I’ve been writing songs and playing music since high school. I’ve been in several bands, and even once imagined that I’d someday be famous.
During college I played in a pretty good band. We wrote good songs, performed with heart and drew a crowd. We paid for studio time and self-released our own album. It was expensive and time consuming, but we felt as though we were headed for the big time. We started shopping our music to record labels big and small, just hoping to sign a record deal.
Time and again we were turned down. Though executives repeatedly praised our music, they weren’t willing to take a chance on us. They said we weren’t attractive enough to be marketable.
That experience left me fairly devastated. I lost faith in my music. Though I never stopped playing, I decided to stop trying to get the attention of record companies. I decided to make music for me.
Why am I telling you this?
The recording industry has long dictated what we’ll listen to. And it’s not about who makes the best music; it’s about who will sell the most records. It’s about who has the best image, who will look best on a poster and who is willing to perform exactly what the label expects. Certainly there are notable exceptions to the rule, but they are few and far between. As a result, our airwaves are filled with simple pop songs that, for the most part, sound the same and say the same things. It’s McMusic.
Though I gave up on record labels, I never gave up on music. My best friends and I continued to write and record songs together, and a few years ago decided we’d recorded enough songs to make an album. So we gave ourselves a name, launched a website, put out the album and have been selling it online. A few months ago, I decided to start recording my own music. I shoot video of my recording sessions and post the videos with the finished songs to YouTube. I’m by no means a star, but my videos are watched hundreds of times and I generally get good feedback.
The most interesting thing I’ve found is the incredible number of musicians who are doing essentially the same thing: creating music and circumventing the music industry, finding a niche and getting recognized for their work. The leaders in that group are Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn, who play together as Pomplamoose.
Pomplamoose videos are fun to watch. Jack and Nataly are talented and attractive. They’ve gained thousands of fans and millions of video views. Jack says they’ve had plenty of interest from major labels, but they don’t want a record deal; they make their money off their YouTube ads, iTunes sales of their songs and various endorsements.
Whether Pomplamoose would have achieved notoriety without YouTube is debatable. They’re talented and attractive. Their songs are pretty good. If they were willing to play the game, I’ve no doubt the industry would embrace them, market them, make them stars. But they seem to enjoy doing things their way. They play their own instruments, do their own engineering and mixing, write their owns songs. The recording industry hates that kind of behavior.
What we’re seeing these days is a new music model — one in which listeners have more control than they’ve ever had. Thanks to the Internet, you can discover artists you’d never have heard of 10 years ago. There’s a buffet of music out there, waiting to be enjoyed at the click of a mouse. Many of these artists — me included — are writing, playing and recording their work themselves. There are no middlemen. What you hear is what the artist intends. Often you can purchase the songs you like, and the artists receive a much bigger cut of your purchase.
YouTube is filled with original artists making songs and videos, just begging for an audience. It’s time for consumers to take the power in our own hands, to listen to what we like — not just what’s on the radio. It’s time for us to explore everything that’s out there, instead of the handful of acts the recording industry allows us to hear. It’s time to start being active about our habits. You’ll find that those you support online will not only appreciate that support, but will often respond to your comments, take your suggestions, and make you an active participant in the process.
I’m glad to see that we’re coming to a consensus about texting and driving. Most people these days recognize that it’s a dangerous activity — one that should be avoided at all costs. As my friend at aplaceforthoughts.com writes, Oprah is using her considerable influence to raise awareness, and many states are enacting laws to keep people from texting in the car.
Though I’m glad to see so many doing their part to stop this dangerous activity, it bugs me that texting has become such a target while many other dangerous activities are still legal behind the wheel, including eating, drinking, smoking, adjusting the radio, putting on makeup and reading. Yes, reading.
Just about everything on that list has been causing accidents since the dawn of the automobile age, and yet none of them has been outlawed. In fact, most of us are guilty of at least a few of them. Some of us are guilty of them every day. Personally, I drink coffee on the way to the office every day. I fiddle with the radio. I’ve even been known to scarf a burger or a burrito while barreling down the road.
Ever try eating a burrito in the car? Bad idea. Especially when the thing bursts all over your good shirt.
Studies have shown that eating and drinking hot beverages are more dangerous than talking on a cell phone or sending text messages. So why are we allowed to eat in the car? Why is every automobile equipped with a radio? Why are there NO warnings on car stereo systems that adjusting them while driving is hazardous?
The reason is simple: We all do these things. And it’s easier for lawmakers — many of whom are not particularly tech savvy — to condemn something they don’t understand, rather than look at the bigger picture.
And the bigger picture means we need a real “distracted driver” law — a broad law that penalizes drivers for any distracting behavior they take part in while driving. And that means everything.
The law wouldn’t have to prohibit a person from eating, drinking, or even talking on a cell phone. But in the case of an accident, the driver would be ticketed and their insurance would take a hit when it was found they were distracted.
When I worked as a crime reporter, I saw way more accidents caused by people fiddling with the radio or yelling at their kids than when people were talking on cell phones. To be fair, cell phones were a lot more rare in those days, but it doesn’t change the fact that distracted drivers have always been a danger on the roads.
Let’s all pledge to stop texting while driving. But if we’re going to make laws, let’s make sure we’re going after the behavior, not the technology.