Barack and Michelle Obama weren’t the only luminaries who made keynote addresses at SXSW this past week. Tony Visconti, the longtime David Bowie producer, gave an address yesterday. And the Verge reports that he devoted his time to lamenting the current state of the music industry, even spending 20 minutes reading a piece of dystopian fiction about the way he imagines the business will look in 10 years.
Apparently, Visconti’s story takes place 10 years in the future, and it’s told from the perspective of an A&R executive at the Universe, the last remaining record label in the world. In this future, the music business only releases one single a week, and those singles are recorded by lottery winners and crafted by label heads. The executive in the story wants to sign a street musician, but he learns that the higher-ups deem it too risky to sign artists because of their talent. At the story’s end, that executive kills himself by jumping from his office window. Visconti reportedly got choked up as he read the ending.
Visconti’s problem with the music business, as it exists now, is that it’s not recognizing talent: “The next David Bowie lives somewhere in the world, the next Beatles, the next Bruce Springsteen, but they’re not getting the shot. They’re not being financed.” Visconti also said that he doesn’t care about contemporary pop music, though he does like Sun Kil Moon, who he learned about from Bowie. You have to imagine that Mark Kozelek will be overjoyed to hear about that.