The Jazz Era

     To make a long story short, 50 years ago San Francisco was the epicenter of West Coast Jazz until "urban redevelopment" demolished music venues and housing, and wiped out the burgeoning creative community in the heart of the Fllmore District. The black jazz culture was uprooted, artists were displaced, and the scene never recovered from the gentrification.

     The Jazz genre was born out of creative innovation. It was, and still is, an exciting new frontier empowering minority artists and disrupting the status quo. The entrenched industry fears free-form improvisation is a threat that must be eliminated. Most jazz gigs now feature the same old standard repertoire. History would repeat itself a few decades later.

The Rock Era

       In the 1960s and 70s San Francisco was again a major spawning ground for new music genres. It was the golden age of rock superstars. Then idol worship became the norm, as most new musicians played only cover songs instead of writing their own originals. Marketers promoted this music mockery and educators bred the next generation of clones to shun artistic creativity and focus solely on performing music created by others. Despite being diametrically opposed to music as an art form, the practice became ubiquitous. The following waves of mainstream pop morphed into commercialized kitsch -- a trend that coinceded with the rapid proliferation of processed junk food, radioactive nuclear waste dumps, and the advent of artificial intelligence.

    The industry business model is based on the study and performance of traditional standard music material. So original creativity is considered an unpredictable and uncontrollable risk. By the year 2000 the loss of talent due to widespread mimicry, exacerbated by adverse socioeconomic conditions, lead to the mass exodus of musicians and the demise of the Bay Area music scene.

      In the early 80s the founders of Buskdriver were immersed in the local music scene, pushing the envelop from progressive rock to jazz fusion and beyond. Their experimental work was a milestone in the annals of artistic achievement. While there were hundreds of world class virtuosos around, gigs were still few and far between.

      The economics of club booking made it a popularity contest instead of a talent show. The ratio between bands and gigs was at least 100 to 1. Since then the loss of venues and rehearsal space increased the ratio between bands and gigs to over 1,000 to 1 – and the gap continues to widen.

      The Bay Area music culture is a microcosm of a larger trend toward more imitation and less creation. Industry projections for the future include increasing usage of digital devices to make synthetic music — with the eventual phasing out of artists altogether. It started in the 80s with drum machines, sequencers, and samplers, cloning bits of older songs, and blending different songs into so-called mash-ups. It has popular appeal because no talent is required, and anyone who could push a button can call themselves a "musician". The overall strategy was to redefine what music is, and consequently true music will inevitably become a lost art.

     Traditional instruments are dificult to master, and sophisticated genres were too complex for the masses to digest. So electronic gadgets are used to dumb down the art to the lowest common denominator. It made the process user-friendly and the product easier to mass produce and market. While crass commercialism shares the blame, it's the artists who are ultimately responsible for the state of the art. And too many had sacrificed their artistic integrity by relinqiuishing control of the art to the dictates of profiteers and consumers — a classic caseof the tail wagging the dog.

Consumers are so conditioned to accept anything the record companies spoon-feed them that they would demand more of the same. Across the board from academia to entertainment the entrenched industry establishment's plan was to suppress creative potential by eliminating artistic expression gradually over time until artificial art is generated automatically by a passive push-button society. The good news is that industry executives will

     At this point in time the great challenge is to stop copying and start creating. It’s easy to play a cover song because someone else already did the real work of creating it. The practice is so common because the tendency to be lazy and fake it is part of human nature. It's so ubiquitous that it will probably continue to grow no matter what we do to curtail it. Clone musicians have so much ego and emotion invested in it that most of them will never admit that they are actually making a mockery of music.

So the burden falls upon a few true artists to preserve and protect the art. True musicianship is all about being an original artist. It takes work to develop talent, and courage to risk rejection. But it’s the only way to save the art of music from becoming a lost art.

Summary of Factors That Contributed To The Collapse of the Creative Culture

  • Entrenched music industry establishment manipulation of the art -- The tale waging the dog.
  • Antiquated academic pedagogy focus on music theory and cover songs, rather than original creativity.
  • Fatally flawed business model based on simplification & replication, and the elimination of aesthetic refinement.
  • Clubs impacted by high unemployment, housing cost, and gas prices + DUI laws, smoking bans, and healthier lifestyles.
  • Cheaper recreation options including sports bars, kareoke clubs, and DJs replaced live music venues.
  • Digital electronics automatally make preprogrammed music discouraging the use of traditional musical instruments.
  • Overexploitation of new hi-tech samplers, sequencers, drum machines & synthesizers diminish artistic creativity.
  • Alternative entertainment options including web, cable, & satelite TV, video games, and home theatre systems.
  • Culmination of the above + ubiquity of mobile devices result in the cultivation of a passive push-button society.
  • Negligence of general public to recognize and address the issue due to apathy and ignorance.
  • Failure of the powers that be to intervene before the crisis reached the critical stage.

Making Music History

The good news is that industry executives will