Flippant, Wild, or Profound?

At the tip of the pyramid - photo by MMT

After reading T Bone Burnett’s thoughts on digital music in my previous post, you can imagine that his talk raised some eyebrows.  At the end of the video clip below, you may hear something that sounds like all the air being sucked out of the room — that’s how it felt in Lohrfink Auditorium.

Yesterday, one of the presenters on “The Changing Nature of Artist Compensation” panel referred to him as “flippant”, while another offered a more balanced assessment: “T Bone said some wild things, and he said some very profound things.”

I have a lot of respect for T Bone’s career and accomplishments, and applaud him for championing higher quality recordings.  He understandably decried the fact that the film, television, and video game industries put out music at a higher resolution than the music industry.  A friend who works as a music editor for feature films is astonished by people who send him MP3 files for use on soundtracks.  “I usually reply with a message asking them: where’s the other 90% of the music?”

While I do think Burnett is fighting a losing (or rather, lost) battle for the mass market, he’s right that today’s MP3 files are not the end of the story.   He hinted at work on a “permanent, future-proof” analog storage medium (graphene?), and I wonder how much reality is behind the teaser, and if the economics are practical.

He had to know that sharing these thoughts was sure to bring out the Luddite and Dinosaur comments, so I admire him for speaking his mind.  Since many of the other panelists seemed to be speaking with one voice, it was great to hear a contrary opinion.

While he was almost certainly hyperbolic, I don’t believe T Bone was being flippant.  My view is that each performer is a combination of musician, artist, and entertainer to varying degrees.  Those with the highest “artist” quotient are the ones who strive every day to “place something at the tip of the pyramid.”  Most are somewhere in the middle, and to them, as Jill Sobule put it earlier in the day, success means “not having to work a straight job.”

T Bone said “Art isn’t for everybody.”  Likewise some of the finer points of audio quality may induce ecstasy in musicians, producers, and recording engineers, but produce only a shrug of the shoulders from the mass of humanity.  So for a musician who is struggling to find an audience, being advised to “stay completely off the internet” by someone with ten Grammy awards on their shelf might smack just a little bit of “let them eat cake.”

The Greatest Challenge of our Time…

I don’t want to spoil the ending, so find out for yourself in the clip below.  Wild or profound?  MMT reports, you decide!