By Hans Ebert
We’ve come to a point where we’re scared to make music. Over the last few years, those of us who even dabble in music in the wild hope of, not being rich, because there really is no money in producing music, but for the satisfaction of being involved in a hit record, have become more and more scared and suspicious- suspicious about playing our songs to others. It’s probably why the music industry is in such an unhealthy state, and with so many trying to eke a living out of it, going nowhere. Where’s there to go, anyway? We’ve run out of places offering real opportunities to get ahead. But what does “getting ahead” mean anymore, anyway? Meeting or hearing from some has-been with a vague idea for a “project”? Pass. Been there. Led nowhere. Wasted time.
This paranoia- and it is paranoia- has much to do with all these “writs for hits” running rampant, starting with the case against “Blurred Lines” to the recent copyright infringement cases involving Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, and, of course the big one- Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” and the band Spirit’s “Taurus”. The latter court case is too convoluted to get into here, but despite Led Zeppelin being cleared of all charges, there are more questions than answers.
Starting at home base, how safe is it to play your songs to people before they end up being “our songs”? Someone listening might play along, add a key change, and if anything that might suggest a hit happening along with some chump change, might mean that you have inherited a co-songwriter. So, you become suspicious and guarded. It’s very different from those innocent days when you asked, “Wanna hear something new?” or, “Wanna add a base line?” or, “Do you prefer it sung this way or like this?” There’s a little voice going in your head that was never there before and saying, “Trust no one.”
Today, well, today, there’s a quiet desperation along with time running out for long term plans- in all aspects of life, but, especially, music. What boggled this mind is how little Jimmy Page and Robert Plant made from the most iconic Rock song. They’d probably make more by counter-suing those who hauled their asses to court and charge them with defamation of character and libel. And this is where we’re at in music- waiting to play Gotcha. But playing Gotcha costs money and very few can afford to play the game.
So what happens and where are we going with music? Not very far, Tonto. Where are we even going with anything to do with the creative product? We’re lost and, yes, we’re scared. From having trust issues with your wife or girlfriend, there are now trust issues with everyone and everything we come up against. The grey online copyright laws make things murkier.
Forget the usual suspects who want to “tap your brain” over lunch and stiff you with the bill. They were blocked from your life years ago. You’re now having trust issues with nearly everyone about everything- signing anything, mentioning ideas over the phone, thinking about everything sent out through every form of messaging, talking in your sleep… None of us really know where any of this “sharing” will end up and whether you’ll unwittingly become the piggy in the middle holding the bag.
What’s not going on? Too few with original ideas, and too many wanting a free ride on their coat tails. It’s called survival, but keeping others well fed and knowing all-too-well those who have peaked, and are now clutching at straws as they have nothing going for themselves and so would like to see who’s got what going out there has created a very insular society where true teamwork is almost impossible to find. Some say that social media has turned us into slaves to technology and communicating in the soulless online world. They could be correct. What real life communication do we do every day?
Watching the lack of communication skills between people over a meal and simple face-to-face discussions without a smartphone in sight, has become part of the past, and when she would say, “If you’re going to have that fucking phone on when you’re with me, I’m leaving.” You behaved and listened. Really listened. Face-to-face. It’s also how we worked. Face-to-face and when we could look someone straight in the eye, and intuitively know truth from bollocks.
Switch that phone off, meet whoever you wish to meet in person, and get back to how it once was. It’s not too late to free yourself from being a prisoner of the unsocial network.
Technology has its time and place. But not in improving inter-personal skills, strengthening and mending personal relationships gone wrong, and learning to trust again- learning to trust enough to love that special person you always loved for all the right reasons, and to create and work as a team where everyone wins. Get there fast and make every moment count. That other stairway to heaven might not be that far away.