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The Woodstock Music and Art Fair in August of1969 changed the landscape of music forever and was a cultural turning point in history.
Until Creedence Clearwater Revival signed to perform, none of the big acts of the day where interested. Then the floodgates opened. Things quickly got very Rock and Roll.
There are numerous stories of acts that refused, or missed out on performing at arguably one of the most significant festivals in the history of modern music. The wildest incident has to be the infamous Fuck You telegram received by Iron Butterfly while at Laguardia airport demanding a helicopter.
The final line-up was a Who’s Who of the big acts of the day.
These were acts that rose in popularity in an era when all music had to pass through the mainstream channels of the industry. You had to have a label to achieve success.
Turns out the mainstream of 1969 was really diverse as the lineup at Woodstock proves. The mainstream of yesterday did a good job of representing the best the art had to offer.
When you look at the Woodstock poster, how many of the artists do you know or have in your collection?
I talk a lot about music being “off the mainstream”.
I do not mean specifically Indie, or No Label, but rather that the diversity that was integral and fundamental to the Music Industry in 1969 is no longer represented in the mainstream.
The mainstream of the industry today is massive. The big labels are huge. They are professionals. There is still significant and interesting talent being produced and released by the mainstream.
Off the mainstream for me is anything not commercially produced by the big labels. Artists no longer require or need the mainstream to produce and release music. The path to the retail music world has never been more democratic.
Diversity has fled or is ignored by the mainstream. The mainstream can deftly follow commercial trends and they still control the traditional avenues such as radio, retail, and front page promotional tiles on digital mediums. They still make a lot of money. Cool non -mainstream artists will also bubble up into the mainstream and this is why I still say great art exists in the mainstream.
The conclusion I have made from all of this, is that the mainstream no longer represents the best the art has to offer. Diversity and emerging authenticity has fled or is ignored by the mainstream.
One of the tragic results is that much of the best art out there is no longer on the radio, promoted, or celebrated at the Grammy’s.
Off the mainstream is a tribal playground of the younger generation where the “share” is their radio, and their “Woodstocks” are their “in real life” discoveries of the diversity and breadth this new democratic era has to offer.
When you look at the line up at this years Coachella Festival, what number of artists do you know or have in your collection?
How many of these artists are represented by the big “mainstream” labels?
It’s well-known in the industry that even huge mainstream stars are nervous performing at Coachella. They all bring their A game. Why?
The youth of our time that attend Coachella appreciate all music and celebrate diversity. When Beyonce kills it, fans of Black MIDI know it.
So, us old fuckers should never say there is no good new music.
Ask instead, where do I find the good music?
It’s out there.
Coachella is a perfect example of how diverse the music of today really is. The best part, it’s but one of a hundred festivals just like it.
My number was 53.
Clint Ward is a music industry veteran know by many as “SeeDub”. Currently he’s creatively at large with the The Audioward and is co-founder at New Music World. Clint was a founder at Emagic North America, worked at Apple, Apogee, Line 6, IMSTA and Roland Cloud. He’s a music creation technologist, passionate music curator and fierce industry observer.