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“Does anyone under 25 play an instrument anymore?” grumbled one veteran producer in response to the recent MTV Video Music Awards show. “They need to take the M out of these awards.”

Audiences had an even harsher verdict on the MTV event. Ratings were down a whopping 34% over the previous year — and 2015 ratings had shown a comparable decline versus 2014. In an industry that agonizes over shifts of a fraction of a percent, this kind of free-fall is unprecedented. The music business brought out its biggest guns for the MTV event — Beyoncé, Kanye, Rihanna, and Britney, among other one-name phenoms — and the show was broadcast on 11 different networks, including VH1, BET, CMT, and Spike. Even Comedy Central gave the event wall-to-wall coverage. But I don’t think anyone is laughing now.

More… “Does the Music Business Need Musicianship?”

Ted Gioia writes about music, literature and popular culture. He is the author of ten books, most recently How to Listen to Jazz
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Chet Atkins’ “Walk Don’t Run,” was recorded in 1957. It’s a groovy little number. A soft, jazzy drum beat rumbles along beneath a wide-ranging guitar melody backed nicely by a second guitar.

In 1960, a young group called The Ventures did a re-make of Chet’s song. It was the same song, but it wasn’t the same song at all. Musicians talk about creating a new sound or looking for that new sound. They often talk about that new sound in hushed tones, as if they’ve suddenly crossed over into the realm of the sacred. There’s lots of nodding and smiling. Knowing glances replace anything that could be put simply into language.

In 1960, a new sound came into being. There were others getting to the same place at the same time — Dick Dale, The Shadows, Link… More…