I’m beginning this blog post with a confession: I am supposed to be completing a first draft of my International Music Education assignment… I am procrastinating by fulfilling a different part of university requirements, the much freer and fun part. I’ll also admit, before we go any further, that this post isn’t strictly MACE related, but more of a brain dump of my musings today. Actually, its considering the creating industries so yes it is MACE related… yeah let’s go with that.
As with almost everything, our brains like to scurry off with a different topic while we’re meant to be focussing on something else. For me, today, the tangent was the music industries. I won’t say music industry (singular) because I don’t believe it is one finite entity. As anyone involved in any part of the music industries can see, there appears to be three, maybe even more, industries running parallel with each other. On one side you have the commercial, or major, music industry. Everyone knows the output of this and has a pretty good idea of what makes it work *cough*money*cough* without having any specialist knowledge. Then, in the middle, there is the independent industry, which can overlap with the commercial as many major labels acquire the larger, independent labels. And right on the other side (let’s say the left side) you have the DIY music industry; a huge sector of largely unsigned artists and sole traders.
Now, considering this, let’s look at the issue often brought up: young people do not have the same relationship with popular music as they did in previous decades. Popular music was the rebellion. It was the only way to express yourself; harmlessly protest against the government; show the older generations that you will do what you want, not what they want you to. Popular music was on television; there were chat shows dedicated to talking critically about popular music; and there was even pirate radio stations, for those who didn’t want to listen to what ‘the powers that be’ chose for them to listen to.
Over time, the popular music, or more specifically, commercial music industry has been monopolised by a handful of key players. The general population is force fed (for want of a better term) the same music, by the same artists and, arguably, songs by different artists which sold almost the same- as they’re written to a guaranteed money making formula. This has caused for the independent and DIY music industries to scream into the void “why doesn’t anyone listen to good music anymore?!” Firstly, it’s not true. Both the independent and DIY industries are huge in their own way- not particularly financially in the case of DIY, but the cult followings and super fans help. However you can see why they would exclaim such a thing. The music we are exposed to every day, in mundane life experiences, is always the same. The music on all the radio stations are the same, and have been the same for years. Therefore, the general population only hear this music and are completely unaware of the music being produced elsewhere. Theres the cue for the age old statement: ‘music isn’t as good as it used to be.’ Well, yes it is. You just don’t go out and look for it.
But that is just the thing. People have to go out and actually look for it. And maybe that’s where the issue within the music industries lie: the operations of popular music within the independent and DIY industries have changed, but the way in which people consume music has not. The behaviour and practices of the creators have evolved, to suit taste; technological developments; and funding issues, but people still look to T.V, radio and the top 40 chart to find stuff to listen to (all places in which independent music does not tend to live).
So, what I’m trying to say… or at least what I think I’m trying to say because, let’s face it, who knows at this point… is that, for the music industries, or more importantly the independent and DIY music industries to become more prominent, user behaviour needs to change. Something which is not in the control of the industries. Or is it…? Much like Netflix has appeared and saved the television series, the music industries needs a catalyst for increasing value and engagement in new music.
This is something that would probably be best looked into fully, as opposed to the superficial grazing I’ve given it in this blog. I just needed to air my brain out of these thoughts, and hopefully make a little sense while doing so. I’ll stop now.
P.S. no, streaming services are not enough.