Can TV Teach Music

“Creative people in a wide range of fields keep hearing the ridiculous mantra that “content wants to be free.” The music industry is the worst offender. Many label execs tell artists—maybe the execs even believe it themselves—that musicians shouldn’t expect to generate income from their recordings. george harrison my sweet lordBut no worries, mate, you will make it all up by selling T-shirts at your gigs.” – narrative by Ted Gioia

 

By Walter Price

Ran across this article in The Daily Beast by Ted Gioia that takes one of my main concerns about the music business in an intelligent and understandable direction; Five Lessons the Faltering Music Industry Could Learn From TV.

The dumbing down of the quality of the products (artists) the major labels seem to focus on and then spend oodles to market to those not formative enough to know better. Creating a vortex of sucky that seems to get worse with every auto-tuned gag fest the machine can churn out.

On the other hand the TV industry has had an about-face in the past 15-20 years. Going for high quality content and new ways of selling their products have created what Gioia and others in the know call a new TV golden-age. How right they are.

While mainstream radio has become a cesspool of under talented, overly produced and really a clog on society (you know the ones) poptarts, the soldiers behind the new standard of creating cutting edge dramas and comedies march on new uncharted and daring lands (or just making things adults can dig). I too believe that the children are our future but if we continue to not teach them well , which includes letting them hear actual music, they will not be able to lead the way.

Sure, at some point as you get older you may not be willing to check out all the latest music hitting the world but that doesn’t mean the children of the world should be taught crap music is the way. I’ll also add that over the years, the many many years, I’ve heard label peeps lament, “It’s these mainstream pop-stars that make it possible for all the rest of the label’s roster.” So if that is true then I suppose its Velveeta‘s popularity that makes it possible for supermarkets to stock Gouda. Good to know.

There has always been silly acts, niche artists, bubble gum this and that’s. You have to remember that they weren’t the bread and butter. Now the new made of near pure synthetic salacious sugar foundation of Rihanna, Bieber, Gomez, J-Lo or any other ‘just add name here’ act that can mimic dance moves, sell teen magazines and float some well-planned controversy. There is talent to entertain in these ‘artists’, it has just been watered down and produced to levels of nausea.

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I’m not anti-industry and not all popular music is horrible or bad for your ears. It is the machine behind it that needs re-tooling and the rest will sort itself out. Probably. Time to get the lazy brand / trend makers out and some real music in the blood somebody’s in. A bit of some true believers in real musicians led renaissance if you will. After all, It’s For The Children. Save The Children!

Gioia makes 5 clear and tangible points that hit the spot. Then check out George Harrison and Dangermaker.

Target adults, not kids.

This should be obvious to the music execs, but somehow they haven’t figured it out yet. Fourteen-year-olds will not support a subscription-based model for music. HBO realized that the dumbing down of network TV left a large group of consumers under-served, namely sophisticated grown-ups—and these were the same people with the most disposable income to spend on entertainment.

Embrace complexity.

Complexity appeals to the sophisticated grown-ups mentioned above. But also, more complex content inspires repeated listenings and greater long-term loyalty.   The subscription TV networks have figured this out. Meanwhile the music industry is hoping that simple songs, without harmonic modulations and built on repeated-note melodies, will solve their problems. They won’t.

Improve the technology.

Fifty years ago, most households still owned clunky black-and-white TV sets. The picture quality was lousy, and the set was always breaking down. How times have changed! Television has gone high tech with big screens, crystal-clear pictures, and concert-hall audio.

Meanwhile, the music business has moved in the opposite direction. In a telling repudiation of its corporate priorities, serious music fans increasingly want to own vinyl from 50 years ago. It’s a hassle tracking down those old albums, but who can blame these audio junkies? They are tired of the flattened, compressed sound from today’s digital devices, and want something better.

Resist tired formulas.

Every one of the old shows suffered from the same obvious problem: you could predict how the story would end even before it started, so why watch at all? But the beauty of the smart new TV shows is that you still aren’t sure how it ended, even after you’ve seen it—hence the endless debates about the conclusion of The Sopranos or Breaking Bad. At every step in the process, the masterminds behind the award-winning new TV show are resisting the formulas of the genre, and striving for fresh, unpredictable narratives.

The music industry should learn from this. Every album and song nowadays is marketed as part of a genre—rock, hip-hop, country, jazz, etc. But the very decision to sell songs to targeted genre fans has turned into an aesthetic straitjacket.

Invest in talent and quality.

An amazing battle between two different philosophies has taken place on our TV screens during the last 15 years. The reality TV model, embraced by broadcast networks, is built on the radical view that you don’t need trained actors or high-priced talent. You can take Snooki off the streets of New Jersey and turn her into a celebrity star.

The music industry is still stuck in the old model. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been told that traditional standards of musicianship don’t matter anymore. Singers don’t really need to know how to sing, because Auto-Tune will fix it all. You don’t need a real drummer, because a cheap machine can do the same thing.

 

The above was just a smidgen of Ted Gioia right on target article, check out his full thoughts HERE.

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# 1 Track of 1971 George Harrison – ‘My Sweet Lord’

If things were well, this track should be a #1 in 2014 Dangermaker – ‘Something More’

 

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