The music industry no longer has much space for interesting mavericks, or much inclination to develop them. The quality stuff is still out there — The Arcade Fire and My Morning Jacket are particularly good, and even though it's become fashionable to slag the White Stripes, it'll pass once Jack White gets through this Zorro the Gay Blade fashion phase he's in — but as often as not the good music is on boutique labels. The days when somebody like Bruce Springsteen would be given a third chance to prove himself after two flops on a major label are long gone. The boxed sets and special editions of classic albums that we're seeing now are the music business version of the auto manufacturers's dependence on SUVs — bulky money-spinners that keep a dying industry on life support. And once we get past the 1970s catalogues, the fodder from the 1980s — when corporate control of music started to tighten its grip — is going to thin out considerably. (Though if SST Records wants to put together a Husker Du box set, I am so there.)
But for now, while the music industry feeds off its own entrails, we get the chance to see great old music in a new light. And I get to talk to people half my age and discover something I never expected to find — a shared taste in music.
First published in The Opinion Mill.