DubMC periodically poses questions to key players in the global music scene to check the pulse of both the recorded music and live music markets. Up first is Tom Pryor, editor of National Geographic's world music website.
1. Obviously there's a bit less recorded music than compared to say, just two years ago - no surprise given the overall state of the retail music biz.
2. I saw a lot more specialty packaging last year. Labels
like Crammed were bundling more DVDs with CDs, while labels like Stern's were
cranking out beautifully-curated anthology collections like the Tabu Ley
Rochereau and Mbilia Bel collections. I assume this was a response to the steep
decline in physical retail sales vs. online (MP3 sales). Creating fetish
objects is a smart way to grab the attention of completists and collectors, but
I wonder how cost-effective it has been overall.
3. Even though I see plenty of labels cutting promo costs with slipcases, etc, very few have taken the plunge into fully-digital promo kits - even though this is standard in other segments of the music market. I'm not complaining - I still like physical CDs and they usually get first play while I'm previewing new music - but it is surprising.
What about trends and patterns in the global music live performance scene in the past year?
1. One thing that surprises me is that large bands are continuing to tour regularly - despite rising gas prices, increased airfares, ongoing visa nightmares, etc. If Darwinian economics truly ruled the industry, I'd expect to see less big bands like 17 Hippies touring and more "laptop" artists and DJs.
2. I live in New York and it seems like we've got more new spaces devoted to world music than we've had in a long time. With the opening of Drom and Rose in the last two years plus the ongoing international programming of places like S.O.B.s, Barbes, Joe's Pub, Zebulon – not to mention all the venues that program occasional world acts (like Highline Ballroom) - it seems that there are a lot more small-to-midsize rooms showcasing this kind of music in New York now.
3. Homegrown American world music "fusion" acts really came into their own last year. Everybody knows the list by heart by now - Slavic Soul Party!, Balkan Beat Box, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Beirut, Chicha Libre, Cuban Cowboys, etc, etc. I think that having a national touring circuit, however small, certainly helped incubate these acts and break them out of their local scenes. Obviously the internet and social networking sites played a big role in this, but don't discount the importance of live shows. MySpace only lets your fans know when and where you're playing, but you still have to play the gig to really connect (or at least get a fuzzy, poorly shot video to put up on your page the day after the show).
4. Big pop festivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella are increasingly programming non-traditional acts like Manu Chao, MIA and Gogol Bordello. While that doesn't necessarily indicate a trend towards booking traditional or core world music acts - don't expect to see Javan Gasparyan at Rocklahoma anytime soon - it does indicate that people's ears are stretching beyond the usual genre and regional borders.
DubMC is the brainchild of Dmitri Vietze and is sponsored by rock paper scissors, inc., global music publicity firm.