Survival of the Fittest
The world of today has truly become winner take all. It’s survival of the fittest, specifically in the digital space. This is very evident in the music industry. There used to be thousands of labels and now there are very few real labels. The players are getting gobbled up so that there are fewer still. As for new artists, even with the bar for entry lowered, the common person creating music independently today has no way to overcome the barriers for any sort of recognition, let alone revenue. I think this is by design. The music industry is a complex entity. Like every other form of industry it’s there to make money, preferably on as many levels as possible, but it makes its revenue on peoples tastes… or does it? This complex entity is functioning behind the scenes delivering its product in the most convenient way possible to us, the music lover. Or, are they really bullying us into accepting whatever they desire for us to consume in trade for this convenience? What are we giving up in this arrangement? Are you a player in the music industry just because of having a “studio” on your computer and a Soundcloud account? Does that make you relevant? I say no, but this is not my point. With the multitude of outlets and millions of songs to be heard I believe that it’s more important for your sanity to feel satisfied of your navigational skills through the mass of music available.
Does the fact that everything, not just music, is at your fingertips make your opportunity grow? Or does it shrink the playing field to what is most convenient, or most promoted? When was the last time you looked at the second page of recommendations when you did a Google search? I think we are being manipulated and it’s about control of the music listener… music industry behavior control… music industry behavior control to make money. The music industry is about one thing only, profits! It’s my belief that the industry uses the mass of available music to push you into frustration so you’ll give up and swallow what they decide to give you to listen too.
There are five main music companies vying for your attention (Spotify, Amazon, Apple, Xbox, Deezer), for your money, your time, your… just what do they want offering all of this music to you? Do they all have the same motives? Do they serve the public in a way that also serves the artistic community? Does it matter? Do any of these companies help you enjoy the music you love? Do they take into account your desires for hearing new songs? Do they honor the recording and how it sounds in your ear buds or car?
My tastes are probably like most of yours, they run the gamut of musical styles and I find it virtually impossible to keep up with or even find new music. I waste so much time trying to find new songs (and bands) to love. So, whose tastes am I beholden too? With radio I have the selections given to me. A DJ is supposed to introduce me to new music that I may like (not really true anymore), but I am a passive participant. I have a DJ telling me what’s playing or coming up and if I don’t like a song I change the station. But the playlists are so small, they’re not really introducing me to anything except repetition. Our host Jack is a DJ. I remember sitting in while he was on the air and noticing that he only had a playlist of 216 songs that he was allowed to play, he had no choice in the matter. The station didn’t take requests and barely added new music to their rotation, what we got to hear was decided on at the corporate level. Now, with streaming, the algorhythm has no personality, just song after song from the playlist genre. Did you know that there are over 100 million playlists on Spotify and Apple… each! How about their recommendations of what you might like to hear… could this just be a ploy to get you to the stream music that they want you to hear? Or just maybe, a record label paid them to suggest it to you? Music industry behavior control.
Maybe you’ve heard all of this before and I run the risk of you leaving this article because I sound like an old man complaining about how things have changed. Sorry, that’s not the intent of this article. I’m writing about choice and the powers that make that choice so difficult that you really have to know what you want or risk spending untold amounts of time searching for a song you want to spend your money on and enjoy.
My question is basic: Will it ever be possible, using modern technology, to get consistent music that fits my taste without having to pre-select the songs myself? Where is the surprise of not knowing that I wanted to hear a certain song? Why do all the radio stations time their commercial breaks at the same time? I’m a music fan, have been my whole life and will be until I die… can’t live without it, so why is it so hard for the music industry to offer an effective way to navigate through more music than I ever thought possible?
I love technology and the fact that I can have everything I want with the press of a button is great, but I don’t want to preprogram my selections. I don’t have that kind of time. So I find that I can’t really benefit from, or enjoy, having every song available to me. Why can’t I just shuffle through 100 billion songs on Spotify… these creatures (digital programmers and podcasters?) have cramped my leisure listening time. If I find something I like I have to then move it to my personal playlist, I have to make this effort… and how many songs did I wade through to get to something I enjoy? Hey I just realized something… when I was younger I used tape decks to make mix tapes to be able to listen to the songs I loved… I recorded the albums I bought to both cassette and CD… If I’m now making my own playlists digitally… modern tech really hasn’t saved me any time or effort, hmmm… Music fans like me will always find ways to have and experience the music they love no matter how it’s delivered AND no matter how much it costs, whether in money or time!!! As more artists charge more for concert tickets as a result of more people using the free tier of their favorite music streaming service more music fans will stay home and have a BBQ. The more commercials they add to the free tier of Spotify… the more fans will record their own playlists and have a party.
I just answered my own question… It’s us! Music fans are the fittest survivors!