Learning From Our Elders

Pete Townshend chose to use the honour of the BBC John Peel lecture this week to deliver a rant. Essentially without any central thesis, his speech went over the same well-trodden ground that old industry giants find themselves covering - piracy, publishing, copyright, etc etc etc. Definitely not very Manifesto.

Townshend falls into the trap of many of our industry elders who feel that change is happening, but cannot recognise what a new industry offers to artists. Rather than adding a positive vision with their experience of being a creator, they respond from a place of resistance. It stems from the fear of seeing the foundations of how their own careers were shaped being torn apart and rebuilt.

We have much to learn from the forefathers of pop. They developed a blueprint of a creative form that we love, and the new industry is still celebrating. Townshend is apologetic throughout the lecture of speaking about music as art. But this is the area where he should own the platform. I want to know his genius and learn from his ability as a creator, not hear him riff about the price of downloads.

I'm not dismissing the old guard as being irrelevant to building the new industry. There are many who are active in pushing change forward. Brian Eno spoke recently on Channel 4 news about his new project involving crowd sourced creativity. These types of visionaries add immensely to finding solutions. They are using their abilities as creatives to offer something new - not attach to the past and complain that things are different.

The very act of being an artist means you create change. I often think of music as a mathematical problem that I must resolve - like sonic sudoku. Perhaps pop music has made us too comfortable. Even though we now live in the most exciting and productive era for artists, we seem to not all be able to rise to the challenge. For artists like Pete Townshend, it's just too much to let go of the past and embrace what we now have.

Image by Zio Zeta on Flickr

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