Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Music Note # 2: To make money or to make art, that is the question? ....

Commercialization vs. Art in the Industry

In today's music world, particularly in the U.S., it's all about making the big money. Music is treated like a fad and fans have a habit of being very fickle. Once you get tired of a singer, rapper or group, you move on to the next new thing and forget about them, letting them fade away slowly. This has always been happening, but now it seems to be happening faster and faster. 

The mass production or assembly line style of creating music today leaves little room for creativity. Songs today have very little chance of becoming classics as the songs that came decades before us. Moreover, artists are expected to fit into some kind of box instead of being themselves. Has anyone noticed how many singers or rappers sound similar?

This makes it hard for underground artists who are different from the norm to become mainstream or for artists to change their style (unless you're Madonna, Janet Jackson or Prince, then you fit into the box of being unpredictable and constantly having to change your style). Besides that, some popular artists can't even release certain songs that they want because the industry thinks it won't sell (e.g. Rappers are often forced to release club banger singles  but not intellectual based singles or conscious rappers, like Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and others are told to sound more like more popular rappers, such as Soulja Boy). 

People are unwilling to give these artists a chance because they are stuck in the never ending loop of being too close-minded or too LAZY to listen to something new since it might require them to think. For example, recently I posted about Heavy D, a popular rapper in the 90s, becoming a reggae singer now. I was open to the idea, but automatically people did not like it because it did not fit the mold of what he usually was, a rapper.

Unlike the U.S., other countries have a greater appreciation for music as an art not just to make money. When I listen to British singers, for instance, they are more artistic or more willing to take risks in music and I can hear the strong influence of previous artists in them. Also, other countries tend not to forget artists that came before and continue to listen to them even after we in America basically put a middle finger up to them. That is why man artists go to and still remain popular in Europe when they are basically non-existent here, such as in the career of Muddy Waters and other blues artists. 

However, the state of the music industry is the fans' fault. Like any other business, it bases its actions on demand. It gives us what it thinks we want based on what we buy. So the only way the industry can change is if we change ourselves. I'm still hopeful for the future.

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