Sex & Drugs & High Technology
Sex and drugs and high technology.
Just who are today's average musicians? Where do they live? What do they do? And most important of all from our point of view, what do they want from a music magazine?
All the above are, of course, questions that defy accurate and unbiased answers. Yet that doesn't stop people - especially music industry people - asking them with monotonous regularity. There is no 'average' musician today, any more than there has ever been one. There are no average attitudes, no average lifestyles, and no average expectations.
But in spite of the huge diversity that currently exists among this country's music-playing population, there are some recognisable trends that nobody who makes their living from music can afford to ignore.
Perhaps the clearest of those trends is the one away from the 'I don't care how it's made so long as it sounds good' school of thought towards a more inquiring attitude. Increasingly, today's musicians want to know more than simply 'how does it sound?' They want to know how it's designed and built, how it compares with what else is available in the same market sector, how long it will take for its possibilities to become exhausted, and whether it's likely to be joined by interfaceable, interrelated products whose addition will extend those possibilities further.
And if anything, it's the last point that's the most crucial. As the march of technology grows ever quicker and more far-reaching, the average musician needs to know whether an instrument is equipped to take tomorrow by the throat, or whether it'll find itself on the scrapheap before you can say 'planned obsolescence'. Thus, what a musical instrument can do today has become less important than what it might do tomorrow. Nowadays, the key word is potential.
More than ever, today's average musicians appreciate that the more life there is in an instrument, the more sense it makes. And that's true not just of synthesisers, but of every section of the contemporary group gear market. Drums, drum machines, guitars, recording equipment - you name it, it's being given closer scrutiny by the people that use it than ever before, all of them searching for the product that'll weather the storm of progress best.
But it's because technology's race is being run at a faster pace than ever that the electronic and computer-based aspects of music-making are slowly becoming divorced from the others. Like it or not, hi-tech music is gradually but inexorably moving away from the group gear mainstream - partly because its inherent complexity demands a market tailored specifically for it, but mostly because the musicians involved with it are fast growing out of an industry whose structure is still much the same as it was 10 or 15 years ago.
Which, of course, is where E&MM comes in. Not so very long ago, you could draw a firm and rigidly-defined line between the magazine's two opposite sorts of reader. On the one hand, there were the seasoned professional musos or their younger, ever-hopeful successors, for whom the sound a keyboard made was valued slightly lower than sex, drugs, and making sure they ran off with the support band's share of the proceeds in addition to their own. On the other, there were the boffins. The men with little beards and long, white coats who would go from college research lab to home workshop with either a soldering iron or a bundle of computer printouts clutched firmly in their hands.
N'er the twain should meet, it seemed. But in 1985, that's precisely what they've done. Today's average musicians are just as likely to do their own electronics construction or write their own computer software as anybody else, simply because it's the surest way of ensuring technology doesn't get out of hand. And whereas, just a couple of years back, the idea of filling a music shop with a whole load of computers and VDUs seemed unthinkable, nobody bats an eyelid when greeted with precisely that sight in today's High Street.
Without wishing to do overmuch in the way of trumpet-blowing, I'd say E&MM was instrumental in bringing about the above transformation, if only because it stressed the importance of assessing an electronic keyboard in more lights than simply that of sound quality - at a time when the rest of the industry was still on about valve amps and fuzz pedals.
It's a policy we're continuing as each month goes by. Keeping abreast of technology comes first, sounding as good as the player next door a poor second, and sex and drugs don't even finish the course.
And that's the way things'll stay, until the average musicians, whoever they may be, decide they want another change of scene.
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