Called to serve through music

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Despite the rain, and then wet snow, people still gathered in the BYU Conference Center to attend the 10 a.m. session of the Mormon Media Studies Symposium panel to learn about the future of LDS music and radio last Friday.

The panel included Bob Ahlander, Steven Kapp Perry, Andrew Maxfield and Ron Saltmarsh while communications professor, Quint Randle, served as moderator.

The panel discussed the transition of the music industry with the reduction of large record labels and the increasing availability of music. Album sales have decreased eight percent per year on average and now 90 percent of the market is in illegal downloads. Today music piracy is causing problems for the music industry as a whole.

Steve Kapp Perry, the radio host on 100.3, believes the future of LDS music will include fewer physically purchased CDs, more online possibilities and fewer publishing companies. As the host of 100.3 “Soft Sunday Sounds,” Perry believes there will always be a need for radio because people like local radio.

“No on-air stations during the week plays any LDS music to my knowledge,” Perry said. “It’s not just music, it’s companionship.”

Bob Ahlander, co-founder of BYU’s Vocal Point, is now director of music and film for Deseret Book. Ahlander understands that not all Mormons are interested in Mormon music, but knows that there is still a need for it. The LDS music is a niche within a niche, as Ahlander described it.

“It’s a brick and mortar effort,” Ahlander said about the LDS music industry. “The strength of LDS music is that it is local. We are a culture, we are a community and by playing LDS music on Sunday, we are filling a need.”

Andrew Maxfield, director of Influencer Institute, believes that the music industry trends may be true, but are not helpful. Maxfield believes that music will always continue to be made, but the real question is if people will pay for the music.

“There’s only one business model: revenue exceed expenses over time,” Maxfield said. “Artists have to produce songs that people want to buy.”

Maxfield expressed that scarcity organizes the market place, and it is important to capitalize on scarcity. Maxfield used the economic supply and demand curves to illustrate the benefit of having live performances, which creates the rational market price. With the advancement of technology and availability of music, the supply of music has become infinite. There is no rational intersection, therefore Maxfield suggested that live music is the solution.

“Future for music, Mormon or not, is to create scarcity.” Maxfield said. “The reality that rocked the big industry (was to) connect with fans and give them a reason to buy, (then the industry) can make money.”

Ahlander agrees that live music will become more important with the increasing availability of music.

“(As) more music becomes digitized and compressed, only entering one set of ears at a time, more live music experiences will become important to human beings,” Ahlander said.

When asked to define LDS music, the panel had difficulty giving it one absolute definition but they seemed to agree that although it may be different for every artist, it is important to convey good messages in the music.

“As disciples it’s our responsibility to preach gospel regardless of our jobs,” Ahlander said.

Ron Saltmarsh, was an award winning composer, producer and music artist, is now a professor at the BYU School of Music. Saltmarsh agrees that it is important for artists to share the gospel through their music.

“The responsibility is there for those with the talent,” Saltmarsh said.

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