Have you turned on the radio lately?
Do you find yourself switching through stations, frustrated that most of what you hear is overplayed music from ten years ago or new stuff that is just not that great?
There are various reasons why the average listener may feel like music sucks now and has sucked for several years. The blanket answer is the world is saturated with so much music now, it has become a blessing and a curse.
In the early 2000s, there were about 75,000 new releases per year. Now, you are looking at over 200,000 releases per week! Terrific music is still being produced by mainstream artists and major labels as well as independent artists recording, mixing, and mastering from their home studio.
However, you may never hear it because there isn’t enough time in our lifetime to wade through all that music!!!
Filtering out the bad is where I believe the problem arises.
In the past, labels were great initial filters for the quality of music that made it through to the radio stations and your local record store. Nowadays, anyone with a laptop and a microphone can produce a full-length album that can be independently distributed to all the current music streaming services.
A lot of that music DOES SUCK!
Now let’s address the artists themselves. Artists in the ’50s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and even 90’s put in their 10,000 hours, as Malcolm Gladwell suggests in his hit book, “Outliers.” Gladwell’s rule is that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills and materials, like playing an instrument or becoming a master in Martial Arts. It all boils down to how much time, effort, and hard work an artist puts into mastering their craft.
Most artists who have fully dedicated themselves to their craft and shed their blood, sweat, and tears for their passion often look back and know in their hearts that it was worth it.
Personally, I am by no means the best YouTuber, writer, photographer, etc. I haven’t completed my 10,000 hours; I am not even close.
So, I can relate.
When you see me holding a one million subscriber YouTube plaque or see my newest book on the New York Times bestseller list, then perhaps you can say, damn, Mike did it.
So, we’ve covered part of the problem, which is just the sheer number of offerings out in the ether. As well as the low quality of music from inexperienced and untalented artists looking for those 15 minutes of fame. However, we can’t blame the artist for being mediocre if the streaming services are giving mediocrity or, even worse, dreadful noise a significant platform to present their belligerence to the world.
However, are we just getting old and out of touch with today’s mainstream ways of consuming content?
The evolution of music has been very distinct; in the 1960’s we had the British Invasion of groups like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones; Motown favorites like Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin; Surf Rock like The Beach Boys; and Roots Rock like Creedence and Roy Orbison.
Acts that were symbols or even legends in their own respect.
For each decade that followed, there were more of those iconic artists, and the music evolved.
In the ’70s, Disco made its entrance with Abba; Progressive Rock was introduced to so many young people through the vision of Pink Floyd and Queen; and, of course, who could forget the birth of Punk Rock with heavy hitters like The Ramones and The Misfits.
With each generation, the music seemed to evolve every ten years; the listener expressed themselves and lost themselves through the music, which often directly correlated with the current state of things. Whether it was war, politics, or any other sociocultural issue, music has always been able to encapsulate the emotions of a generation. The 1980s and 1990s were a massive push in music because the cassette tape and compact disc entered the ecosystem of music consumption and made it much more convenient for young people to experience new music. This was also when Hip Hop, Pop, Heavy Metal, and New Wave made their grand entrance into mainstream music listening.
Icons like Madonna, Michael Jackson, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Van Halen, Metallica, Bon Jovi (the list goes on and on), shared one commonality.
They were masters of their craft.
I am hard-pressed to name one artist that has emerged in the last five years with even an ounce of talent that the artists mentioned above possessed.
With the help of MTV, which in my opinion, was a massive step to introducing new artists to hungry listeners, the music industry was genuinely thriving.
Hit after hit after hit.
The charts were constantly on fire, and the artists were producing crème of the crop quality.
With the intelligent marketing by the labels and the artists branding themselves, I think it was the actual peak of the music industry.
MTV now seems mostly like a reality tv marathon.
Times HAVE changed (not getting old, I swear, they just have)!
What are the kids listening to now?
What inspires our youth?
What plays on our radio stations?
What is front and center on the user interfaces of all the music streaming services?
Tekashi 69? Really?
If you were here with me while I write these words, I visibly shook my head in utter disappointment.
Mozart once said, “Melody is the essence of music,” where have all those catchy melodies gone? Creative melodies are replaced with synthesized beats created on their desktop rather than hundreds of hours of sweating in a studio with many new artists. Each artist plays their instrument repeatedly until they get it just perfect.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
There are still singers, musicians, and composers out there producing excellent quality material. New music that I enjoy and listen to.
Is it a masterpiece?
Will it be remembered through the test of time?
Is it instant gratification and filler for silence?
The algorithms and suggestions by Spotify or Tidal can only take us so far. We have lost the human touch of the clerk at the local record store; someone eager, knowledgeable, and ready to suggest new music based on your particular taste.
Much of this harkens back to one of my previous articles discussing why physical media should make its Rocky II ceremonious and triumphant comeback. How can we physically sift through the millions of songs and hundreds of thousands of artists in the market today to find that song that we put on repeat like we used to back in the day?
It won’t happen.
It literally can’t since we don’t have enough time.
There are many solutions; however, I like to dream about somehow merging Spotify, Shazam, Amazon, and Discogs. Use the powerful AI that Spotify and Shazam have developed, along with the convenience of mix curations and hundreds of thousands of tracks at your fingertips, with the ease of purchasing physical media that Discogs and Amazon have provided us with.
This would also be a prime opportunity for HIFI companies itching to introduce their wares to the younger generation and bridge the gap created by those who have chosen to protect their hobby from outsiders barely looking through the window. Suppose audiophiles want to see the business of high-end consumer audio continue and thrive through the years. In that case, there must be a considerable shift in their mindset to allow for innovations.
Overall, I believe the age of streaming will continue and expand exponentially. Most young people will probably gravitate towards inexpensive head-fi offerings, and our old-school ways of doing things may very well die out.
Is that what we 80’s/90’s kids want?
But without significant change in the way things are going now, the future for music, in general, is a dicey one.
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