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  • Sunday, April 16, 2006


    Music That Sells Is Not Necessarily "Good"

    The evolution of popular music in the United States from the 1960's through today is characterized by an increasing divergence between music that is "good" (i.e., as defined by my subjective standard of excellence in the quality of technical musicianship) and what music sells the most units.

    Listening to the music of today from my perspective as a kid who grew up listening to rock music in the late 60's, 70's, and 80's, there appears to be an inversely proportional relationship between musical quality or musicianship and the commercial success of the product. So much of the bestselling music industry product of today consists of men and women, competing to convey the most unwholesome and grotesque image possible, shouting mentally-challenged, obscene, and violent rants over background tracks consisting largely of reconstituted, recombined, or recycled samples of music produced years ago by what I classify as real musicians. And it only seems to be getting worse.

    With this state of affairs dominating our music industry, it is no wonder that some people nostalgically and fondly regard the music of the 60's, 70's and 80's as "better" than much of what passes for music today and sells the most. Of course, what constitutes musical quality or musicianship is highly subjective and is obviously in the eye or ears, in this case, of the beholder.

    In the past 25 years or so, popular music has become increasingly diverse in terms of the geographic and socioeconomic origins of the music and musicians, as well as the technologies used to create and produce the "music." This has led to the proliferation of an enormous amount of variation and diversity in the choices available to us as consumers or listeners of "music," which I think is a wonderful thing. Every kind of music you can imagine is being produced today. For example, if you are looking for hard rock or heavy metal that is played by real musicians who are virtuosi of their respective instruments, there are still bands out there who are composing and recording such music. And, with the technology available today, any kind of music we choose to listen to is within easy reach. Because there are so many choices now, it may be more of a challenge today to find what we consider to be "good" music. Overall, I think the situation from a music consumer's perspective has never been better!

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