There’s a Dave Grohl quote floating around the internet where he says something to the effect of “kids should just buy some instruments, get together in their garage, and suck. You don’t need a talent contest for that.” This isn’t the only time he’s had something to say about the state of the music industry. Nor is it the only time a grunge musician has complained about today’s music being terrible. Hell, I even saw an article in which Daft Punk says they’re tired of all these electronic kids making music using only the presets that come with their production software. I think it’s fair to say, without going further, that there are probably other relatively “old school” artists who are not pleased with the music industry right now.
In the past, I’ve expressed similar sentiments. Since then, in part due to the negative reaction I received for what I said, in part due to spending more time in online music discussion groups, and in part due to my own listening habits, my opinion has changed. I don’t blame the artist — at least not until they make it obvious they have no integrity. I don’t blame the industry, or the talent competitions like American Idol or X Factor. The truth is, both are catering to a market; they’re doing their jobs.
What we have here is a market that is willing to pay for nominally fresh content that is more like what came before than not. “The listener.” The listener, who, quite frankly, doesn’t really care too much about music (and yet they still pay for it). When this is the driving force in the music industry, you get exactly what we have right now: talent shows on TV, very boilerplate music on the radio, and artists who are more about personality than music.
Not only do I blame the listener for his indifference, I resent the negative opinion toward mainstream artists that the aforementioned individuals hold. These artists are giving the listeners what they want, and what they will pay for. For Dave Grohl, who aptly stated with respect to Nirvana “we sucked, and we became the greatest band in the world,” I don’t see what there is to be upset about.
Are the people who went for dubstep and currently go for trap so fundamentally different than the people who went for grunge in the 90’s? It won’t be too long before Skream or Skrillex are the ones waxing poetic about “how it once was.” Deadmau5 has spent the last five years complaining about it, and for just a moment, I’d like you to consider if his music is exactly the kind of “boring” that Daft Punk referred to in their remarks.
I think we all need to realize that there are a lot of people who don’t have much of an affinity for music, AND it has always been this way. We’ve always had people making relatively basic music, either to appeal to the masses, or because they don’t know how to get better. We’ve also always had people that prefer this kind of music. Simply put, I wouldn’t blame the marketers, I’d blame the market. There is always better music that you could be listening to, if the mainstream bothers you.