Seven Ways to Improve the Quality of Music

note brain Music

1. MUSIC IN SCHOOLS The bottom line is, if we want better popular music, more people have to know how to play it. Speak with famous musicians,
and you’ll be stunned how many started in the school band. With the evisceration of school music programs has come the decline of quality pop music. You don’t need a music degree to enjoy music, but you cotton to those with developed skills.

2. PERSPECTIVE Just because you play does not mean you’re entitled to a job in music. With access has come delusion. In other words, if you can put it on iTunes, I should buy it. But if you get a trophy in kiddie soccer, do you think you’re one step away from Manchester City?

You realize in school who’s good in math, biology, English. If you’re not at the top, you find another path.

3. A PLACE TO PLAY There’s nowhere to start out any more. Family functions have deejays, and the club business died with the record business when there was no one to support it. (To a degree, this is responsible for the rise of electronic music, and that’s fine, but just knowing how to turn on the turntable does not make you a deejay.)

With nowhere to play, no one can get better. Your skills might be developed, but your live chops are nonexistent. I love Lorde’s music, but live she’s a bore, because she just hasn’t developed yet. Think of all the great live bands, from the jazzers to J. Geils. They honed their skills off the radar, got good over time. We’ve got to get people to hire live bands for private functions. This requires good bands willing to play the hits people want at a fair price.

4. NO WINE BEFORE ITS TIME Just because you made it does not mean we should be interested in buying it. It used to be that making a physical disc was expensive; now making an MP3 is cheap, so people bombard us with their substandard productions.

5. STREET TEAMS/VIRALITY Marketing has trumped the organic spread of music. Yes, you want people to spread it, but only if they’re moved to. You want a mailing list so you can reach your fans, not so you can turn them into an army dunning those who do not care.

We live in an era of marketing, not music. And we’re all suffering as a result.

6. GATEKEEPERS There’s a fiction that making everything available means there’s an audience for it — the so-called Long Tail. But the truth is we live in a Tower of Babel society that gravitates to that which is universal. We don’t want endless playlists. We want a few certified hits. The reason labels cater to Top 40 is at least there’s a market there — and in hip-hop and country, too. Other than that, it’s a great wilderness with classic acts and concertgoers, but the inability to break a record.

We don’t need tons of playlists on Songza; we need one place where everybody goes that features a few tracks and readily rotates them. And that place isn’t radio, which is about advertising, not music.

7. BUSINESSMEN You’ve got to have someone to make the deals. But you need an entrepreneurial spirit. Wipe out music business schools; they’re a ripoff, teaching what does not need to be learned. We’ve got to attract the renegades, the limit-testers, those willing to turn the tables upside down who are now going into tech.

Did you know that Travis Kalanick, the majordomo of Uber, which you love, started with a P2P music site, Scour? Don’t pooh-pooh P2P; everything good in music has happened as a result. Spotify’s Daniel Ek stayed in, but you want him out, not realizing that the ability to have everything at one’s fingertips includes your music, and that there’s a ton of money in streaming.

Until we can attract the best and the brightest to music, we’re doomed.

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    1. Danny Reina says:

      I think this article is pointing in the right direction, however, we believe, and strive, to change how people view and experience music. Gone are the glory days of CBGBs where people actually sought out the best new musical content out there far from corporate promotion. A complete make over of the music culture, at least here in America, is overdue and we intend to make that happen. Here is our article discussing in relevance to this topic. Good day everyone!

    2. AddamB says:


    3. Chip says:

      In addition to conglomeration of radio station ownership, I would add that the production of most music made the last 25 years has been dictated by a click track (metronome/ beats per minute) that the players play to and engineers use to (line up/ fix) the music to the beat, so it’s all perfected /shellacked as well as every body (especially in America) have been using the same programmed sounds, so it all sounds the same. Now country music is headed for the toilet. Who wants perfect music. Do you care? / American Roots is about all there is left of real human music. And Classical is enjoying an up-tick with young America. It has soul, for sure. You think The Stones go home and listen to rock radio? Hahahaha… not anymore! It’s boring. And who wants to listen to a brother doing the same 2 rap cheerleading routines over the same drum sounds we’ve been hearing for 30 years now…waving our hands in the air like we just don’t care. Not anymore. Wonder why records/CD don’t sell ?

    4. Yirmin Snipe says:

      Fact is if there is anything that is killing music in the US right now it is the conglomeration of radio stations.

      When the government allowed corporations to start consolidating the ownership of radio stations that was the death of real music. As soon as you moved from a system where a local station could decide to play a local band because they had sounded good in a club to a system where every song played is dictated by a person in New York or LA – you eliminated the ability of organic growth.

      You insured that the consolidation of power into the hands of a small number of people would increase the entry cost. No longer could someone hope to buy a guy at the local radio station lunch and slip him a CD to listen to…now you need to have 7 figures in a brief case to slip the guy, but in exchange they’ll have your CD played on every station in the country. That means no more small bands with talent, just corporate manufactured crap…

      Kids still play in the school bands all over the country… Only now it doesn’t matter how much those kids love music or how good they are at it, unless they are related to someone that runs a corporation that dictates the playlists they are doomed. If you want substance back in music push the government to break up the conglomeration of radio in the US. After all how much sense does it make for a company like Cox to own 80 station in 18 markets… It means in each one of those markets they control over 4 stations.

      • cxg says:

        Yirmin, you’re exactly on point. Deregulation of radio did more damage to the music industry than mp3’s or sharing sites. Radio stations are concerned with ad revenue first while innovative content suffers. There is still great quality music being made but the masses aren’t likely to hear it unless they seek it out. Clear Channel ruined radio. They are the devil.

    5. All true! Marshall Mcluhan’s observation, how each new technology makes an art form of what it replaces. In classical & other technically demanding art forms I think the ultimate of human ability has been achieved. Either we genetically modify humans or develop new formats. At the moment, there’s a glut of ready recorded clips (loops) that are being re-mixed and overdubbed.

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