Everything Is Broken

broken body

The world is broken. It is broken in so many ways. There are inexcusable wars; there is unconscionable famine. Schoolchildren have to go on strike to tell the politicians that they are not doing enough to combat climate change. Gunmen kill our brothers and sisters just because they follow a different religion. And even the most skilled and creative of musicians struggle to make a living.

This is not a blog for political or religious posturing. I mention those big, ugly and painfully topical issues here because I think the solution to them and the lesser problem of providing musicians with a decent income is the same: education. The only way to end armed conflicts is to show both sides how utterly trivial their causes are compared with the lasting devastation and pain of the war. Of course, that isn’t easy; it takes time and patience and exceptional diplomacy. But it’s the only way that works.

I read an article this morning that argues that nearly all of us believe music should be free. Not only has the Internet made music freely available across the World Wide Web (which is a good and wondrous thing), it has also lowered the cost of listening to levels that would make the organ grinder’s monkey pine for the peanuts we used to feed him. The result is that even talented students studying in prestigious music colleges don’t expect to make a living from a career in music.

There is a general perception these days that music, because it is free, has no value. That needs to change. I don’t think Bob Dylan had the 21st Century music industry in mind when he recorded Everything Is Broken back in 1989; insightful seer that he is, not even he could have predicted the effect modern technology has had on our listening habits. Somehow, though, this song has caught the mood of musicians and music lovers when the murky subject of making money is discussed today.

As with all works of art the value of music is largely in the ear of the beholder. If the worth of the next album release by your favourite artist is measured in fractions of a penny the professional musician will become an endangered species. A few individuals will eke out a living writing scores for TV shows, films and computer games. Untold numbers of amateurs will flood the wires with mediocre renditions of formulaic songs. And, eventually, the world of music will lie in broken pieces on the floors of clubs and studios and living rooms.

Seem like every time you stop and turn around
Something else just hit the ground

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