San Francisco has a long and illustrious history as a place with a rich heritage of pioneering people pushing the artistic envelope and developing trend-setting technologies. It was the spawning ground for new music movements from the 1940s jazz boom to the 1960s rock revolution. Bay Area bands continued to make .. through the 70s.

Since 1990 the legendary music scene underwent a gradual fifty-year decline. As the live music market dwindled the tech industry flourished. While new digital electronics increased the creative potential of musicians, a byproduct of the new technology bred generations of psuedo-artists. Now anyone could easily make music by pushing buttons, and avoid the difficult challenge of learning to play a real instrument.

The music industry and mass media exploited the fad by flooding the market with new electronic genres and dumbing-down consumers with crass commercial kitsch. Music production increased but the aesthetic quality decreased. It was cheap to produce and easy to sell.

Meanwhile, traditional genres like rock were becoming ever more saturated with cover bands. By the year 2000 more than 90% of all musicians played cover songs, rather than create original songs. Why? Because the audience was demanding that they play covers. In other words — the tail wagging the dog.

By 2020 chronic creative inertia exacerbated by changing socioeconomic conditions eventually lead to the demise of the local music scene. As the cost of livng skyrocketed, live music venues closed, and a mass exodus of musicians followed. Rather than create the last vestages of the Bay Area's best talent succumbed to their fate with jaded cynicism.



The Jazz Era

     To make a long story short, 50 years ago San Francisco was the epicenter of West Coast of jazz. until "urban redevelopment" demolished venues and housing, and wiped out the burgeoning community in the heart of the Fllmore District. The black jazz culture was uprooted, artists were displaced, and the scene never recovered from the gentrification.

     The Jazz genre was born out of creative innovation. It was an exciting new frontier that empowered minority artists but disrupted the status quo. The industry feared free-form improvisation was a threat that had to be eliminated. The only gigs available now feature the same old standard repertoire. History would repeat itself a few decades later.

The Rock Era

       In the 1960s and 70s San Francisco was again a major spawning ground for new creative genres. It was the golden age of rock superstars until idol worship became the norm, as most "musicians" played cover songs instead of writing originals. Marketers promoted it and educators trained the next generation of clones to ignore artistic creativity and focus solely on performing music created by others. Despite being diametrically opposed to music as an art form, the practice became ubiquitous. The following waves of mainstream pop morphed into commercialized kitsch -- a trend that coinceded with the rapid proliferation of processed junk food and drive thru burger joints.

    The industry business model is based on the study and performance of traditional standard music material. So original creativity is considered an unpredictable and uncontrollable risk. By the year 2000 the loss of talent due to widespread mimicry exacerbated by adverse socioeconomic conditions, lead to the demise of the Bay Area music scene.

      In the early 80s the founders of Buskdriver were immersed in the local music scene, pushing the envelop from progressive rock to jazz fusion and beyond. Their experimental work was a milestone in the annals of artistic achievement. While there were hundreds of world class virtuosos around, gigs were few and far between.

      The economics of club booking made it a popularity contest instead of a talent show. The ratio between bands and gigs was at least 100 to 1. Since then the loss of venues and rehearsal space increased the ratio between bands and gigs to over 1,000 to 1 – even with the mass exodus of artists from the City.

      The Bay Area music culture is a microcosm of a larger trend toward more imitation and less creation. Industry projections for the future include increasing usage of digital devices to make synthetic music. It started in the 80s with drum machines, sequencers, and samplers, using sampled bits of older songs, and blending different songs into so-called mash-ups. It had popular appeal because no talent was required, so anyone could call themselves a "musician". The overall strategy was to redefine what music is, and as a consequence true music would eventually become a lost art.

     Traditional musical instruments were dificult to master, and sophisticated genres were too complex for the masses to digest. So new technology was used to dumb the art down to the lowest common denominator. It made the process user-friendly and the product more marketable. While crass commercialism is partly to blame, it's the musicians who are ultimately responsible for the state of the art. And too many had sacrificed their artistic integrity by relinqiuishing control of the art to the dictates of profiteers — a textbook example of the tail wagging the dog.

Meanwhile consummers were so conditioned to accept anything the record companies spoon-fed them that they would demand more of the same. Across the board from academia to entertainment the entrenched industry establishment's plan was to suppress creative potential by phasing out original artistic expression gradually over time until artificial art is generated automatically by a passive push-button society.

     At this point in time the great challenge is to stop copying and start creating. It’s easy to play a cover song because someone else already did the real work of creating it. The practice is so common because the tendency to be lazy and fake it is part of human nature. It's so ubiquitous that it will probably continue to grow no matter what we do to curtail it. Such clone musicians have so much ego and emotion invested in it that most of them will never admit that they are actually making a mockery of music.

So the burden falls upon a few true artists to preserve and protect the art. True musicianship is all about being an original artist. It takes work to develop talent, and courage to risk rejection. But it’s the only way to save the art of music from becoming a lost art.

Summary of Factors That Contributed To The Collapse of the Creative Culture

  • Entrenched music industry establishment manipulation of the art -- The tale waging the dog.
  • Antiquated academic pedagogy focus on music theory and cover songs, rather than original creativity.
  • Fatally flawed business model based on simplification & replication, and the elimination of aesthetic refinement.
  • Clubs impacted by high unemployment, housing cost, and gas prices + DUI laws, smoking bans, and healthier lifestyles.
  • Cheaper recreation options including sports bars, kareoke clubs, and DJs replaced live music venues.
  • Digital electronics automatally make preprogrammed music discouraging the use of traditional musical instruments.
  • Overexploitation of new hi-tech samplers, sequencers, drum machines & synthesizers diminish artistic creativity.
  • Alternative entertainment options including web, cable, & satelite TV, video games, and home theatre systems.
  • Culmination of the above + ubiquity of mobile devices result in the cultivation of a passive push-button society.
  • Negligence of general public to recognize and address the issue due to apathy and ignorance.
  • Failure of the powers that be to intervene before the crisis reached the critical stage.