I first caught wind of Bob Dylan's recent comments on the state of modern music in an aside in Per Gance To Dream by Tim Lucas (following up on his previous post, I'm So Bored With The Internet, a fine article which I'm still pondering my own thoughts about).
Here's what he said, "I don't know anybody who's made a record that sounds decent in the past 20 years, really. You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them. There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like... static. Even these songs probably sounded ten times better in the studio when we recorded 'em. CDs are small. There's no stature to it.
"I remember when that Napster guy came up across, it was like, 'Everybody's gettin' music for free.' I was like, 'Well, why not? It ain't worth nothing anyway.'"
I agree with him here.
In What Dylan Said – Plus a Challenge To Record Companies (and You) by RJ Eskow, he writes, "I also know a lot of people who don't know what they want. They just know they're not getting it.
"People are still making some fine music here and there, but Dylan's onto something. The sound isn't right. That's partly because it's digital, which I guess is Bob's primary complaint. But I think the other reason the sound is wrong is because the music isn't coming from the dark corners of the country, or of the soul, anymore.
"People always tried to make money in the music biz. That's nothing new. But nowadays anybody with a Mac G4, Pro Tools, and a few effects can duplicate the sound of every other record on the radio.
"It's like trying to paint the Mona Lisa with a xerox machine. It's mass production for the masses. Gone is the accidental genius that came from microphone bleed, or strange room acoustics, or a sponge underneath the guitar strings."
I'm going to try not to quote every bit, he eventually refers back to a previous posting he'd written, Music Industry - Digital Revolution Now! (which in turn refers to Copyrights And Wrongs by Stephen H. Wildstrom), and suggests something wonderful.
He refers to Pioneer Inno, "a device that would allow you to 'TiVo' a music show on XM Radio, play it a limited number of times, then order the songs you heard electronically.
"The music industry should embrace this kind of technology. More people will hear music, want it, and buy it. Their greatest salesman? Bob Dylan, whose XM Radio show builds each episode around a theme. He mixes songs from all different styles - songs that are all in some record company's vaults."
But, of course, the music industry is far too focused on its current model and the millions they spend promoting music that, as Dylan says, ain't worth nothing, and protecting their current, archaic business model to jump toward the idea that they could make money from things that just sit in their vault earning nothing.