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Changing with the times

Los Lobos has adapted 30 years in the music industry

Los Lobos will perform at 5:30 p.m. Thursday on Headwall ski trail at Steamboat Ski Area as part of the Free Concert Series.
Courtesy photo

Key points

¤ Los Lobos ¤ 5:30 p.m. Thursday ¤ Headwall ski trail at the Steamboat Ski Area ¤ Free

Steve Berlin, saxophonist for Los Lobos, attributes the saturation of musicians in the music industry to the advancement in technology.

“The tools for making music are in basically everybody’s hands,” Berlin said. “There are now more musicians than anybody could possibly assimilate.”

He compares the issue to purchasing a car.



“If you went to a car lot and they had 15,000 brands of automobiles, it would be hard to pick one,” Berlin said.

Los Lobos has been cruising the music industry for three decades. With the proliferation of the internet and widespread sharing and downloading of music, Berlin has witnessed other ways the industry has changed.



“What we are going through right now is the most challenging, I think, because the mode of distribution has dissolved,” Berlin said. “We used to get money by making a CD and selling them, but that paradigm essentially no longer exists.”

Now that anyone can produce a CD with a computer, quality and talent become as imperative as a capitalist spirit.

“There was once a point where live shows would make people want to go to the record store,” Berlin said. “Now the record has become an inducement to come to our live shows and visit our Web site, which in effect has become more entrepreneurial. It’s a very different model and is one that will take a long time for people to get their heads around.”

Key points

¤ Los Lobos
¤ 5:30 p.m. Thursday
¤ Headwall ski trail at the Steamboat Ski Area
¤ Free

Historically, record companies retain 90 percent of the proceeds from the sale of a band’s CD, and the musicians receive the other 10 percent.

“Actually, that’s not a bad deal right there,” Berlin said. “We are put in a world now where there is no more radio or retailing, so what does the record company do with their 90 percent? Basically they are just a bank, but they don’t come after you and shred your credit rating.”

The band covers almost every genre of music while respecting its Mexican-American heritage. After several decades of performances, the band has a formula for exciting their audiences.

“We roll them (the audience) into a sense of complacency and then turn it up,” Berlin said. “There are a couple moments for us during every show where we shift gears completely and surprise the hell out of everybody.”

Their shows have been labeled as being like an East L.A. party, where most of the band members are from.

“They probably say that because you won’t see anybody dressing up. It sounds obnoxious to say that we’re humble, but we are, and we don’t have much in the way of personality on stage,” Berlin said. “That translates to: if there’s a band, then there’s a party. If that’s what we do, you can call it a house party.”


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