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LA LA Land – The Future of Music?  It’s only human.

The Future of Music?  It’s only human.

This week, my good friend Doña Oxford, the Queen of Boogie Woogie and the Princess of Soul, posted a personal video in which she told her fans in the US and Europe that she was taking a break from touring.  She is a touring musician deep in her being, but she told us that it no longer feeds her soul. She also mentioned that touring does not always feed her bank account despite sold out shows and a large, dedicated fan base on two continents. The old business model of an artist creating a product- a song, an album, a CD – and touring to introduce fans to the product and sell it to make a living are gone.  With streaming and downloading and free content, and the consolidation of the music touring industry, all but the most successful artists struggle.

But Doña is a creator.  And she still wants to create positive and uplifting content that sustains the kind of dialogue with her fans that she cannot have in the one-or-two-nights-in-town nature of a tour. So she is looking to build a platform to interact with her base and with other artists. She wants to do more than entertain;  she wants to build community, an idea that worked pretty well for Mark Zuckerberg.

What Doña’s platform will be and whether or not it resembles the one Zuck built , even she doesn’t know yet. We shall see.  

Doña is not the only example of an artist searching for new models. Another is Alezzandra, who will be on my radio show this week.  Born and raised in Sweden with a Serbian background, at an early age she was a successful singer, songwriter and producer in Europe. But like Doña, she longed for collaborators and a community of artists and fans that Europe did not offer, so she moved to LA alone when she was barely out of her teens.

Before Alezzandra found the community she sought, she found out how the music industry was changing beneath her feet, obsoleting the usual platforms and making survival very tough (she also found that romance can be tough, but that is another story – see her video).  So she created a new format that might help her survive both financially and emotionally– the mini-music film/video. A 13- minute cinematic format allows her to tell a story with all of her creative talents. Her first product, The Black Rose, released at the end of May has yet to see 2000 views on YouTube, but it has stimulated tremendous buzz in the music and entertainment media, laying the groundwork for the release of her song ‘Bad Woman ‘ this week.  

Whether the mini film/video is a better way to reach fans and help sustain a creative living we will see; but like Doña, Alezzandra’s soul needs to create, needs to get a message out and ignite conversation with fans and artists.  
Black Rose uses poetry, film, eroticism, sex, music and a very strong message of female strength to do that in a way that a song or an album could not.  She may be on to something.

In another example, a popular band I can’t name yet, came to me to be involved in a documentary film in the planning stages about their rise and the evolution of our society and the music industry around them.  They had just come off of very successful national tour and released a new album that broke artistic barriers, set off political conversations, and has already won awards. But like Doña they are exhausted. And like Doña they recognize that releasing albums and promoting them on tours – even profitable tours – is not a sustainable model. So they are exploring the documentary and other ways of entertaining and communicating with their fans.

Those are just three examples of artists responding to the tectonic shift in the music industry – actually, in all creative industries.  They are looking for new ideas, better ways to communicate with fans, expanding the nature and forms of their art. Necessity is the Mother of Invention.

So, who says music has be notes and words transmitted on vinyl or CD’s or even Spotify?  Maybe it is live shows mixed with video seen on phones for micropayments. Maybe it is communities that pay a small fee to co-write songs together that a band then records and distributes to them.  Maybe it is an online mini-TV series built around songs and the artists lives and a storyline that we follow like a tele novella or sitcom. Maybe you will pay for your music in your cellphone bill, or your medical insurance (music heals!). Maybe it will be the basis for language lessons – singing custom lyrics with the band on line live in the language you want to learn.  Maybe you don’t pay for music at all because an enlightened government sometime in the future supports the arts like Germany does today (and musicians all have houses and medical care and don’t have to work day jobs).

I don’t know, but whatever the future of music is, it will be different than the past.  Except that we will still be singing and dancing. That is only human.


Patrick O’Heffernan

Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist and radio broadcaster based in Los Angeles, California, with a global following. His two weekly radio programs, MusicFridayLive! and MusicaFusionLA are heard nationwide and in the UK. He focuses on two music specialties: emerging bands in all genres, and the growing LA-based ALM genre (American Latino Music) that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America like cumbia, banda, jarocho and mariachi. He also likes to watch his friend drag race.

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