We have another two weeks before this decade, the first of the 21st century, officially ends. Someone please remind me – did we come up with a name for it yet? The “naughts” (or “noughts”) doesn’t sound right, somehow. Maybe if we were in London a hundred years ago, but not here and now. I sort of liked Time magazine’s recent name for it: “The Decade From Hell.” Sure, it was over the top, but I suspect almost everyone associated with the music recording industry would agree with that wholeheartedly.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: this decade was a disaster for the music biz. But it was a great decade for music. The corporate structure that was built up around music over the last 100 years shook, rattled, and rolled under the pressures of the digital world; but musicians and listeners found countless new ways to connect with each other. If the big record labels were indeed dinosaurs, then many musicians gladly filled the role of the nimble little mammals running eagerly beneath the lumbering dinosaurs’ feet. Sure, one might occasionally get squished beneath a stupid, giant foot, but in general, this was a great decade for independent musicians and their fans. It might not have been the best time to try to be a professional musician and make a lot of money, but if you were in it for the music, then you hit the jackpot.
Too much music? Yes. No doubt. But I consider that a good problem to have – along the lines of “hey, where am I gonna put all this beer?” MySpace, YouTube, blogs – there were just so many new ways to find music, and very often get it directly from the musicians themselves. Arcade Fire, Bloc Party, The Hold Steady, Interpol, Jamie T, Joanna Newsom, Mountain Goats, The National, New Pornographers (can you tell I’m scrolling alphabetically through my iPod?)… these, and a hundred lesser-known others, are just some of the bands I first heard about online, and all have become important sonic markers of an extraordinary decade of music.
So, tell us: Was this a good decade for music, or a bad one? Why?