12 Disappointing Facts About Pop Music? Here’s An Exciting One.

So of course I clicked on this article, as it’s been posted to facebook by a number of my friends, both musicians and fans. At first, when I read it, I was annoyed by these facts, but upon reflection I am so much more annoyed by what it reveals about the general public’s perception of popular music and the music industry. My goal is not to repudiate the facts presented but to shed some light on the perspective that led to this article being written.

Fact number one, let’s start there: Creed has sold more records in the US than Jimi Hendrix. What true rock ‘n’ roll fan could read that without getting pissed? You’re telling me that a copycat psuedo-spiritual grunge-metal-pop act from the late 90s has sold more than Hendrix, who was once described as the “Michael Jordan of guitar” on the movie Camp Nowhere? Well yeah, I guess it’s true, but what does it mean? Has Creed had as big an influence as Jimi? Who’s inspired more kids to pick up the guitar, Jimi Hendrix or Mark Tremonti of Creed? When people speak of Jimi, do they speak with reverence or scorn? How about Scott Stapp and those fellas in Creed, do they have a lot of cred these days?

See, in the world we live in, most people still see SALES as being the primary point of an album. Selling copies. Do you think Beethoven is remembered and studied and listened to because he sold so many copies of “Fur Elise?” Selling copies tells us only one thing: how many were sold during a period of time. It doesn’t factor in influence (how the recording affects future recordings, future musicians, etc), repeatability (how many times the recording will be consumed) or insight (how well a recording reflects on the culture that produced it), or timelessness (how well a recording holds up after the culture that created it has changed).

Here’s another fact: The cast of “Glee” has had more songs chart than The Beatles. Again, true enough, but what’s that mean, if anything? The Beatles stopped making records together 40 years ago, and yet they are still the most important influence for many if not most young musicians. The cast of “Glee” does not have that kind of power, never will. So do I care that Glee has had more chart hits? I care not at all.

What this article forgets to tell you is that the mainstream music world is DYING. Sure, there’s still a few things that sell to a few people, but the real consumers of music have moved on already. Lady Gaga may be the “biggest” artist right now, but her sphere of influence is so much smaller than say, Madonna’s was twenty years ago, or Britney Spears’ ten years ago. You don’t even need me to tell you that probably. The so-called superstars of today have shorter and shorter careers with diminishing returns and poor concert sales because most of us already know better than to give a shit about them. You and I don’t need corporations to hire “independent promoters” to go to the radio stations to get some crappy dance number played once every hour in order to discover a new artist or song or album. We have the internet, which bring everything to our ears without a middle person.

When The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, everyone watched. Nowadays, “everyone” doesn’t watch anything. They don’t have to! They don’t want to! In the 1960s, there weren’t many ways to speak to people, only a few channels available. “Everyone” didn’t have a choice, and the music industry, which advertised its products on the radio and television, in order to sell copies of recordings, flourished. It had to, didn’t it? People who liked music turned on the radio, which was where you could listen free, and then people who wanted to be able to experience the joy of a particular song over and over would go the store and pick up a phonograh of it. That was a fine time for music, wouldn’t you agree? Sure, but hey, it’s not the sixties anymore. That was a wonderful time for pop music, and not having been born during that time, I can only imagine what it must have been like to put on a copy of Sgt. Pepper’s when it first was released. However, the age that’s dawning is far greater. The music industry was a filter, but now the only filter you need is your own mind.

Please, don’t look at sales charts ever again, or if you do at least realize the base hollowness of what you read on the chart. They won’t tell you what you should be listening to. It doesn’t matter who “number one” is anymore. You’re on the internet as we speak, why would it matter what’s being spun on those old-timey radio stations these days? Find something awesome, and make that your number one hit for the day. Then tomorrow, find something else. Don’t worry about Creed. They’re already getting paid back for their mediocrity. Don’t worry about Hendrix either, he’ll go on inspiring and enlightening his listeners for many years to come. In the Hendrix v. Creed match, the winner is clear, and I’ll sleep easier knowing that.

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One Comment

  1. Pete Borchardt
    Posted December 7, 2011 at 1:47 am | Permalink

    Great write up Luke, you are my hero!

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    photo of  Luke Leverett
    New Braunfels, Texas Phone: 830-708-5883