×

Seven Ways to Improve the Quality of 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.

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Maya Thurman Hawke at the Premiere

    Maya Hawke Debuts Two Singles Ahead of Album Release

    Fresh off her Manson cult role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Maya Hawke is turning to music. The “Stranger Things” star released two new singles Friday, “To Love a Boy” and “Stay Open,” both of which will appear on her yet-to-be-titled upcoming album. Hawke wrote the lyrics and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jesse [...]

  • Woodstock Festival of Arts and Music

    As Woodstock Turns 50, the Fest's 10 Most Sacred Music Moments (Watch)

    Cars were left abandoned along the New York Interstate. Electrical and speaker systems fuzzed and popped. Amps blew then went silent. The rain was endless as the mud sank deep and rank. Young children ran naked and dazed through crowds of strangers. Food was scarce. Water, unclean. Looking back, Woodstock seems a more apocalyptic, than [...]

  • 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band

    Film Review: 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas'

    Settling in to watch “ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas,” you may have a burning question that applies to almost no other rock documentary, and that is: Who, exactly, are these guys? The ones behind the beards? If you’re old enough, of course, you probably know that ZZ Top started out, in 1969, [...]

  • NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST

    Jay-Z to Acquire Ownership Stake in NFL Team (Report)

    Jay-Z will soon acquire a “significant ownership interest” in an NFL team, TMZ reported on Friday. The team was not disclosed, but a source told the site the deal will happen in the “near future,” adding that the billionaire rapper “wants to continue to be a change agent for the NFL.” Jay-Z’s company, Roc Nation, [...]

  • (L-R) NELL WILLIAMS as Eliza, VIVEIK

    How 'Blinded by the Light' Brought Bruce Springsteen's Music to the Screen for a Song

    Blinded by the Light co-writer/director Gurinder Chadha knows firsthand what it feels like to be an outsider. Born in Kenya when the country was a British colony, she grew up part of the Indian/Asian diaspora who made their way from East Africa to London. For that reason, the 59-year-old’s movies has always dealt with the [...]

  • Blake Shelton, Trace AdkinsCMA Music Festival

    Blake Shelton Takes a Shot at 'Old Town Road' in New Single

    Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins have just released a duet, “Hell Right,” that seems to have a beef with “Old Town Road.” But is it a light-hearted, maybe even affectionate slam — or should anyone read culture-war significance into the two country stars expressing a preference for Hank Williams Jr. over Lil Nas X, the breakout [...]

  • Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven

    Department of Justice Backs Led Zeppelin in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Copyright Case

    The U.S. Department of Justice has weighed in on the next big music copyright case on the horizon following the Katy Perry “Dark Horse” decision, and taken Led Zeppelin’s side in the long-running copyright dispute that pits the writers of the group’s anthem “Stairway to Heaven” against the publishers of the earlier song “Taurus” by [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content