Sturgeon's Revelation

Beating the music business odds at SXSW

Sturgeon's Revelation

I'm Not Old, Your Music Does Suck

Thursday, March 17, 5pm, ACC 11AB

The title of this panel is an abbreviated version of a bumper sticker you might have seen: "It's not that I'm old; your music really does suck." After more than 20 years of writing about music, and at least twice that as a listener, I've reached the point where a great deal of what I hear getting passed off as good and new seems simply like recycled ideas, or worse, like it has roots in sounds that would have been laughed at in the not-too-distant past. That's why I pitched this to the South by Southwest PanelPicker and will be its moderator.

Naturally it's not moderators modern music needs – it's innovators. Will today's music be looked back on fondly in 20 years, or is it all just disposable, looking to score with an ever more splintered audience? Care to buy a cassette? They seem to be making a comeback. In the early 1950s, noted science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon said, "Ninety percent of everything is crud." That's become known as Sturgeon's Revelation, though the last word is frequently misquoted as "crap." Time to revise Sturgeon's figure to be much higher.

How much of this is the loss of traditional gatekeepers? Perhaps the new gatekeepers – Apple, American Idol – have little sense of musical history and are clueless about the lack of just plain good songwriting. Despite all the increases in technology and the ability for any one musician's material to be heard anywhere around the globe, we're somehow suffering the laws of diminishing returns – less good music, not more. Not only is rock dead, but country, blues, folk, and pop have also run dry.

A great deal has been made about the decline of the music business. But few talk about the decline of the music itself. What if part of the reason the business is in trouble is that the music doesn't touch people the way it once did? I'll be joined by a panel of seasoned music critics to discuss everything from the aforementioned American Idol to Pitchfork and all points in between. Black arm bands available upon request.

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