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Jul 23, 2008



Its a hard one to answer rationally. I was a young adult when he was born, so I guess I'm the generation he's looking back on and going "Cooooool".

But heres the rub. We spent half our time jamming away on Amigas, and early PCs, and going back a bit earlier C64s and Amstrads and the like.

But I do feel sad for the current crop of kids. The fact many of them seem to admire the 80s isn't lost on me. Compared to my mob in the 90s, the 80s where a much more conservative generation of kids, and this generation seems deeply conservative.

The internet does have a bit to say in the matter, but the effect isn't simple. We had the Net too, but it wasn't *quite* as compelling. It *WAS* compelling however. Its just it wasn't quite as wide spread, and trolling usenet probably was a more 'specialty' activity than trolling 4chan.

And muds where definately a minority activity compared to WOW.

I think personally the big loss is the rock-and-roll pop culture. Following local rock bands around and going to the pub to meet girls and dance. Kids still do it, but its a minority activity.

And more to the point, when was the last REAL genre invented. Not rebadged (as in emo, which is just a fairly bland retake on a few things in the 90s) but actually genuinely innovated.

I don't know, because sure as hell the radio isn't telling me! Its just R&B post-motown stuff. Well hell, Prince was doing THAT in the 80s.

I don't think thats a fault of either the internet or kids. I think thats the fault of consumerism and Hollywood.


I probably sound exactly like my father, who made rather similar dismissals of my generation. And now I think about it, our generation thought the 70s where coooooool.


tl;dr its not video games, and culture is much more expansive a question that I still think is rooted in economics and class.


tl;dr, it IS video games but at the margin the effect is so small that it doesn't matter.

Think about it. For 99.99% of the people tempted to start garage bands it will do no more than annoy their parents. So while the number that will tradeoff a "real band" for rock band will be large, the number who do so but would have gone on to become "real musicians" will be vanishingly small.

However, if you consider the social experience of playing in a garage band as superior to "playing" in rock band, this is a big deal, so the personal outcome from not being able to do that may be large.


As Adam has already pointed out, most garage bands never become musicians or last longer than half a year.

I think there's a distinct line between games like "RockBand" or "Guittar Hero" and actually playing a more or less traditional instrument. You don't require five years of practice to be able to play, don't need to meet up every week to practice and so on. While you could argue, and I would certainly agree, that playing in a -real- band with -real- instruments is a more constructive activity, I think it's as far away from "RockBand" as it is from "Virtual Tennis". Musically-based games, e.g. "SingStar", are designed to be played casually (often at parties). Forming a band and keeping it alive goes a step further by being a full-fledged, time-consuming hobby beyond compare.

~~ Nicholas


As a Generation Y myself, I can't say I've seen any influence of technology preventing my peers starting up bands.

I think there will always be a section of people who want to play a real instrument, and there will always be a majority of people who will never a rock a live show but wish they could. Rock Band is for them. I think the intersection of those groups is actually smaller than one might think.

I found my friends using technology to aid their efforts. They'd push out MP3s, form garage band communities on MySpace, fiddle with levels on music programs, add synth effects...

Now, I do think, that as a generation, Gen Y has done pretty much nothing of interest in terms of musical culture. The 90s had grunge and britpop. The 80s saw hip-hop. The late 90s and the 00s have done pretty much nothing, and currently carried through to whatever we call teenagers today (Generation Z?).

Elden isn't wearing rose-tinted glasses, but he's pointing the finger at the wrong thing. However, I wouldn't be so presumptuous to claim that I know why we didn't do very well musically.


I recall reading somewhere recently that sales of musical instruments (guitars, bass guitars, and drum sets, that is) are on the up, and that the concensus is that this is the consequence of the popularity of rock band and guitar hero. Of course, a large majority will play for a month or two and quit, but here's the kicker: THE EXACT SAME THING HAPPENED WHEN NIRVANA WAS BIG. How else can you explain the outrageous sales volumes of the relatively mediocre Fender Jaguar in the early 90s (and the subsequent enormous market for used Fender Jaguars)? That's right - its what Kurt Cobain played.

