27 August 2008

The Billboard Charts are Hungry

I'm concerned with the state of music. All day I get music related emails at work so I know it's not completely downhill - and I do get paid because music exists - but let's not get ahead of ourselves, I don't get paid very much. That could be a metaphor for the music itself: it's there but not in a big way. And then there's this idea - sorry if it's really out there: Compared to a third world country, I do get paid a lot, it's just in the United States that it would be deemed not much compared to the extreme price hikes. Music is the same way. There's some amazing independent music out there that to the few who know about it is phenomenal. These people will tell you the state of music, artistically at least, is thriving. It's just the mainstream (in my aforementioned metaphor: the US) that's going downhill.

Katy Perry, Chris Brown, David Archuleta, and Rihanna top the Billboard music chart this week. Really? NONE OF THOSE ARTISTS ARE OVER 23 YEARS OLD! This worries me. In order for the music industry to make money (and have credibility) they need artists that are going to have some longevity. One of my co-workers just called, "I Kissed a Girl" a 'throwaway song' and they're absolutely right. It's a semi-catchy, nonsensical song that will last through a couple changing seasons and that's it. No one is going to be 45 years old and still enjoying that song unless they're looking through old high school yearbooks and throwing on some cheesy songs to remind them of the younger years. I appreciate silly songs almost as much as anyone else, especially considering the "Monster Mash" is a song I listen to year round, but when it's not balanced out by any reputable music, it becomes unbearable. I would say out of those four top artists this week, Rihanna has the most chance of lasting. Why? Because her songs are unique in a way that keep you coming back for more. She has had so many catchy hits now that clearly she's not a flash in the pan the way one might have expected when "Don't Stop the Music", her first single, came out.

Judging from my own experience with music, I tend to have several categories:

Die hard Favorites
Constant Companions
Very Enjoyable Acquaintances (that sometimes I try to pass off as a favorite)
Nice Friends (this is where it starts to get iffy)
Mediocre Listens
The Awfuls

In 2004, I probably bought Cd's from every artist in the first three, maybe even four categories. In 2008, I only buy from the first category. On my iPod I have a bunch from all categories but most of it wasn't paid for in any conventional sense. Since getting a full time job (especially considering what that job is) I have made a stronger effort to pay for everything I listen to but even so, one song for $0.99 isn't the same as $14.99 for an entire record. I know there are some wonderful, crazy, beautiful die hard music listeners out there that will spend a ton of money for all things beat infested but the truth is, even considering myself an obsessive music lover, I would never do that! Maybe I enjoyed that Katy Perry song for two seconds, maybe even that is pushing it, but I would never buy it knowing that I'll be sick of it in a week and embarrassed to even have it on my artists list.

Even more than price, I care about the space on my iPod. Although it seems like an oxymoron, space doesn't matter as much with Cds. Yes, you need a place to store them and that task can sometimes be overwhelming but as long as you have a sturdy CD holder with 500 spots, the space is taken care of. I have an iPod mini that holds only 2000 songs on a very, very good day. Unfortunately what the Apple creeps don't broadcast is that on those gorgeous microscopic machines you can put as many music videos as you want as well and each one takes up 50 songs! That means if I take full advantage of the video aspect I will have less room for the main component of the machine to begin with: music. Now they've added those game applications and movies and rentals! I blame Facebook for the disaster that iTunes has become - and Myspace. Facebook, with their slimy international applications, has made every website from here to China a state fair. But that's for another entry.

The real situation here is the lack of acknowledgement for the artists with lasting potential and the pedestals we hand out to novice artists with decent producers that sign them so they can bang them in the bathroom. It's so sad. The only upside is that perhaps people are catching on to this. Most music magazines and websites now have at least a small section catering to Independent artists and unsigned talent. I think the people in charge are even getting tired of listening to Hannah Montana - although that girl is a performance magician. It's funny because I am not cut from the 'Indie' cloth by any means. I love Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Cash - artists that maybe struggled on day one but certainly not most of their careers. The only difference is that this mainstream is from back in the day. "The Day" being the '70s or earlier, not "The Day" we used to have good music. Good music is all around. Good music is even in supermarkets nowadays, it's the little boy from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids yelling to you from the ground - hear it, love it, support it! Let's get some meat on these Billboard bones. And if you like Katy Perry or any of her minions, don't tell me.

1 comment:

______ said...

The industry makes millions of dollars on these throwaway songs. They don't need long-lasting artists. In fact, it's better if they don't have them. Cycle in the talent and shit out the rest.

It's a business and it works. Saying otherwise is disagreeing with corporate tycoons that have been following this formula for decades. They're rich, so they must've done something right.

Your entry is inhibiting your personal taste of music into your hypothetical billboard chart. Led Zepplin isn't coming back--if change is wanted it must come from the source, not the people who document the events.