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 blog 2/12/07

Reflections on the music industry
by Cindy Ross on Mon, 02/12/2007 - 2:51am.

Today's post is by Cedille Records' Business Manager, Cindy Ross, who wrote this upon her return from the annual record industry conference known as MIDEM. Cindy went to strengthen our relationships with our distributors around the world and to find distributors for Cedille where we don't have them, but her observations here are far more wide-ranging than her professsional mission might suggest....

I recently returned from attending MIDEM in Cannes, France. MIDEM, the poor cousin to the International Film Festival, is a gathering of music professionals from all genres including artists, labels, and distributors. As one who is more often found at Chicago’s Empty Bottle drinking bad red wine from jelly glasses than schmoozing at Symphony Center, I have always enjoyed the diversity of music and the interesting characters prowling the famous Cannes Palais.

This year, however, something was different. The spark and energy I have always found at this event seemed to be lacking. Upon sighting two computer toting bespectacled twenty somethings sporting flannel shirt attire and wired with every mobile device known to man (and woman), I realized my prediction of thirty five years ago had come true and it was time to roll up the red carpet.

As a senior in high school, I was asked by the school principal to give a speech on education to a gathering of proud parents. I was fully aware that a speech regaling the quality of the rather dismal public school system from which I was soon to graduate was expected. Instead, after providing a phony speech for administrative approval, I presented my true thoughts and views on the educational system. I foretold the decline of the educational system into one that embraces whatever gadgetry is popular at the time (remember I was around when sputnik and Telstar first hit the skies and computers were filling very large air-conditioned rooms) and ignores what was once known as a liberal arts education. Our sad destiny was to send into the world individuals very ignorant of history, language, and the arts -- individuals completely incapable of communicating in no matter what form with any creative thought.
What does any of this have to do with my trip to Cannes?... a lot. There certainly exists music that is not to my taste, but I fully appreciate the creative and intellectual efforts that go into generating a unique sound. I hate rap but I have great respect for the early rappers who started a concept that has sadly degenerated into a genre bereft of any value musically or lyrically. (Exception noted to Lupe Fiasco’s Kick Push.) What I found in Cannes were computer whizzes who believe that because they can create a “sound” on a computer they are suddenly musicians. Computer gazing youngsters whining about how terrible their lives are was enough to send the best and most tolerant of us to our postal limits.
Perhaps I sound I bit like my father who proclaimed the music of the Beatles as sounding like “trash falling down the stairs”. Please trust me. I have a very open mind and heart when it comes to music and what I have just noted bodes well for the classically-trained musician whether pursuing a career in classical music or finding a different niche compatible to her temperament.

Though declaring it in one’s bio was often a source of ridicule in the press, many long-lived rock/pop artists have dabbled in classical music at one time or another. Certainly much of this dabble was nothing more than a few lessons from a weird woman down the street. (Thank you, Mrs. Raydo -- my piano teacher from the planet hell.) Even a few lessons, however, teaches one that music has emotional and intellectual components that go beyond the basic ability to play an instrument, or these days play a computer. The difference between a good musician and a great one is the genuine connection of the musician to his music, regardless of genre.

Keith Emerson, Peter Frampton, Pink Floyd, and even Procul Harum with their infamous Bach stealing Whiter Shade of Pale brought to popular music a musical sensibility that does not exist today. It is my greatest hope that those who surround themselves in the classical realm will look outside that box and bring their talents to another world that is seeking a much-needed renaissance.