As you may or may not know, I’ve been tumbling a lot recently, and the cool thing about tumblr is that you can actually see the people “following” you and what they post if you follow them in return. But there’s been a really big concern for me lately and, naturally, it has to do with music.
On Tumblr, people can post mp3’s that play in a flash player on their tumblog and this would be cool except…well, except every time someone posts something they write something like “this is so great!” or “wow, what great new music, finally!” And I listen to it, and inevitably it’s something I feel like I’ve heard so many times before.
It occurred to me today that there is so much access to so much music and so such a small percentage of it IS actually “great.” Then I got to thinking about what it was to listen to new music back in the day. Were there 50 people doing the same thing as Bach? Did people go to concerts and say “oh he’s just a poor man’s Mozart?” We’ve only retained so few composers over the past 100’s or thousands of years. But now, especially in the digital age, we’re retaining EVERYTHING. And there’s no filter for it. And I suppose that’s good if you like to listen to a lot of the same thing but when I click on something that says “this is the best album I’ve heard in years!” and it sounds just like some OTHER indie-rock band or it contains all sorts of musical sounds that, quite frankly, I’ve heard a million times before, it’s really very disappointing to me as a musician.
Not only that, but it’s not even a fresh take on the same concept. It’s not done in a clever or inventive way. And the lyrics are shit. And I can’t understand why people aren’t demanding more. Especially the ones who “love music” or “can’t get enough music.” But is it really that they can’t get enough music, or that they can’t FIND enough music that they actually like for more than 1 or 2 plays through? How do we breed the type tracks that EVERYONE loves?
A lot of people are trying to use algorithms to solve this problem and even to create business models to try to solve the music industry dilemma (which is, that it isn’t making money – either for the artists or for the companies). But is it really an issue of music and people finding music they like? Because don’t great bands still sell tons of albums and have sell out tours? Surely the great bands earn money for themselves and for their companies. And if an algorithm were to point you to a group “like Radiohead” if it knows you like Radiohead, what are the chances of you actually liking that group? Or liking it enough to buy an album or go to a concert? And why should a distributor make so much money from an artist that is, quite literally, doing more than 50% of the work anyway? Labels, publishers, online-sites – they should be distributors only. And compensated as such.
It’s really disturbing when you think about it. The lack of genius present in music, or maybe the inundation of “good” music vs. the amount of music that IS genius. I don’t WANT to be pointed to something that sounds similar, and I don’t want to hear something because someone else recommends it to me. If someone recommends something to me, unless that person is a trained musician, I typically don’t like it. At all. It ends up being trite or the same or whatever you want to call it, but it isn’t “Great” and it sure as hell isn’t genius.
What I want is MORE genius. But more than that too – I want the kind of genius that makes a GREAT musician, a GREAT lyricist, and finally, someone who plays, writes, and sings because they LOVE it. They LOVE to play write and sing. So they HAVE to get better at it. What they do HAS to be great.
Not to make money. Not to get girls. Not for any earthly reason.
The mind of a genius is different because it demands everything of it’s own capacity for reasons that don’t affect the self. The people obsessed with making incredible musical sound so they can express themselves because they are reaching out to people. Not reaching into people’s wallets or panties.
So genius, I hope you’re still out there and I hope you can still fight through all the Pandora’s and Next Big Sounds and SonyBMG’s. Not that we don’t need these services to distribute you, but I hope the collective filter of peoples’ preference gets more demanding from our artists.
Hi! I totally stumbled on your website when I saw you were heading back to State College on Facebook. Anyway, this is an interesting post. I understand your frustrations about music today, but what is great is so subjective and the music that makes it ‘big’ is so intertwined with pop culture.
On the other end of the spectrum, technology is also allowing ppl who truly love music, not in it for the $, record and put stuff out there. My brother just switched his major to music and started recording his own music. He loves it, and it’s really great to see.
I know this is a long comment, but I just wanted to say, I enjoyed this post and your thoughts on the matter. Enjoy Penn State! Say hey to Hersch and the gang for me!!!
(formerly of Penn State Isis, in case you’re scratching your head)