Music Would Suck Less If You Savored It More
Jeff Pollack, CEO of Pollack Media Group, made some very interesting assertions in his most recent column at The Huffington Post. In it, he expresses his concern about the number of comments he's received in the last few months that berate the quality of popular music and present that as reasoning behind the decline in the sales of recorded music and the social epidemic of file-sharing. That new music sucks is not something that Mr. Pollack believes at all.
Citing the many disposable genres that filtered through previous decades and the few acts that we've since lauded as rock gods, geniuses, and divas, he attempts to dispel the notion that music today is worst than ever by contending that every generation views the music as the ones that come after it as lower in prestige. To them, such music has always been inferior to that which they cherished when they were younger. Then, he goes onto name the number great acts that there are right now—despite the presence of the Katy Perry's and Ke$sha's that get the media attention. After believing that he comfortable navigated some minor history of popular music and named enough quality acts that prove—at least on some level—that good music still exists, he changed his tone and questioned whether or not it's really the quality of music that's the problem. Instead he reasoned, perhaps the hitch here is something different. Maybe it's not that the quality of music is worse but that fans aren't taking the time to experience it.
That because music requires less effort of us today and the joys and processes of analog culture are long gone. We don't savor our music as much. iPods let us instantly gratify ourselves with the presence of our favorite songs. Yet, it seems as if we're not really listening to them. They blend into the background and we float into the distance. Abstracted and distracted by the calling of our always-on, always connected lives, we aren't willing to make an investment in our music.
We've become unwilling to spend the time or money to truly experience a new album or artist. Perhaps, because we don't experience them anyways. So focused we are on our current task that we hear the music—the beat, lyrics, and tempo changes—but we don't hear the music itself; the soul of the song and the message it was created to convey. With fans unwilling to invest their time in music, they're less apt to pay for it. They don't live a moment of silence and shutter at the thought of a world without music. Yet, there's rarely a time when the experience that they are undertaking is the music. Now, they pay for the real experience and let the music hang in the background. It's there, it's valuable, but it's not the main point of consumption. So they pay for the thing that entertains them and mediates they're lives, but opt out of the sounds that give it meaning.
"There is little investment of ourselves today: no purchase, no time, no effort needed to get to the exact song you want. Snap judgments come too easily… Technology has given us the means to indulge ourselves in instant gratification. Consequently, we're often unwilling to spend the time or money to truly experience a new album or a new artist. And what gave many of the standout artists the time to develop and become great was the investment made by their fans (and labels) in supporting their evolution and allowing them to grow." (Read on.)