T Bone Burnett Responds: "Musicians Deserve Better. The Audience Deserves Better."
Yesterday, T Bone Burnett was stuck on a plane for five hours and took a moment to respond to just about every single Hypebot reader that mocked him for the somewhat shocking advice that he offered to musicians at the FMC Policy Summit. If you don't recall, he basically said that the best counsel he could offer an up-and-coming artist in today's climate is to, "Stay completely away from the Internet." Don't bother uploading your music to MySpace, because the second that an artist does, they've instantly devalued it. I've taken the time to curate some of his best quotes and hope that I don't misrepresent his views by isolating some of his most interesting insights:
If you are a musician, I am on your side. I am fighting for a fairer, more ethical future for musicians. I have been doing this for a long time, and I have to say, in all honesty, that as larcenous as the record companies have been, the internet makes them look like Robin Hoods. I am fully aware of the possibilities of putting together and managing a database on the Internet.
The Internet is a powerful tool for sharing information- great for research. It is, however, an indisputable fact that digital technology does not capture music as fully as analogue technology. If one can't hear the difference between a tape recording and an mp3, he should not quit his day job.
Digital is not the end of technology. In my view, for music, it is a detour. There are better sounding, more stable, more robust technologies to store music available now, and there are many possibilities for the future... If I were just starting out today, knowing what I know now, I would have nothing to do with the internet... I would not advertise myself... I would not market myself. I would spend every minute of the day I could playing and listening to music. Learning. Getting better...
Musicians deserve better. The audience deserves better. If you are a musician, YOUR audience deserves better... The future of music is analogue. Guitars are analogue. Pianos are analogue. Drums are analogue. Music is analogue. We are analogue.
I am fighting to make the world sound better. The quality of the sound of recorded music has fallen off close to a hundred percent in the last twenty years, and we all suffer from that reality. Though I would wish it to be so, I do not believe that the internet is ushering in a world of peace and harmony and community.
At the moment it looks most like an advertising platform. The internet, is at this moment, an amateur medium. I trust that someday, this internet, or another one, will turn into something strong and filled with beauty and truth. As things stand, though there are the occasional bright spots, it is fragile and filled with nonformation. We can see this by the defensiveness (and offensiveness) of many of its proponents.
At any rate, by any standards, it is a medium of extremely low quality, as exemplified by the unlistenable mp3 format.
I hope you're right. I hope this internet or another one works out. A lot of people are putting a lot of blind faith in it. For all the good that can come of connectivity in terms of community and shared information and research, there is as great or greater a potential for evil as we must see clearly by even the most cursory examination of the subject. So far... I would say that the internet has failed to deliver on its promise. I have high hopes that that will change. I'm just not counting on it. At any rate, I am not talking about going backward, I am talking about going forward.
I want to assure and reassure you that I am fully alive to all of this.
T Bone Burnett