Beginning a new year, even though it also coincides (mostly) with the front end of a winter season, is the accepted time for reflections about past, present and future. Of course, you can ponder those things anytime but the dark heart of winter seems to bring it on.
For the Louisville music scene – as well as for the national and, presumably, international music scenes as well – the future is increasing bright in a few places but gloomy in many more. As I have noted in this space before, the number of venues in Louisville that are booking - and paying – bands has been steadily decreasing for the past several years. With the increase in national-level touring acts coming to town to play the Yum! Center, the Palace Theatre, the Kentucky Center, Headliners and one or two other large venues, the total entertainment dollars that are left for Louisville acts is much less than it has been even as recently as four or five years ago.
Of course, there are demographics to consider: members of the Baby Boom generation, which drove live entertainment, are less and less inclined to go out and hear music, other than the music which they were listening to when they were young. (Hence the big-name Boomer acts coming to town.) Younger audiences are much less inclined to go out for music, unless the performer is a favorite national act. Altogether, it's rather depressing.
On the other hand, there are opportunities to reach audiences on a grander scale, though at times, it seems that chance is the determinant factor, i.e., when a video "goes viral." When that happens with a music video, presumably digital sales increase and opportunities for live performance are also expanded.
A recent posting by a Silicon Valley musician-turned-nerd who was active at the beginning of the internet, when "information wants to be free" became the mantra has recanted that argument, asserting that the internet has impoverished middle class musicians, along with a number of other information-driven occupations. If you can't sell your recordings and you can't make enough money playing live, then why make music, other than to amuse yourself and your friends? It may yet come to that, though that would be a shame. Over the last thirty years or so, the possibility of getting rich from music via a hit record has been one of the few ways lower and middle class people could be economically upwardly mobile. If that possibility goes away, things will get much grimmer for "the 99%."
Perhaps the best that can be hoped for is some flash of insight by some musician that results in a new way to monetize the music. In Louisville, it would be good if local musicians could find a way to open for more national acts, an effort that's being tried by Sydney O'Bryan at the Palace via her "Faces At The Palace" series. Other efforts might be made via the convention bureau, thought to date, there has been little effort on that front. With the Yum! Center being booked out by a Los Angeles-based firm, don't look for much "affirmative action" for Louisville musicians there.
I am, nevertheless, hopeful that something can be done. If it can't, musicians will not be the only folks looking for new things to do.
Happy New Year.
• Speaking of the Yum! Center, the bonds that financed the building of the KFC Yum! Center have been downgraded by Standard and Poor's, from stable to negative (BBB- rating, one step above "junk," or non-investment grade) ,in large measure due to lower-than-expected tax receipts in the surrounding tax district. S&P did not downgrade the arena's credit rating. What this means in the short run is that AEG Facilities, the managing authority, will book more events into the arena, thus "testing the market" even more. AEG Facilities is owned by Anshutz Corporation, which is privately held by Christian billionaire and right-wing funder Philip Anshutz.
The AEG is the subject of a lawsuit regarding the death of Michael Jackson, filed by the singer's mother, Katherine Jackson. AEG was put up for sale in September 2012.
Finally, in the "New Ways to Make Money" department. Bonnie "Prince" Billy has added a new item to his repertoire – an aftershave lotion, called, of course, Bonnie Billy, produced by Sanae Intoxicants. Here's their blurb about it: "Bonnie Billy: Underneath the bouquet of the mukhallat, on a warm, Egyptian jasmine, tobacco night, rocks the ancient, romantic rhythm of the Assam oud. Relish in this mystical, swirling dance. It will light up all who surround you. ." It retails for a mere $220 a bottle
McGee, Matthew James , 38, died in Louisville on December 19, 2012. He was a drummer with the band Ruff Patches.