Is interest in Traditional Musical Instruments dying?


When you say "traditional" most would be speaking of fiddles and banjos but I have an idea that you're actually talking about guitars and drums, i.e. instruments that are played vs. rap type music which is set against a machine generated beat. "Guitar music" in other words.

I'm unclear about this myself. Rap type music still requires a lot of work to produce; but the skill is more of an arranging and mixing effort than traditionally defined musical. (Even country has gone this way occasionally.)

I think there's been a bit of a backlash against this. The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons have generated quite a fan base in their acoustically traditional approach to music which I suspect is mostly filling a void left by the absence of the older musicians of the '60s who seldom tour anymore. And the festival circuits are doing great.

But when it comes to the electrified bands of the last 40 years, I don't see anyone stepping in.

There are several reasons. Arenas used to be required due to the technical aspects but you can get a great PA now that will fill a room for a couple thousand. (Enter the DJs and rappers).

But live music drives album sales and vice versa. Take out one half of that equation and things start falling apart. And today's music can be created in a bedroom if you don't need live drums or a wall of amps. But did the music create the fan base or did the fan base request the music? Sort of a chicken vs. egg question. (Which came first?)

Also, musicians tend to be very very lazy creatures of habit. If the touring bands are still riding album sales from 1978, who is generating the new stuff worth buying?

The fans own some of the problem. Between piracy and complacency, there's just not a thirst for new material.

If people don't buy new music, new music isn't released. Live concerts don't occur. Electronic music which doesn't require a band gets popular because "it's what's available". Traditional instruments don't get purchased because no one sees a band on stage they want to "become" as teenagers in a garage. Instruments aren't learned which creates a vacuum that's filled by other activities like sports.

But therein lies a hint of the future. The last 50 years or so was the most massive explosion of music production ever. And we got jaded. Content to let others create.

But now the "others" aren't doing it. When we all get bored with what's available and want something different, and not the electronic stuff, it will take years to generate the skills to create what we've had for so long. It takes a long time to master an instrument. When that happens traditional music will be purchased and learned and new material written and records purchased. (Obviously it's happening all the time but not even close to what it was like 40 years ago.) There are some great bands out there but record sales are terrible. We the people, aren't thirsty enough, yet.

But vinyl sales are way up. This makes me think people are getting a little tired and bored of the status quo and buying vinyl is "different enough" for now. Connecting via CD isn't organic?

Maybe the times they are a'changing…

Jul 2020

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