Today’s Popular Music is about Quantity, not Quality

Popular Music: Quality vs. QuantityLet’s face it: more and more of us are putting away the good ol’ fashioned FM radio and opting for services that give us more options and freedom, such as Pandora, Spotify and other Internet-based services.

FM Radio?  What’s That?

You used to discover new (and good) music on a regular basis when your local FM station would whip out the latest track from this new great artist.  Nowadays, you discover new music through other means.  And in fact, you’re probably finding there is way more music to enjoy out there than your favorite FM station used to let you know about.

It’s a given that most radio stations on this planet are controlled by a bigger machine, and that machine only dishes out what makes the most money for them, not what you might actually enjoy.  The big machine only cares about numbers and how many songs it can serve up to increase its bottom line.  I’m not saying all songs caught in this machine are bad.  But the quality of music isn’t really a factor anymore.

Auto-Tune This!

While it may not be entirely true, it feels to me that good, thought-filled, well-written, deeper-meaning music is gone from the mainstream.  That kind of music takes time, patience and experiences to write.  These are all things the big machine does not have the patience for.  They need it right now (or yesterday) and it has to be catchy and appealing enough to generate dollar signs in the eyes of everyone involved in that song’s lifecycle.  Even if it means copying pieces of a previously released song, calling it a remix (or downright different song) and releasing it again.  “If the first song’s formula worked, why can’t we give it a makeover and do it again?”  And don’t even get me started on “The Era of Auto-Tune” and how it’s made the untalented “talented”.

Another path the big machine takes is borrowing or purchasing songs that have already been written by unknown songwriters, but never performed.  Sure the songwriter may have written a heartfelt masterpiece that has meaning, but the big machine doesn’t care what the song is about.  They may snatch it up anyway they see fit, twist it, package it up with a bow, and give it to an artist that needs one last song for their new album or tour and call it a day.  It may be efficient when looking to turn a profit, but it’s far from efficient when looking to stir the imaginations and emotions of people in the way the song was originally intended.

Goodbye Mainstream, Hello Local

In the mainstream, creativity has lost out to revenue.  But I believe there is a place where revenue is trumped by creativity and genuine songwriting.  And you don’t have to look very far.  There’s a good chance it’s happening right in your own backyard.  That heart and soul of music is still beating deep within the local music scenes on this planet.  And there is no signs of it slowing down or going away anytime soon.

Matt is one of the co-founders behind Local Sounds, a non-profit organization that helps promote, preserve and develop Madison's local music scene. He has played drums for several bands and was formerly on the MAMAs board.

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