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Do People Give A Damn About Songs Anymore?

The John Moreland song referenced in the title of this piece has been around for several years, but becomes more bitingly prophetic with each passing year (week? month?).  Dancehalls are dying and live music crowds are dwindling on the whole.  We’re a dying breed, y’all.  We care too much.  The songs mean way more to us than they do the average person.  This has always been the case, but is coming glaringly into focus as we move along.  Monoculture, technology, social media fakeness and generational differences have been bandied about as causes.  The most obvious cause is the decreasing value placed on music.  I grew up in a generation that thought nothing of paying upwards of $17.99 for a cd that may only have 1-2 good songs on it.  The current culture driving generation has had YouTube and streaming options since they were first able to remember what they dug.

On my appearance on The Co-Write podcast we discussed this generational difference. Co-host Bobby Duncan is a millenial, yet one of those who is the antithesis of his label.  There are many like him, but not an abundance.  The example we specifically talked about was Pat Green’s massiveness in 1999-2003 vs Turnpike Troubadours current domination. Despite the big league draw that Turnpike rightfully has, it is nowhere near the Texas cultural mass that PG enjoyed at his peak.  There are outliers and surprising anecdotes such as Aaron Watson and Cody Johnson’s showing at the Houston Rodeo.

Another smart tactic that CoJo is employing is the event show with a large bill.  Instead of rolling into your town every 2-3 months to play your local Wild West, Cody Johnson and his management crew have developed an old-school throwback package show.  A true event.  Sharing the bill with 3-4 other relatively large names. One night stands don’t just speed your young life away, they dilute the crowd.  Why go see that band you dig this time around when you know they’ll be back in 6 weeks (many times sooner)?  This fan apathy is normal and completely understandable.  Smart bands are getting social and making their gigs a special event.  Not just a place to come stand around and add clips to your Snap story while you talk in front of the microphone.

The other night, while presiding over the LJT songwriting finals, the namesake himself stood at the microphone for 2-3 minutes trying to tame a rowdy crowd long enough to announce the winner’s prize package.  Larry Joe invoked the Kent Finlay ethos of shut the hell up while the songwriters are performing. “We have 400 acres out there for you to talk and carry on in…but when you’re in here please be quiet.”  The noise died down, but the murmuring and cell phone posturing continued.

This generational divide popped up recently when the article in the above tweet went scene viral. Is the live music solution having earlier start times?  The opinions flowed.  College crowds drink the most, but don’t support live music on the whole.  Older, professional middle aged crowds support the music but don’t buy as much booze.  Is there a compromise?  One of the coolest suggestions was doing the two set thing like the Continental Club or your generic comedy club.  7PM set and a 10PM set.   It’s an interesting thought exercise.

The bottom line is people still do give a damn about songs…just in different ways.  And sadly, there aren’t as many of us that do.  Film and digital media, technology etc those are the new frontiers.  Live music isn’t dead, it’s just aging poorly.  But many of us will love it until the bitter end.  Sitting beside its hospice bed….adding clips to our Snap stories and singing along.

2 Responses to “Do People Give A Damn About Songs Anymore?”

  1. Heard the news about Wormy Dog OKC closing.
    Bummer. Still, from my perspective, optimism shouldn’t be lost – two reasons why:

    1) my Randy Rogers lesson:
    I admittedly turned into one of those “can’t handle the obnoxious Randy Rogers crowd anymore” – so I stopped going 10ish years ago.

    Fast forward to present day – Deep Ellum – Stressed out work week so we thought “Eh..ok train/uber…double date – RRB make a night of it. Let’s give it a try…”
    (Getting the energy to get there was half the battle.)
    They were totally worth it. Hadn’t changed a bit. We loved it. *ahh the nostalgia*
    I think a lot of people (like me) are stressed out, need the respite and will come back to the old (and new) fun times.

    2)the 18-24 age group:
    I can’t speak for them but in knowing several and talking to them – it seems like the 18-24 age group wants authentic experiences.
    As we all know, there is nothing more authentic then our kind of music.
    If our bands can hang on (keep on keepin’ on… if you will)
    and venues can adjust, I think they’ll help carry us.
    Quite frankly, I can’t wait to see what comes out of this age group. They’re fascinating!

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  2. Justin Billiot April 24, 2017

    Loved the article. I’m 32, and jumped on the Texas Music scene back in 2003 while a Freshman at McNeese St. University in Lake Charles, LA. Had some roomates from Texas playing PG and Ragweed, and REK. Fell in love. Went to many live shows. Joined the Navy for six year, got out at age 26, moved to Austin. Lived and worked in Austin for 5 years. Had a kid within 7 months of locating to Austin. No family around, just me, my wife, and son. Live shows ended. Now we live back in Lake Charles, LA. We rarely see live music. I would love to, but I’m usually way too tired to go see a show that starts at 10:00 pm after working a 48 hours work week. I have things I need to do on the weekends, like mow the lawn, clean house, maintenance, chores, etc. Also, we have tee ball games, birthday parties, family get togethers. If music were played at 7:00 pm, I’d love to go. As it is, I’m lucky to catch maybe one or two shows a year.

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