I felt bad all year for complaining in my last year's newsletter about problems in the acoustic music world, although I got a lot of mail from people who said they agreed with me. I don't feel like just clowning around like I have done in the past, so I thought I would share some optimistic thoughts on the minstrel life. It is not all bleak in the world of the independent wandering minstrel, and there are some very hopeful signs, and some actual good news...
* If the music industry behaves like the beer industry, things will be great. 5 years ago, it looked like Miller, Coors and Bud were going to finish buying up all the smaller beers in the US and force us all to like it. Then the micro-brewery thing emerged, and showed that many people prefer something local, and of quality. A similar pattern would do wonders for local and independent music.
* The Internet has begun the first leveling of the media playing field I have ever seen, after a lifetime of watching helplessly as the big corporations have kept a stranglehold on what is to be found on the radio, in the magazines, and on the store shelves. This WEB site has been very well-received, and now people can find out about me and my music, even though my recordings are not widely distributed or prominently featured in the conventional media. The personal computer, DAT machines and other technologies have been a tremendous boon to people like me. I have never had much success getting my music in big stores or radio stations, and now there is great hope for the fringe players of the world to reach their audience, however geographically scattered.
* The on-stage musical gear I use keeps getting better, and the instruments and amplifiers and pickups I use in my instruments are constantly improving. I have not always been happy with my gear, and the last couple years I have been able to worry about what to play or what to wear, and not always be bracing for sound problems.
* Gasoline has remained inexpensive, and communications technologies such as voice-mail, fax and e-mail have made it much easier for me to keep up when I travel. (Although operating pay phones keeps getting harder.)
* There is better coffee available on the road; the espresso map of America is filling in nicely. And there is less 2nd hand cigarette smoke to contend with every year, also. I have dreamed of a smoke-free workplace for decades.
* We now have pretty much a one-format world, and CD's are still proving to be a great medium for music. LP's were hard to deal with, since they were heavy to ship, easy to warp and scratch, and there was a time when we music purveyors had to keep LP's, cassettes, long-box and jewel box CD's in stock.
* Guitars being made today will probably turn out to be the best guitars ever made. Most of those hallowed vintage instruments are almost unplayable by modern standards.
* The acoustic guitar has continued to be "cool," and with acoustic guitars all over MTV & in Pepsi commercials, those bleak days when the young and hip people totally shunned acoustic music now seem like a bad dream. I started playing guitar for a living right around the time when video games were invented, which was also when disco came along. I used to have to sit right next to a Pac Man or Asteroids machine at full volume, and when I took a break they would crank Saturday Night Fever and shake the room.
Things are better now, Beavis.
Back to newsletter 1996-97
This web site concerns the music and life of acoustic musician & music educator Harvey Reid.
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