We live in a time of wholesome claims being made about food products. We see words like “organic,” “fair trade,” and “sustainable,” and we’re meant to be impressed by these, even if we’re not exactly sure what those terms actually entail when it comes to the production of what we’re about to consume. We just know it makes us feel better about it.
Likewise, there’s an effort to stress the positive aspect of where a product is sourced, so we see phrases like, “locally grown,” “made in the USA, “Missouri-owned,” etc. If the product is sourced from some third world country, possibly assembled by child slaves, deceptive language is sometimes used to obscure the fact, e.g. “designed in America.” My favorite one of these was the western shirt I bought under a well-known American brand, which stated it was “made of America.” Not surprisingly, the shirt was actually made in China, but perhaps incorporating some American dirt into the fabric, or maybe just some vaguely-defined American spirit, lovingly sewn into the shirt by someone making $1.50 a day.
Restaurants have updated the time-worn “farm fresh” to claim that certain foods they serve are coming to you directly from the farmer without any interfering third parties, as if the farm is just outside the back door of the restaurant: “farm to table,” “farm to fork,” or one I enjoy a lot, “field to fork.” My family and I discussed a few possible variations: “plow to plate,” “dirt to digestive system,” “garden to gut,” “crop to colon,” etc.
Could we market bluegrass this way? Our music is often locally sourced. It’s also sustainable, as long as a living wage for those who play the music isn’t considered a requirement for “sustainability,” or the rigors of the road don’t reduce musician life expectancy too much. It’s also sustainable in the sense that acoustic instruments can be played with or without the use of electricity.
Speaking of which, we do serve our music up pretty directly from the source, especially when playing without the intermediary of a PA system, like in some house concert situations, or when a thunderstorm knocks out the power at a festival.
At that point we can claim that our music goes directly from the instrument and voice to the listener.
Perhaps we should consider the following slogans:
- String to listener
- Pick to person
- Fiddle to face
- Banjo to brain
- Mandolin to middle ear
- Gibson to groupie
Or, perhaps getting too complicated:
- Lost love song to lawn chair
I think we could easily claim bluegrass music is “organic,” provided the diets of individual musicians aren’t figured into that equation.
I’m afraid we’re still a few years away from being able to call the music “fair trade.”