Jim Mathis

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What is “Country” music?

When we formed Sky Blue five years, one of the goals was to use a steel guitar in a non-country band. We called ourselves “Blues” and did everything with a blues flavor. Before long we were sliding to a more rock sound so we started calling ourselves “blues/rock.”

A while back we did a survey of our fans and one guy said he didn’t plan to come hear us because he didn’t like country music. This was kind of a “Huh?” moment. I'll admit, our picture looks kind of country.

Recently I was listening to our latest CD in the car when I switched over to a country station, and sure enough, it didn’t sound much different from modern country. If we opened for Sugarland, nobody would think anything about it.

So the question is, “What is Country Music anyway?” Our songs have good or clever lyrics which you can understand, and we use a steel guitar or dobro, and not much distortion on the lead guitar. Does that make us country?

What do you think?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Most People Don't Like Music

Most people don’t like music, at least not in the same way as we musicians do. As near as I can tell from casual research, if we would measure people’s love of music, the result would be a classic bell curve.

There are a few people on each end and a large number in the middle. Musicians typically will be on the right toe, the top 10 percentile at the most. These people, on the right side, like a wide variety of music, go to concerts, and buy music from various sources, often at concerts.

The amazing thing for me is that there is an equal number on the left side. These folks never listen to music, don’t have a favorite performer, and can probably not name one song. I am guessing that for every person that buys ten CDs per year there is someone who has never bought even one.

The vast majority of people are somewhere in the middle. This center peak is the group that radio airplay is aimed at and the group that the large record companies cater to. This group might go to a concert if the performer was someone they had heard on the radio a lot, but they would be more interested in the event as a spectacle than to actually listen to music.

As performing artists, it is most reasonable to aim at the people on the right side who will come to our shows and buy our music, even if they have never heard us, or even our type of music, on the radio. Hopefully they will like us well enough to tell their friends and seek out the coffeehouses, clubs, and church concerts where we play.

Most of us have friends who are on the other end of the curve, who have no idea what we do, don’t know why we do it, and have never heard us play, and probably never will.

Don’t let it get you down. I’m sure they do things that we don’t care much about either.