Hey, guys – welcome back to TNTH!
A week after the snooze-fest that was the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards, it made me think a lot about all the drama that’s happening in the music industry (i.e. Nicki Minaj and Travis Scott album sales) and the conversation of what it really means to be a successful music artist in the day and age of streaming services and digital downloadable albums. It made me think back to my teenage years, shoot, even my childhood on how music was. I grew up around music, whether it was my mother blasting music in the house, my sister listening to her music on her boombox, or me sitting in front of my radio religiously listening to Z100’s “Interactive 9 at 9”, a segment when they played the day’s top requested songs on the station. I look back and I wonder where did the beauty of music go?
To say it bluntly: music is just not the same anymore. Music isn’t as exciting as it once was, and it’s not as unique and different as it was too. Nowadays, you have 5 male singers who all sound like if Ed Sheeran and Shawn Mendes had a baby. You have producers manipulate the beats of a song to scientifically please us due to its high frequencies that are hidden in the background (i.e. “The Middle” which I still don’t know who sings it and half the people who like it probably don’t either) and most importantly, talent in the music industry are a dime in the dozen. You have a handful of artists who are actually unique, different, and crazy talented that still may not have the same “clout” as artists who are widely known just because.
Music back in the day required you to have talent; it’s why most singing competition contestants or winners from a decade ago are still known to be artists to this day. Nowadays, those same singing competitions end up with new contestants and winners being buried in the bullshit the music industry is, and only if you’re lucky enough, you’ll be winning the highest-earn award on the VMA’s, like Camila Cabello did last Monday.
Music isn’t about going out to record stores and Best Buys and other department stores and buying physical albums anymore. I mean, who the hell actually goes out of their way to buy an album if you could stream the entire thing on Apple Music or Spotify? The only people going out of their way to buy physical albums are those who are within the K-Pop community, I mean check this video out of TWICE hardcore fan, Sam, who buys and unboxes over 200 physical albums of TWICE’s recent Korean album, Summer Nights. But then again, many K-Pop fans who are buying physical albums are buying them for the photocards, photobooks, and whatever special thing it may come with that specific album. Rarely is there anyone opening up the albums to listen to the physical copy of their music. Why bother when you can listen to it in the reach of your phone?
The whole “Travis Scott and Nicki Minaj” feud that has been going on for the last two weeks tells us something about just how bad music has become a game of “how much can I sell in order to get my album sales up?” Every artist uses this tactic; in 2015, I bought Kelly Clarkson’s 7th studio album, Piece by Piece digitally in order to get early access to her tour tickets when they go on sale the week after. Ya girl was trying to see Kelly at Radio City Music Hall with Pentatonix because they were (and still are) some of my favorites… of course Kelly being the top dog on that list.
Also: the concert was amazing.
Back to the argument: artists use this tactic of selling digital downloads of their albums with their merchandise to boost of their sales, as well as promote the shit out of their music on Apple Music, Spotify, and other streaming services in order to get those “sales” as well. I mean, let’s be completely honest right now: Camila Cabello’s “Havana” wouldn’t have gotten the hype that it received if Camila didn’t make it her mission to let her audience know to stream it on Spotify. Once the song became extremely popular on streaming services, its next step was airplay, and before you know it, everyone who was and wasn’t a fan of Camila Cabello knew that goddamn song.
Again, I’m not saying this to bash any artist; I still really do enjoy the music of some mainstream artists nowadays, but in my opinion, the overall enjoyment of music isn’t what it used to be.
Although I am only 24 years old, I’m still going to say this: back in my day, if you liked one song from a particular artist, you had to buy the entire album. People actually used to know every single song on an album by heart because they listened to an entire physical album on CD players. I still remember almost every single word on Rihanna’s third studio album, Good Girl Gone Bad because I listened to every song. The excitement of going to a music store and buying a physical copy of your favorite artist’s album was so exciting, you were rushing to get back home and put it on in your stereo. I still remember the day my mom took my sister and me to the music store near us to buy Britney Spears’ second studio album, Oops!… I Did It Again. Once we had it in our hands, we went home and played the entire album on our stereo for the entire day. At the end of the day, what I’m trying to say is that music was once an experience. Music nowadays is just… too commerical.
A part of me always had this revelation that I didn’t belong in an industry like that. When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to do was become a famous singer, and as I got older and began to attempt to put my foot in the door (which that is another story for another day), I realize just how much it isn’t about the music anymore. It’s about how much you can sell. It’s about how good you look and how great your personality is. It’s about who you know, not what you know. I realized at a young age that striving in an industry that was on the heels of changing wasn’t right for me, and to this day, I still stand by my decision.
I don’t think music will ever be what it once was, but then again, I guess you can say that to any adult who has been around long enough to see the change in music…
… maybe I am getting old.