November 2, 2010

Mighty Kate: "Dawn of Mediocrity"

A beautiful soul, and immensely talented woman, Kate (aka Mighty Kate), posted something that really resonated to me:

"The Dawn of Mediocrity"

Yesterday, I was grabbing a tea in a local NYC cafĂ©, and the cover of a free newspaper caught my eye. This edition was a feature on CMJ and the headline said “this years Music Marathon is exploding with new young bands – some shockingly new to their own instruments… raw creativity triumphs over time-earned talent”.

I was immediately put off by those words, but decided to be fair and read the article before jumping to any conclusions. So, I grabbed a paper, drank my tea and checked it out. Just as I suspected, the whole article was praising this new “movement” of up and coming artists who can barely play their instruments and don’t really know anything about music

Now.. for those of you who don’t know what CMJ is – it’s a music festival in NYC that houses hundreds of artists who perform their hearts out for about 25 minutes in hopes of getting “discovered” by music industry reps. I can name at least 20 amazingly talented artists whom I know personally that performed at CMJ this year. There was no mention of any of them in this feature, yet somehow, the music writer chose to highlight and glorify any performers who wore crazy outfits and makeup, couldn’t play 3 chords on their instruments, and wrapped microphone cords around their necks. (I’m totally not making that up by the way). In summary, the article clearly stated that today, in the world of music, a gimmick is more important than talent.

A part of me was heartbroken by this article, because the truth is, I, along with many artists, have spent my life tied to an instrument of some sort – longing to become its master. I’ve spent hundreds of hours learning, listening, playing, performing, and most importantly loving music. I believe it is a form of art that requires some skill, and that there is a certain level of respect we all should hold for it. To people like me, talent and drive is everything, and this new apathetic approach to making music is much akin to drawing a fake mustache on the Mona Lisa and calling it genius.

I may sound snobbish, but let’s all be honest here. What would life be for any of us if we had never experienced the brilliance and artistry of the proficient, profound musicians of the past who have paved the way for us young dreamers?

So today, my main question is, how have we allowed the music industry to set it’s bar so low? Could someone make millions as a professional baseball player and not know how to throw a ball? Or work as a trader on Wall Street if they didn’t know about the stock market? It seems silly doesn’t it? And yet, here we are.

As the media continues to embrace, enable and embody this Dawn of Mediocrity, the musical standard continues to regress. But it’s not this little free paper I found sipping my tea that really concerns me. It’s the bigger picture. How is this “it’s cool to suck” mentality going affect the next generation of aspiring musicians? And what opportunities does it leave for “time-earned talent” like myself?

I can’t help but wonder, are the talented doomed to become Dinosaurs?


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