Monday, 23 August 2010

Killing Music?

Recently, there has been more talk of the internet generation destroying modern music by downloading tracks illegally, and using services such as Spotify to stream their music rather than buying the albums. But it strikes me that in my entire musical memory, record companies and the powers that be have always said that home taping is killing music, and yet music has always survived. These days, live music is more popular than ever, and speaking from the UK point of view, there are far more festivals than there ever used to be. If we look at the festival calendar we find that the older festivals such as Glastonbury and Reading now act as cushions surrounding the likes of the Isle of Wight, Download, Creamfields and V. Many of the highlights of the festival calendar are broadcast on the BBC and other national TV stations and reach audiences in their millions worldwide.

So it would seem that live music is more popular than ever, but the record companies themselves still insist that the music industry on the whole is failing. So where is the gap between people going to the festivals and those that are buying singles and albums? I, for one, think that the answer lies in the music that is presented to us by the commercial radio stations. The fact is that there is a lot of good music out there, when one takes the time to go out and actively seek it, but the commercial radio stations choose to furnish us with the same generic rubbish year on year.

I like to think of this as the Simon Cowell affect. Simon Cowell seems to have been around forever, invading our TV screens for the best part of 9 months every year. Under his belt, he has such classic tunes as the Blobby song and Bob The Builder, as well as countless series of PopStarz, Pop Idol, X-Factor and Britains' Got Talent. One of the questions that comes about from the rise of these shows is, If Britain's got talent, why can't Simon Cowell seem to find any? Or any that lasts, anyway. Off the top of your head, how many "winners" of these shows can you remember? And how about the runners up? Figured!

The problem doesn't necessarily lie in the brand of music that he is creating. Let's face it, we've all had a little bit of a dance to the likes of S Club 7, Steps, and various others, but it is the opinion of this particular blogger that music should be about music. I don't care what the people making the music look like. It speaks much more to me that people sing their own songs, in their own voices (it came to light that some of the recent X Factor audition videos broadcast on the show had been post edited and autotuned to make the contestants sound better), and with the passion that was originally put into the lyrics.

A recent of the "looks are better than lyrics" generation comes in the form of Lady Gaga. Personally, I find both her style and her music utterly deplorable, and for want of a better word, boring! Anybody can look like a cross between Courtney Love and Snow White after a bad night with all seven dwarves if they want to, that doesn't make for a talent. As for the music, if you listen closely, you easily hear the autotune kicking in quite a lot. Also, many of the lines in songs such as Telephone are split so that a single word can cover half a chorus (I give you t-t-t-t-telephone!). This is not an original concept. Some of you may be too young to remember Stutter-Rap by Morris Minor and the Majors

Nothing in music appears to be original anymore. That's not to say that there is no good music out there. One of the most exciting bands out there at the moment are Paramore, but can they really be called original? Probably not. People look to the old masters to get the best music of previous generations. Once again, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and other older bands are rising in popularity. People want to find something new, but with record companies refusing to let us hear anything truly new, we have no choice but to go backwards in what we are listening to, and then draw the similarities between those bands around today and the bands that were around then!

To quote a line from one of my favourite films, following his untimely death, one of the lead characters, reading from an essay says the following. "Always finish on a quote, since somebody has already said it better, steal from them and go out strong". A quote that could so easily be referring to certain factions of the current music industry.

However, I don't see this as the end of the music industry. People may stop buying albums and singles from the main record companies for a time, but while the record companies begin to yield less power, so the smaller record distributors, and the local bands become ever stronger. I look forward to a time when the radio is dominated by bands and musicians who have a passion for writing and performing, who don't seek overnight success and accept that to really make it as a musician you have to hone your craft and work at it, sleep in camper vans for months at a time playing small clubs and growing an ever loyal fanbase. Embracing the new technologies available to them and utilising them to reach as broad a fanbase as they possibly can. Maybe this will be the wake up call that the major players in the music industry have been waiting for.

We wait, with bated breath!


  1. I still buy music all the time. Well, USED to, now that I'm unemployed not so much. Also, I love concerts! I didn't know you were such a music lover. I should send you a cd of songs I like!

  2. Annah: That would be AWESOME :0)

    Thanks for the comment :0)

  3. I agree completely. Radio stations play the same terrible songs over and over again. Radio stations, not people, are killing music.

  4. Why do you deplore the condition of music when you are only looking through the topsoil of this vast crust? I say classical music and Max Richter are the only gems I cherish. Then again maybe my ears only appeal to minimalism.. I do HATE Mozart and Beethoven.

    The only people who kill music are those helping generate those "artist's" income. We're all different sides to the same coin.


Please leave a comment!