Rock legend Bob Weir talks future of music in Bandier series lecture

Rock legend Bob Weir talks future of music industry with SU students

Joined by award-winning producer Don Was, the Grateful Dead guitarist discussed all things "sound."
Published: November 7, 2018 | Updated: November 10th, 2018 at 5:14 pm
Founding member of the Grateful Dead, Bob Weir, speaks to a group of students and faculty at the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium on Nov. 7, 2018.
Grateful Dead founding member Bob Weir speaks to a Syracuse University audience Wednesday night about technology and consumer habits in today's music industry as part of the Bandier Program's David M. Rezak Lecture Series.

“We can get it out of the way by saying the Grateful Dead has changed all of our lives,” Bill Werde, director of Syracuse University’s Bandier Program, said as audience members eagerly waited for Grateful Dead founding member Bob Weir to appear. “Now there’s no need to mention it every time you ask a question.”

Spoiler alert: the preemptive statement did little to keep Deadheads from expressing their thanks.

In a conversation moderated by Newhouse School alumni Kraig Fox as a part of the Rezak Lecture Series, Weir and his “Wolf Brothers” bandmate, musical producer Don Was, talked about everything from music streaming to the opportunity for jazz to thrive in today’s music industry to what technology could do for the future of audio quality.

“Raise your hand if you pay for a music streaming service,” Werde prompted the Herganhan Auditorium audience.

Much to no one’s surprise, the majority of students’ hands shot up. Weir was not phased by the public affirmation that of streaming’s dominance in the music industry.

“It’s up to the general listener out there,” Weir said. “Honor what you love. You need to make sure that something you’re doing is getting money to them [artists], otherwise, they’re going to go back to law school and say to hell with music!”

Was, who also is president of the jazz-centric Blue Note Records label, added that at least the $15 or so that people are paying for their respective streaming services is doing something to make sure the artists they’re listening to will still be around to make more music.

“You have to have faith in the human need to have quality music,” Was said.

While streaming services may hold all the music our hearts desire, they still are mainly pushing chart-topping, pop hits, leaving other genres, like jazz, a genre near and dear to Was and Weir, lost amidst the noise.

“What can you do as artists and producers to keep that genre alive?” Fox asked.

Was stated that a misconception exists behind jazz, that one has to be an academic elite to enjoy it. He hopes to change that perspective in showing people that, at its core, jazz is simply a “musical conversation.”

“The important thing is to make music that’s honest to who you are,” Was said. And quality goes beyond the content of the music we’re consuming and into the way in which we consume it.

Both Weir and Was spoke passionately on the promise that technological advances hold when it comes to how fans hear their music. As artists, Weir and Was expressed the frustration they feel when the sound they capture in the studio doesn’t come close to translating to what their audience hears on their digital records.

Weir offered one explanation as to why younger generations aren’t actively complaining about this disconnect.

“They’re not complaining because they grew up on horse s—!”

Bob Weir
Kraig Fox, left, Don Was, Bob Weir and Bill Werde, speak to an audience of faculty and students at the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium on Wednesday as part of the Bandier Program's David M. Rezak Lecture Series.
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Zoë Farrell is a senior Magazine Journalism major at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.