was in high school.  Look how easy it was for those bros to get famous (even though it looked painful).  That is the world in which we live.  You want to be a famous musician? Get famous first, then become a musician.

4.  Are guitars still cool?

I think so, but I also go to car shows and the theater to see movies, something that really shows my age.  I am really sick of the newest/greatest relic Telecaster copies, and the coolest, most authentic PAF clone, ever.  I thought the most revolutionary guitars of the past decades were the Parker Fly, the Steinbergers, and the Kramers with aluminum necks.  Sadly, you can’t give those things away right now.  Also, all of the bands I’ve seen lately are running backing tracks, and the general state of musicianship has been pretty weak. 

5.  Do we need a new guitar hero?

 Is it me or are we at peak “Kid on YouTube doing his best to act like Stevie Ray Vaughn” or “14-year-old playing Yngwie to get his dad off his back”? I think a lot of the lack of a guitar hero goes into the entire “lack of shared experiences” and “walking around with earbuds in looking studious”.  Everybody watched The Beatles in 1964.  Everybody knew about Woodstock.  Everybody bought albums.  Everybody listened to the radio.  What shared experience do we share now? We may be past the guitar hero.  We may be past the band experience.

6.  Am I the only person on the internet without a Kickstarter campaign/Go Fund Me site?

Seems like most of these campaigns are to pay funeral expenses.  Please save some money and forego that humiliation for your family.  I can’t believe there are still folks out there raising money to record and album to give away.  Figure it out on your own – you can record your own stuff. 

So what do you think?

Have a great 2020 and keep checking back!

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