I hear the same thing all the time, “Music today just SUCKS!!! Why should I pay for music that SUCKS!!!”.
Yes, we are in a kind of low period, and have been for a little while. Sadly, there are a combination of factors that are making a lot of music either uninteresting at best, or downright unpleasant at worst:
1. The collapse of the music industry several years ago has caused producers to create music very quickly and inexpensively, compared to even ten years ago. The best rock and R&B albums of all time often cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make, and several months of time. Now there’s no money for that and no time for that, so a lot of people just bang out a lame 808 beat into the DAW of their choice, quantize it, and either rap over it or sing into autotune. It’s definitely NOT the same quality of music that existed 20, 30, or 40 years ago. The market has changed (meaning, few people pay for recorded music any more), so the industry and production methods had to change. Few artists have the budget to record a live band anymore, or the patience to rehearse one, and then finesse all of the details that made a great album. And why should they, people don’t even listen to full albums anymore, do they?
2. We are now sitting on close to 100 years of recorded music, and all of that music is also still available to be listened to. So competition today isn’t just between one current artist and another, it’s between any current artist and everything else that’s ever been recorded. And I don’t know about you, but there was a lot of GREAT recorded music in the past, so something new has to be REALLY GREAT for it to catch my attention anymore.
3. The collapse of radio as a relevant medium for filtering the best music also has taken its toll. Music is a SOCIAL phenomenon as much as it is an artistic one. There was something really great about it back in the 70’s and 80’s when everyone all knew of the same songs and artists – we could all talk about it and relate to each other, and that DID reinforce our enjoyment of those artists. Now, it’s ALL over the map – there are a million artists struggling just to get their stuff heard, and what you have heard is often completely different from what your friends have heard. Notice that almost all of the big stars became famous BEFORE about 2010, when Spotify started to catch on? That’s why. There’s simply too much music available and not enough time to listen to everything – in fact, that was always true, but during the pre-internet period we all had radio to listen to which evened it all out for everyone.
4. The Internet itself is a medium that has changed the speed at which people process information in such a way that we now expect to consume everything IMMEDIATELY. Who has time to listen to a three minute song or a five minute video? You probably haven’t even read this far in my post because it’s TL;DR. We have no patience for any one thing anymore because we are too busy consuming as much information as possible as immediately as possible.
So, unfortunately, for all of the reasons above, a cohesive music industry like we had 20-50 years ago simply no longer exists. Now you’ve got to go out and find your own music that just YOU like, and create a social network around THAT.
But there’s some good news. There is a LOT of truly GREAT music that is being self-funded and self-recorded by truly talented artists that you may have never heard of. And even better news is that in addition to the songwriting and performances being top notch, these artists have really upped their game as far as the recording quality. Although it still takes a fairly significant outlay to outfit a well-equipped studio, artists are striking deals with their local recordists and teaming up to make some AMAZING records.
One such example is CIVILIANS, and their album Look Cool! Recorded in a small but well-outfitted basement studio in Brooklyn, these guys really nailed it. They’re a six piece alt-jazz-rock horn band, and their tracks are SMOKIN’. These guys are all recent grads of the New School for Jazz in NYC, and their style can be compared to kind of a cross between Snarky Puppy and the rock band Chicago, with a generous helping of Pink Floyd and Zappa thrown in.
You can listen to them here – my favorite tracks are the last four.
More on CIVILIANS and other great bands in another post!