CENTER STAGE: Are musicians the last of a dying breed?

Lack of support may make live music a thing of the past



Do you remember going to town and walking through the video store to rent a movie?

For me it was an occasional weekend treat to hop in the car with Dad and drive uptown to pick out a classic movie.

We’d go home, have dinner, then the family would sit around, pop the bulky VHS cartridge into the VCR and relax.

But those days are gone. Anything we can think of is available at the tips of our fingers, thanks to the Internet, smartphones and tablets.

Or how about listening to the top 20 countdown on the radio just to record that one new song on a blank cassette tape. I cannot begin to tell you how many of those old cassettes I have somewhere around the house.

But again, those days are gone.

These past few months I’ve crisscrossed much of the state taking in several concerts, festivals and fairs.

One common factor I’ve noticed is what appeared to be a lack of support for live entertainment.

Be it music legends or just a bar band just down the street, it seems crowd sizes are getting smaller and smaller.

Has society - as a whole - really reached a point where supporting artists, musicians and the live entertainment scene is no longer “cool” or “the thing to do?”

Are people more interested in watching a low-grade, shaky, pixilated cellphone YouTube video of a concert rather than paying the $20 for a cheap seat ticket to attend the event in person?

My heart just breaks for the musicians who have invested hundreds and thousands of dollars into music lessons, sound and lighting equipment, instruments, reliable vehicles for travel, and studio fees for albums that simply don’t sell.

It seems music is becoming a forgotten aspect of life.

Imagine a movie with no sound or no melodic ringtones on cellphones.

It seems, in my opinion, musicians and artists are truly appreciated only for their time, talent and skills when the person booking them is in a pinch.

Think about it.

I can’t begin to tell you how many of musicians I’ve spoken to recently who say they perform for weddings, funerals and anniversaries, but rarely have seen the people who booked the artists for their event at another one of their other shows.

I think it’s a sad fate, but if we, as a community, don’t embrace the arts and musicians in our county they may not stay here forever.

While most musicians have a “real” or “day job,” music can be a side income. And for some, it’s their sole income.

When venue owners and promoters book events, they want a return on their investment. If there’s nobody attending the show, how much longer will venues book bands?

It seems fewer and fewer children are taking music lessons, which is just a shame, too, as numerous scientific studies have indicated music plays an intricate role in the cognitive learning process.

I fear, in the not so distant future, when you pick up to phone to have someone sing “Amazing Grace” at a relative’s funeral, there just might not be a musician to pick up the phone on the other end.

Is live entertainment becoming a thing of the past? Are musicians the last of a dying breed?

And yet, people still say, “There’s nothing to do around here.”

Brock Hires is a reporter for The Chronicle. He can be reached at 509-826-1110 or via email bhires@omakchronicle.com



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