“In Mozart’s time, word of mouth built an audience. People found him and heard him play. Then someone came along and said, ‘We can sell this experience.’ Right there, you’ve got trouble. Music comes from the spirit, but where does the guy selling the music come from?” – Prince
THE music that you and I hear on radio, on TV, in the theatre is strictly controlled by the four big music companies – Sony Music, EMI, Warner and Universal.
These companies specify how often various songs should be played on public radio. They determine which artists should be promoted and which should take a backseat. And if you do not get one of them to sign you on, the chances of making it big are all but zero.
Musicians need advertising dollars, they need marketing, they need to travel and play gigs in order to become known. The big four pay these costs but recoup them more than adequately. If a musician has no chance of making money for the companies, he or she will not get a contract.
That’s why there is little or no innovation in the music industry these days. What is produced is like the food from McDonalds – all in the same style, tasteless crap. As with all other industries once consolidation takes place and huge monoliths start running the show, everything tastes or looks or sounds the same.
The period from the 1960s to the mid-1980s was a glorious one when there were creative bands galore like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Dire Straits, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, to name just five outfits. And there were Santana, Hendrix, Marley, Guthrie, Clapton, Sting, Baez, Frampton, Lightfoot, Croce, Taylor, Chapin, Winwood…
What equivalents does one find these days? Those that do produce music are plastic imitations of each other. Oasis and Coldplay are garbage. So too Lady GaGa, Beyonce, and their ilk. Buble is forced to sing songs from the 70s when he wants to create a hit album.
Commoditisation works for some things. Not for creative trades like music. The McDonaldisation of the music industry has put the lid on human ingenuity.