Present Shock

Maybe it’s not the music’s fault.

Used to be you lay on your bed listening to music dreaming of a better life to come. One with friends, romance, all kinds of excitement.

Now you just log on to the Internet and hunt for these experiences. You know, the peak of a positive e-mail, a congratulatory tweet, a stimulating web page. The odds are low, but far from nonexistent if you participate. So you post, you give to get, this is the modern paradigm.

In other words, who’s got time for music that might be challenging, different, require more time to get into? And is the focus on live events their inherent transitory nature, is the fact you can make more money there than from records not a function of P2P thievery but a change in modern life?

No one asks questions anymore. Blame the educational system. Wherein the poor are passed through the most rudimentary of classes and the rich are prepared at prep school but abandon it all in search of cash, which is king in our society today. Did you read Amar Bose’s obituaries? You may pooh-pooh the quality of his speakers, but this guy refused to go public for fear of a board forcing him to compromise in the name of profits and said he had one house and one car and he didn’t need more money, he lived to think and invent.

Kind of like Douglas Rushkoff.

Last night I listened to his interview with Marc Maron on WTF and I found myself challenging all my preconceptions, gaining new insight into modern life, something that rarely happens in this sell or be sold society of today.

And that was one of Rushkoff’s points. That capitalists, corporations, have taken over the Internet, trying to replicate the pre-wired era, and the fit may be bad and the consequences may be worse.

Come on, you know what he’s talking about. The endless ads, the crazy self-promotion. Everybody’s trying to get attention, they want more, more, more, and there’s no time for the contemplated life, which is the essence of music. Unless it’s immediate, a one hit  wonder, driven by video, like PSY’s “Gangnam Style,” or wondrously infectious in its own right, like Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” In other words, musicians have it right, they’re asking listeners to jet back to what once was, only listeners are having no part of it, if they’re listening at all. They’re too busy tweeting and Facebooking and…looking for that hit that only music could give them. Meanwhile, everybody in the industry, and the musicians themselves, is focused on money, something which the techies do so much better. Maybe they should step back and take the road less traveled.

That’s what Rushkoff is saying. He advocates unplugging, going face to face. And I get where he’s coming from, but I like being able to connect with so many online. Yet he makes the point…what is the point of connecting with your second grade buddy in cyberspace. After you get the hit of dopamine, do you really want to continue, how many relationships can you have, isn’t there a reason you grew up and moved on?

Rushkoff advocates local focus. In monetary exchange. In agriculture. He says the old worldwide money game no longer works. In other words, if you’re a hero in your hometown, playing your music at every social function, are you ahead of the game, far in front of your peers looking for world domination but not achieving it?

Come on. Jay-Z’s album has already been forgotten. And all we really remember about it was that he came up with a new way to make money. What has this got to do with music? And some say Kanye’s message on “Yeezus” is important, but without a hit, everyone’s focusing elsewhere. So what are the chances for you? Would the public like to spend time ferreting out greatness, unplugging from the web to spend time with albums, or is that a quaint notion discordant with the times, where everybody can get a bigger rush from a text?

I wish I could say Rushkoff is as good a writer as a talker, but I’m finding his book slow going, because he doesn’t understand the bedrock of writing is readability, it doesn’t matter how good your ideas are if people don’t want to read them, but he does bring up a good point. Few people I know talk about music, certainly not those uninvolved making and selling it. They’re hooked to the rush of their devices. They only have time for that which they can network online about, driving the blockbuster business.

It’s worth thinking about.

I am.

Amar Bose: “‘Company directors who pay themselves dividends get enjoyment out of the money, but I wouldn’t have that,’ he said. ‘It’s not that I’m a good person. I am just doing what I enjoy the most. I don’t want a second house, I have one car, and that’s enough. These things don’t give me pleasure, but thinking about great little ideas gives me real pleasure.’”
Los Angeles Times

Amar Bose 2: “And by refusing to offer stock to the public, Dr. Bose was able to pursue risky long-term research, such as noise-canceling headphones and an innovative suspension system for cars, without the pressures of quarterly earnings announcements.”
New York Times

Rushkoff On Maron

“Present Shock”

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