Are we Responsible for Killing Off the Creative Musicians?

Posted at March 31st, 2016 | by Shivani Goel | in

Advancing technology is considered a boon for all industries and we thought it will mean that digital media would blow the music scene wide open as it allows artists to find their audience anywhere in the world. On the flip side however, such rampant music streaming has diminished the role of albums in the form of cassettes and music CD’s as people are just looking for the next big single to add to their shuffle. Now the music world is full of artists like Adele and Taylor Swift who are using their cookie cutter formulas to keep going in the industry and bring in the dollars. Although they’ve shattered records with their catchy tracks, they are doing very less to influence musical creativity.

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Groundbreaking musicians like David Bowie who took albums and decades to evolve into the legends they became have no place in today’s fast paced world where listeners don’t have the patience to listen to whole albums and wait for an artist to mature. Why will they ever listen to a B-side track when they can make playlists of every top of the chart track without bothering to delve into the lyrics and album as a whole. It’s difficult for the creative artists to be relevant past their most successful singles. Manager of indie-rock band OK GO, Andy Gershom says, “Adele is selling a huge amount to soccer moms, but is it having an impact on the culture? Not really… Artists like David Bowie can’t get the momentum to have a career like David Bowie.”

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The streaming process and the number of new artists that pop up on the scene everyday have accelerated the demise of an artist’s career. Music labels don’t invest time or money into actually nurturing an artist. They just package potentials in their tried and tested formulas and churn out tracks as long as the audience is willing to accept them. Jeffrey Evans of Buskin Records says, “Some of the greats take time to develop…REM took four albums. The labels don’t have the patience for four albums anymore. We’re missing whatever talent would have been incredible if it had the time.”

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In a culture of instant gratification, the popularity of music streaming has reached another level where you can open an app like SoundCloud or YouTube and find a new song in a second. We no longer wait for albums to be released and purchase them in stores and the concept of an album has become a fading phenomenon. We fail to develop a relationship with an artist when we reduce them to singles. We wouldn’t even know the genders of so many musicians that we are constantly streaming and forget them when we get bored of that one song.

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On the flip side, focusing on singles does have its benefits for musicians as well. Artists like Kygo have managed to sign record deals with labels based on super hit singles. Kygo has even sold out shows before even releasing an album just like many other artists of his stature. This quick rise in the EDM world also leads to artists playing pre-selected sets rather than live DJing for which the genre was created. Not many artists do finely curated sets while reading a room and live mixing and play their tired old sets which leads them to drop in popularity as quickly as they rose. Streaming music allows record labels to analyse consumer preferences and pin point the exact musical traits that make a hot single. As more invaluable data is collected, labels swap out organic creativity for set formulas to boost their artists. It may give them the fame they temporarily desire but it squashes the unique visionary musician from being born.

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With easy access to music comes great responsibility, but music streaming has invented replicative artists for the masses to consume. Sadly, the next era of visionaries to replace the greats like David Bowie and Nirvana aren’t to be seen anywhere on the horizon.

Shivani Goel

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