It seems that everywhere I go, every music executive always says the same thing…
“There’s more music being listened to by more people than every before in history.”
It oozes opportunity and hope. And it seems to make perfect sense. MP3-stuffed iPods are now Spotify-loaded iPhones, and everyone – all day, every day – is drowning in their soundtracks. The Entertainment Retail Association just reported that streaming volumes last year surpassed singles purchases from the past 60 years! Over on YouTube, one estimate pegs music video viewing north of 45 percent of total viewing volume!
But does that necessarily mean that people care more about music, and will pay more for that music, or is this just a volume surge without the complementary depth and dedication?
At SF MusicTech Summit last month, Live Nation Labs head of product, technology, and design Ethan Kaplan said something startling to Digital Music News. He noted that bands suddenly have less meaning on the internet, simply because they’re sort of a near-commoditized nugget of entertainment next to a bunch of other near-commoditized nuggets of entertainment.
“Think about it logically,” Kaplan said. “In 2013, the difference between a friend and a band is inconsequential in terms of how it’s represented on your screen. So, if you look at the media landscape in terms of how we engage with media, it’s all self-normalizing at this point. Friends on Facebook, music, something on Reddit, a video, it doesn’t have any difference.”
“It’s harder to drive loyalty to anything that isn’t differentiated from anything else.”
In the same discussion, longtime Gracenote executive and metadata leader Ty Roberts estimated that the average person knows between 10 and 20 musical artists these days; about half of what it was before. In other words, there’s less depth of appreciation.
The question is whether this unprecedented flood of entertainment, all in a stream of bits and bytes, and graying out the special differentiators of music and lowering its importance among future generations. Among the pre-Millennials (which are most of the readers here), commoditization can only go so far: after all, most of us have experienced some level of musical scarcity; some to an extreme degree.
Yet talk to those who are engaged with the youngest listeners, and you start to here some stunning tales. Like this comment, posted last week from ‘Nikolay G,’ a guitar and ukelele teacher in the Bay Area (who was commenting on another eye-opening letter from another guitar instructor).
I also teach guitar/ukulele to kids and adults of all ages, in fact I make 90% of my income from music lessons and the other 10% from live shows. Almost none of my students listen to any music at all.
Whatever is played in their parents car on the way to school and that’s it. They may have heard a Disney tune here and there and part of it got stuck in their head but for the most part they wouldn’t know anything. Like the original author said, almost all of them have iPhones with no music. They play a lot of games on their phones and a lot of times I end up teaching the Angry Birds song, simply because that’s the only tune that they recognize.
Here’s probably where I should mention that I have tried to educate them on different musical styles, famous bands and composers, given them tons of tips on how to listen to the different types of music, played lots of videos of legendary performances in the lessons… Still, they would rather text or play Temple Run or whatever other sh!t is popular right now.
I’m not even one of those old guys that is supposedly stuck in the past and just ranting, I’m a 27 year old (originally from Eastern Europe), I grew up with music and that’s with no effort from my parents to make me listen to anything in particular.
I currently live in the Bay Area so I teach a lot of kids from middle class families, whose parents work in the tech industry. These are intelligent people, with good education and financially better off than most people I would guess, yet they don’t teach their kids the value of appreciating art, let alone paying for it.
Written while listening to araabMUZIK’s Electronic Dream.