James also gave a brief presentation on the event’s theme of the future. He said that not so long ago music was not chosen by consumers, but pushed on us by record companies, who selected artists and controlled radio airplay. Only those musicians who fitted established criteria of attractiveness, age, music style, and so on had any chance of being heard.
Fortunately things have changed. He gave the example of Andy McKee, who is not highly attractive, can’t sing, and is a solo guitar player. McKee and many, many other musicians, have reached out to listeners directly. His YouTube videos have been seen by tens of millions of people. His revenue now includes performing, a record deal, ads on the YouTube videos, and keen demand for the guitar tablature for his songs. Just a decade ago he probably never would have had an audience beyond the local cafe.
As I pointed out in my speech following James, this is just one more example of the increasing power of the consumer. Our musical tastes used to be perforce extremely narrow, limited to what we were spoon-fed by the music industry. Now we can explore, find, and make famous an extraordinary range of talent that never would have been visible before.
Music has been liberated, and that is a wonderful thing.