Believe it or not, Rap and Hip-Hop artists complain about the lack of art in today's music. It's the same argument when Rock 'n' Roll came out and old timers complained about the British Invasion.
The plain truth? People like to dance. At Classical music's height, and even during the Baroque period, listeners wanted to dance. Hence, the Minuet (a small Waltz-like dance) was written down and taught in England and France as a way to socialize. The average music listener didn't want to sit down to gawk at long haired musicians all night. Girls and boys wanted to meet and get married.
But I simplify too much. Studies show if restaurants plays jazz, they can charge 30% on the bill because jazz is expansive. If the same restaurant plays Classical music, they can still get the 30%, but they need to close before 10PM, because Classical music lovers don't want to stay out late. They're stiff. (see video at 11:44 minutes in, the data is there).
But here's another issue, audiences hate new music. Think about it. when you get into your car and head to work, do you really want to hear new songs on the radio? Or do you want to hear local news, weather, traffic and an old song you know? The human animal's brain sticks with what it knows 95% of the time. There's no tougher crowd than a soccer mom getting her kids to school.
Or is there? There is a rumor that In New York, Elisha Otis invented a braking system for elevators. Why? Elevator cables would snap killing everyone inside. Anyway, he demonstrated his braking system at the New York's World's Fair in 1853. It was one of the most famous attractions. However, people still wouldn't get in elevators. So, he thought about this. He decided to put a speaker in the elevator and play music at 60 beats per minute (at rest heart rate). Today, we call that MUZAK. It made Otis a lot of money.
Well, that's the myth. A Google search shows that executives wanted to show they had enough money to entertain folks who needed to go 80 floors up. Sure it was boring music. But the idea wasn't to make the ride hectic. Rather it was to make things relaxed.
So, what's the take away here? Nobody plays music unless money is getting made. Think about that for a minute. Songs you hear on the radio are paid for by businesses who use radio to advertise. The advertising is made to bring you in and make a purchase sometime in the future. How many hit songs have you heard doctored to sell "Ozempic" or some other kind of pharmaceutical?
And that brings us back to utility and art. Music is art. It's art the very few people who make it get paid for. Songwriters, like me, have to craft songs in such a way to bring you in so that one day when you hear it on the radio you have to get it. Or better yet, you have to get the album. We have to create our relationship in such a way that you assume you know us based on what you've heard.
In this way, the music business hasn't changed. Artists have always asked if their art can change things. I think it can. Stairway To Heaven is 8 minutes and 22 seconds long. It is a ballad with no chorus. It has a 1 minute long guitar solo. It has 5 verses. By modern standards, there should be no room for a song like this. Yet, it's been played millions of times on the radio and is probably the best rock song of all time. The song was written when music industry professionals wanted a song to get to the end in 3 minutes and 5 seconds.
So, the question still remains. Can Stairway To Heaven exist in today's music industry? If some band came up with it (if Led Zeppelin never existed) would anyone care?
I would say, "Yes". I say that because there are people like you who read my blog, and who really care about artistry in music. People who want to see things improve. People who want to add value and push things forward.
Led Zeppelin wasn't great because some music industry professional, or producer made them great. They were great because they were a great artists who didn't let music industry professionals push them around. Isn’t that the kind of music you want to hear?
If you believe in rock 'n' roll. And if you believe pop killed the radio, then I ask you to support me directly. Buy an LP, CD, merch. Don't get me wrong, I love it when people dance to my music, but I'm making music because I love to do it. And I hope that resonates with you. If it does, please support me at a level you're comfortable with.
Love and Rockets,