PoS Turns Two
Well, it's that time of year again. I drop a celebratory column about making it through another year writing and reporting on the current state of black music without going insane and broadsiding anyone who has "Soulja Boy" blasting out of their car speakers.
In what's now becoming a PoS tradition, I once again interview indie soul's reigning prince Eric Roberson, who just happens to be doing a show in town this week (he's already dropped by Philly twice this month), and ask him a few questions about the contemporary music biz. Does he have any suggestions on how to make black music less, um, pitiful?
The first time I spoke to you for this column two years ago you were coming to Philly in July. I talked to you last year around this time when you were coming to Philly again. What is it about Philly in July that always has you coming back?
"That's a good point. I don't know if I ever realized I come in July. It gets cold around Philadelphia in the wintertime, and I don't really wanna do too many shows in the cold. But for the most part, it's just a good time to come around. The nice, warm weather. The ladies are gonna be wearing something nice, and the fellas are gonna appreciate that. So it's just a cool time."
Being out there in the thick of it, touring and performing, what have you observed in both independent and mainstream black music?
"Well, I'll tell you one thing: Even with all the money problems and the gas prices and the recession, people still love and need music. And they'll still support it. And that's the one part I see out there. It's a very interesting state that independent music music is in. We're still growing. I'm watching as it develops into something pretty impressive right now. We had an awards show in the last year, a very successful awards show in Detroit. This year we're having three conferences in independent music that are pretty impactful. More artists are coming out with high-quality independent albums, and certain artists are getting major distribution now.
"The mainstream's kinda the same way. Everything is pointed to a certain demographic. There's one, two albums maybe to get excited over a year. But as a whole, nobody is putting out consistent music. At the same time you have to recognize that, say, Ledisi, who has been an independent artist for such a long time, is getting recognized on a major scale now. She has a major deal. And people like Raheem DeVaughn--who was repping the independent world and went to Jive some years ago--is getting recognized more and more by his company and by his peers. It just shows that things are going all right, you know. I guess that's the best way to put it."
Do you find that people are listening to music the same way people watch movies: sampling it that first week it comes out and never dealing with it again? Do you find that to be the reason there's so much disposable music out there?
"Yeah, we're the iPod generation. Not only are people disposing of an album after a few listens, they're not even picking the entire album. And then they're listening to a song to get a certain feeling. Once that feeling is fulfilled, they might not even finish that song. You know, it is what it is. But to me, we need to challenge people who make music. Just to do it, you know. Go harder, and try to do it better. That's probably the best answer. There's really no way to solve that. Kids don't listen to vinyl, and they rarely listen to CDs. So what do you do? How do you change the field? You go in the studio, and you try to create something that's gonna change the world or make somebody feel good. Everything is what it is, you know. So you just kinda have to accept it or work harder.
"If we just try to be more consistent in quality rather than just guaranteed sales, I think we would be a lot better, just in general. That's the problem we run into--everybody wants guaranteed first-week sales, or you release a song to the radio and the radio starts picking the song up. So now you're rushing the album out to try to get your album sales off of the success of the single happening. But if you wait one more week, you might write that classic song. It's just a funny place right now. A funny place."