Surrendering the Keys to the Kingdom

I posted a note about shifts in our culture and society via the digital media that has become ubiquitous within our world. In it I mentioned that power shifts from so-called experts to those who form the community, and this utilises a sort of collective intelligence, eschewing the specialised knowledge of the trained professional for the broader combined knowledge of the society.

This hits especially hard with musicians (you can plug in artists, actors, film makers, authors, and other creators of intellectual content here…), as we have come to think of ourselves as exactly those sorts of specialised experts from whom digital media wrenches power. During the course of the past century we have become professionalised; that is, our knowledge, and the products we produce have become commodified to the extent that we are now naturally quite protective of them, and of our status as controllers of their means of production.

Well, guess what? Like it or not, we’re gonna have to get used to the idea that we are no longer the exclusive holders to the keys to that kingdom. We can bitch and moan about how bad the music is that’s made by the great unwashed on YouTube, those dilettante wannabes who aren’t real musicians, who haven’t sacrificed, haven’t done the hard miles, don’t know the first thing about sound checks, cheap motels, late night truckstop coffee, or living hand to mouth, robbing Peter to pay Paul.

After all, we’re the real experts, the musicians, and it’s always been the wannabes’ place to simply be passive consumers. All we ask of them is to show up at our gigs, buy our CDs and T-shirts, and maybe tell their friends. Leave the music making to the pros. We’re the ones who are supposed to sign the autographs.

If you’re a musician, I’ll give you a tip: don’t look at the digital medium and all its attendant platforms (social networks, websites, Google Ads, YouTube, websites, etc.) as simply a tool for advertising in the old fashioned way. If you do, you’ve completely missed the point of the medium. Use it for connecting with people, not for trying to sell them something. Allow room for wannabes. They’re not your enemy; obscurity is. And if you truly connect, your livelihood will follow.