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The Sandwich Shop

These are my thoughts. They are based on what I see going on around me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

I know very little about myself. If I did know myself better, I probably wouldn't be doing this.

Friday, September 30, 2005

No Business in Show Business ?
How old were you the first time you heard the phrase, "the music business" ? Let me go out on a limb and say that no matter how old you were, you had already been listening to music for a long time before you heard that phrase for the first time.
It's too bad that each of us doesn't have a permanent record ( no pun intended ) of the very first time we heard those three fatal words, "the music business" . "Why ?" you ask. Because before we knew that there was a business attached to music we had a totally different view of what music was and how it fit into our lives. Somewhere in the span of time between the very first time we hear the phrase, "the music business" , and the time it takes for us to figure out what it means, we lose just about all the original feelings we had for music; plus we lose the place it had in our lives as well.
Truth be told, there is no such thing as a music business. Oh, there are plenty of businesses that sell music, but they are not where music comes from. The best analogy I can think of is a mega-supermarket and the wholesale warehouse that sells products to it.
When you walk into a mega-supermarket, you are bombarded with these impressions:
1. Anything you could possibly want to eat is somewhere in that store.
2. All of the food in that store is somehow better than food in other
smaller stores.
3. The package the food comes in and the food itself are one and the
package is just as important as the food in it.
4. None of the vegetables or meat you see ever existed in any other form
other than the one you see in the mega-market.
While the mega-market creates these images, it is the wholesale warehouse that supplies it with the food products they stock their shelves with. In theory, you could go right to the wholesale warehouse and buy the exact same thing you see on the shelves of the mega-market, probably even cheaper than at the mega-market itself. The only thing missing would be the glitter, bright lights, fancy displays, and other things that make shopping at the mega-mart seem like a fantasy come alive.
In the wholesale warehouse everybody knows where food comes from . Vegetables are grown in dirt ( sometimes water ) harvested by machinery and hourly workers, loaded on trucks, trains, boats, and sometimes planes, and hauled unceremoniously in bulk to locations where they are repackaged. Meat is harvested from living stock that must be transported to slaughter, transported to processing, and finally transported to the wholesale warehouse where it is stockpiled until it is time for it to go to the mega-market.
The above description of the relationship between a mega-market and the wholesale warehouse that supplies it is not intended to judge the ethics of either operation, but simply to explain their relationship.
If you think of the music business as the mega-supermarket, and musicians as the wholesale warehouse, and music as the food they both make a living from, you can begin to see why we lose so much of what it is we get from music once we become aware that we are getting our music from a business.
Real music, like real food, occurs naturally in this world. For most of us, our first musical experiences are songs we make up ourselves using our own imagination. From that music we get joy and nourishment, not unlike growing your own food or raising your own live stock.
Around the time our taste for music begins growing beyond what we can make up ourselves, we become aware of the fact that we can go out and buy more sophisticated music. Not unlike someone who grew up eating homegrown food might discover they can buy more sophisticated food at a market.
Businesses that sell food or music didn't invent these things and they don't have a monopoly on them; something they are more than a little aware of. So they begin marketing their products in ways that make them more attractive than they might be on their own.
Remember the four examples of the impressions a mega-supermarket might give you when you walked in the front door ? Let's shift those same four examples over to a mega-music store and see what we get.
1. Any music you could possibly want is somwehere in that store.
2. All the recorded music in that store is somehow better than the
recorded music in other smaller stores.
3. The package the music comes in and the music are one, and the
package is just as important as the music is.
4. None of the music in the mega-music store ever existed in any other
form other than what they carry.
Just like neither the mega-supermarket or the wholesale warehouse is where food really comes from, neither the record company, the music store, or for that matter any particular musical group is where music really comes from.
To look at a mega-supermarket as a source of healthy, good tasting food or a mega-music store as a source of fresh, soul satisfying music, sad to say, is a waste of time.
There's a reason that there has always been a corner market somewhere in town and a guy with an acoustic guitar playing in the middle of nowhere. No matter who or what is the latest, the greatest, or the highest paid, real farmers sell real food the way they grew it or raised it; they know it doesn't need frilly packaging. Real musicans play their music the way it comes out of their heads; they also know it doesn't need any frilly packaging.
Somebody has been buying enough product from both of them to keep them going, and going, and going, even as mega-everythings crumble or are merged into oblivion.
Don't like the food at the mega-supermarket ? Stop going there.
Don't like the music at the mega-music store ? Stop going there.
It really is a free market system if you have the luck to know exactly what it is you're hungry for.


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