Yesterday Vs. Today

Is Music From Yesterday Better Than Today?

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

While speaking with a true hippie artist from the 1960s in San Francisco he told me that the problem with music today is that there is just too much out there.

This makes sense with the internet and sites like MySpace that list thousands of bands producing music. A person can create a site, contact many local studios, and even gain listeners from a recording that they made in their bedroom.

The problem with music created in your own little room is that it doesn’t get a chance to be digested by the listener live. This was explained best in a song by The White Stripes titled, “Little Room.” Jack White sang, “When you're in your little room, and you're working on something good, but if it's really good, you're gonna need a bigger room. And when you're in the bigger room, you might not know what to do, you might have to think of, how you got started, sittin’ in your little room.”

The issue that weaves its way into this argument is that when an artist is just recording music for themselves, and not performing it in front of a crowd, how does the artist know if it is any good?

Live energy created from a hit song performed in person is the most addictive substance on earth.

The best evidence of feedback making great music can be seen when a band hits it big with their first album, only to end up in sophomore obscurity because they too quickly wrote and recorded another. Most bands’ first CDs are amazing because they had time to shape the music in front of crowds for extended periods of time.

One example of a band that had almost too much music for their first album was The Doors. Released in 1967, their self-titled record was produced in a few days and contained songs that the band had played live for over a year straight. It was a huge hit, and they even filled a chart-topping second album 6 months later with the leftovers. Jump ahead a few years to when they were making their 6th studio album, L.A. Woman, and they took many, many months. The Doors were even forced to fire their longtime producer and record away from the studio using only their soundman in the end.

There are lots of exceptions to this rule. Take The Beatles for example; they got better with each studio album all the way until their last. The Beatles are always the exception to any rule, but they were rooted in many years of playing live shows nearly 24/7. The Beatles eventually had difficulties playing before a live crowd because their fans would scream over the band’s tiny amps. Their studio albums brought out who The Beatles truly were inside, and they continue to captivate audiences that weren’t even born when George Harrison was alive.

When talking to that hippie, concert poster artist Randy Tuten, he told me a few stories about seeing The Doors and even The Beatles live. One tale was from when he was living in Los Angeles during The Doors early days of 1966. He said that Jim Morrison was a drunk on stage and his shows were more misses than hits. Tuten also explained how the myth of many of these artists far outweighs their reality.

Do the internet and nostalgia peddlers make these bands out to be more than what they were in their time to make a buck?

The problem with all of this is that bands from the 1960s were paid for their shows, while bands today are not. People actually could make a decent income playing music live back in the old days, but those days are gone.

The internet makes everything free today. No one wants to pay for art now and it is almost too easy to create and share. This cheapens the art… and it creates a world with disposable music, much like everything else we buy today.

People need to be paid for their art, otherwise the result becomes short-lived crap.