And anyway, a significant minority (of which I'm a member) have stuck with it. I see no reason why this wouldn't happen again.

I would also point out that you can get some great music-making software for dirt cheap, and this is the direction many people have gone. The user-generated music on the internet, while rarely stellar, is nonetheless a potent and flourishing phenomenon.

@dmx - For new music, I've looked outside of modern pop rock. There's some great electronic stuff out there that's catchy and compelling. Fear not though; good old fashioned rock will return some day... at least I hope so.

Also, I don't care how angsty that kid is, it's pretty sweet to be on a Nirvana album cover.


I'm taking my 12-year old son out to buy his first electric guitar tonight, hopefully putting an end to the last 6 months of begging and pleading. After he started playing Guitar Hero, violin practice just didn't quite cut it anymore.

Will he go out and start his own garage band? I'd say the chances are about as good as any kid who bought an electric guitar in the 90s. The medium which delivers the persuasive message has changed from MTV to video games, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad change.

Most of his pretend games have been modeled after video games too, complete with terms like 'levels' and 'health bar'. That might seem odd to us, but is no stranger than some imaginary pretend superhero game referring to 'issues' and 'panels'.

That the kids nowadays consume a less immersive, perhaps more meta-level form of entertainment where they have some form of agency and understanding of the process is not a cause for worry. To the contrary, I'm comforted in knowing my son has already slogged through a fairly difficult game with a controller at least resembling a guitar, and that he's still excited enough to play Welcome to the Jungle over and over trying to beat his own score - especially compared to the situation in the 90s where he'd have wanted a guitar because he thought James Hetfield or Dave Mustaine were really cool.

Of course, the real reason he wants a guitar may be because he thinks Lars Umlaut or the digital version of Slash is really cool. We'll have to see.


I think the reminder that these are casual games is a good one, and there isn't much of a one-to-one ratio between playing Guitar Hero and playing real guitar (I can out-Guitar-Hero friends who are accomplished musicians).

If anything, I'd believe these games would encourage interest in music; kids who would be passionate about learning will get out there and do it. I found it doubtful that these games will become ways of placating kids with sincere musical interested (especially given the cost of these games, the families would have the disposable income for music equipment or lessons). These games that mimic actual behavior, from RockBand, to Wii Tennis, to Cooking Mama, are casual entertainment for those of us whose skills don't lie with music, athletics, or culinary delight.


Simply put, should we believe something just because some 17-year-old says something is true? OMG. Where's the data, the facts?

(In my limited experience (teaching high school for the last 23 years), kids are still making bands as much as ever, fwiw.)


Why would a 17 year old be any less honest than a 37 year old when theres no axe to grind here?

That seems awfully ageinst.

Regardless, its a thinkpiece, not research.

The kid thinks his peers are too into computer game soooo Hand-ball it to the experts to see if the kids intuitions match the more learned intuitions on the topic. And here we are...

Anyway, how do you measure empirical data on culture anyway. To be honest I tend to prefer ethnological study anyway. What better way to understand the kid, than ask the kid.


@DMX: I didn't say or imply that the boy was being dishonest. I just question him as a source of facts about the broader culture. He's one data point; I'm one (contradictory) data point. Of course ethnological study is great, but let's not take it to be more indicative than it is. (And, to boot, I don't think the info presented constitutes an ethnological study, does it?)


> I would also point out that you can get some great music-making software for dirt cheap, and this is the direction many people have gone. The user-generated music on the internet, while rarely stellar, is nonetheless a potent and flourishing phenomenon.

Quite. However, while I think Sturgeon's Law (90% of everything is crap) applies here as much as anywhere, there is some truly great music out there that's 100% synthetic yet sounds as good as any orchestra. Some of the music is pretty creative and complex...But that said, I realize that to older generations, a lot of this kind of music which I personally like would sound quite harsh (then again, couldn't you have said the same about rock, etc?). Might also find it a bit strange that the musicians use pseudonyms rather than their real names...

Another nice thing is just about all of it is Creative Commons licensed.

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