What’s the biggest complaint about the music industry today? Itunes destroying physical CDs? Watching all the genres mesh together? Youtube banning an...
Music Aint what it used to be
May 1, 2014
Music Aint what it used to be
May 1, 2014
What’s the biggest complaint about the music industry today? Itunes destroying physical CDs? Watching all the genres mesh together? Youtube banning any video with a copyright problem? Justin Bieber?
Actually, none of those come close to this comment, which I hear the most. It goes something along the lines of this: “Where has all the good music gone?” Or, “Everything is produced from a computer.” Or, “Nothing’s real anymore. These bands are talentless.” You get the idea, right? And for the record, we’re only talking about mainstream pop music. This is radio music, music that wins Grammys in 2013, music that gets put in commercials, and music you hear in the supermarket. There are amazing, talented current bands out there but they may not be mainstream pop. For now, they’re being respectfully left out of this conversation.
I’m very interested in watching the music industry evolve and change, and this is a conversation that I want to be part of. Most of the people who make the above comments are usually people who appreciate classic rock - a time when musicians were really singing, really dancing, and really playing their instrument. Watching these autotuned, overly produced hipster bands perform a song that’s been written ninety million times before is disappointing to that crowd. Where have the progressive rock bands gone? Where are the political statements? Bring back the guitar solo!
Mainstream modern music is safe. The record labels want something they know will sell. Record labels are a business, and they run each band like a small business. They know what already works, and if your band fits their business model, you’re a low risk investment with a possible high revenue outcome. That’s why Taylor Swift has written fifty songs about her love life. It’s safe, and they know it already sells.
Mainstream pop music is formatted to fit a 3 minute radio slot. Each song has two verses, three choruses, and maybe a bridge. Very rarely are there guitar solos. Absolutely no 60 second long intros (even Death Cab for Cutie’s intros are cut for radio play). It’s a rarity to find songs that modulate anymore- (and for my non musician friends, a modulation is a key change in the middle of the song.) Suddenly, every mainstream song becomes predictable. We know exactly what we’re going to get before we hear it. But here’s the key: predictability sells.
The thing that draws the audience back to a certain band is the ability to make an emotional connection. Since the beginning of time, music has emotionally connected people, and the record labels use that knowledge to increase profit. The bands get to make the kids feel cool at concerts, the audience gets to experience a powerful show, and the musicians get to release adrenalin and creativity on stage. Everyone wins. …except the talented, experiential musician who’s sitting at home, throwing his bowl of popcorn at the screen as the Grammy winners are announced.
There is a kicker, though. Listeners have the ability to mature and grow. Music that’s appealing to a fourteen year old may not be appealing to that same person when they turn forty. There’s a huge argument that newer bands no longer possess Staying Power and longevity like Kiss, The Beatles, and Pink Floyd. Bands don’t grow with their audience today- they have their three years and then get replaced by someone else.
Here’s an honest confession: Between the years of 15 and 18 I was the biggest Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance fan you’d ever meet. Now that I’ve grown into being a lead guitarist, I’m a bit embarrassed by those bands now. But that’s the KEY to this whole argument. Listeners have the ability to grow and change. Those bands met my emotional needs at that time in my life. Now that I’m in my twenties, I’ve started playing with older, skillful, well-seasoned musicians. They all listen to classic rock, which has rubbed off on me. I’ve lost interest in the Fueled by Ramen label a long time ago and now I can’t get enough classic or progressive rock. As I matured, my tastes have matured. Luckily, everyone has the opportunity to be exposed to new genres, to and develop new tastes, to listen and decide what they like and don’t like. For me, Fall Out Boy only lasted three years. I won’t call them a flash-in-the-pan band, but their music won’t ever be considered classic. Kanye West's music won’t be played sixty years from now. Katy Perry’s music will probably fade when she does. Mainstream music serves a purpose, and the people that are listening to it are making an emotional connection, otherwise it wouldn’t be mainstream and the record labels wouldn’t invest in this music. There is an emotional connection that’s being made between the fans and the music. That emotional connection probably won’t survive generations like the Beatles, Led Zepplin, Michael Jackson, U2, and the other timeless bands. Or maybe it will. I'm only guessing here.
Music today is manicured, produced, marketed, and given a life expectancy. Mainstream bands are losing their ability to experiment and grow as musicians. The record labels want predictable music that will sell. Giving their bands room to grow can be nerve wracking for an investor. They’d rather play it safe and stick to what they know. Is this good or bad? I'm not sure.
At least with the internet you can find bands that aren’t mainstream, but still ridiculously amazing. Just for starters, check out Kazu Matsui with his amazing instrumentals. Anything by guitarist Tommy Emmanuel is mind-blowing and inspiring. KTL has some very interesting sounds. Or maybe we can go old school and dance to Jean-Luc Ponty. There’s great music out there that you’ll never hear on the radio. Just do a little digging and you’ll find great music that fits your tastes.