Disposable vs. Indispensable

We have become a disposable society.  Disposable razors, diapers, water bottles, coffee cups, etc.  Visit any landfill in the world and you can witness it firsthand.  Companies and their designers are actually designing things to last just long enough that you will replace it with the same or newer item when it does break.  Cars used to be designed to last over 10 years; now it is rare to find one with a warranty longer than 3-5 years.  Shoes are made so poorly now that they have to be replaced every few months if worn daily, especially when working.  Appliances last maybe a year or two, then end up in the landfill.  People don’t repair anything anymore, especially when it’s cheaper to buy a new one.

I can somewhat understand about electronics needing to be replaced as new technology is created and used, but how often do they really need to be replaced?  Some companies make the next “thing” completely incompatible with its predecessor so that you have to buy everything new, including chargers, cables and accessories.  Or you have to buy and download new software that even has an expiration date for use!

For decades, companies have been marketing to consumers that they must follow the trends and have the latest in (fill in the blank.)  They use celebrity endorsements and ads in every media genre available.  They invade our homes and our lives at every imaginable opportunity.  The problem is that we let them do this to us!  They keep doing it because it works.  Sales for companies that have disposable products are skyrocketing, while those companies that have made products that withstand the test of time have stagnant or falling sales.  Investors in the stock market want growth, not steady sales.  They want immediate gratification.  Sounds like the rest of our society, no?  Fast food outlets exist due to this very notion.  No one wants to wait for anything good anymore.

Now apply this to music.  We want our music on demand, when we want it, and where we want it.  Music has become disposable, too.  People seem to no longer care if it’s really any good; just if it’s readily available and if it makes us feel good at the time.  The commercial music industry force-feeds its disposable music to the consumers, knowing that the consumers will eventually tire of it and throw it away to be replaced by the next “new” thing.  CD sales are at an all-time low, being replaced with digital downloads so that people can carry MORE of their choices with them on their phone or iPods.  Most people I know under the age of 30 rarely have any type of hard copy of any music or recordings.  Even the iPads are replacing books of sheet music at gigs.

I’m not saying that everything new is bad; it’s just that it seems most of the music made today is garbage and will end up in those landfills with the dirty diapers.  However, I think there is hope that the pendulum is actually swinging the other direction.

More consumers are returning to the classics and “vintage” things.  This, too, may be a trend that is short-lived, but I will try to enjoy it while I can.  People are saving money again and repairing their older cars and shoes that they enjoy.  Audiences are going to live concerts in smaller venues so that they can hear bands that they WANT to hear; not just arena shows with the mass-marketed disposable musicians.  Small businesses are thriving again as they produce products and services that are more unique and higher quality than the big-box providers.  People are buying VINYL records again, and try to find those gems of their youth in used record stores and thrift outlets.  These people are sharing this passion and joy of music that has withstood the test of time with their children and grand-children.  Artists who stopped touring years ago are touring again with their classic hits.  People are hungry for good music, and will pay to hear it performed live.  Classic Albums Live knows this, and has built an entire business around giving audiences the music they want to hear performed live by some of the world’s greatest musicians.  Younger generations are discovering music that has withstood the test of time and are breathing new life into it.  Now, they are even being inspired to create music themselves, and much of it is actually pretty good.  They just need to find their audiences that can appreciate it and know the difference between disposable music and indispensable music.