Generically modified music anyone?

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23/02/15

A few months ago I was listening admiringly to the mega pop hit ‘All about the Bass’ by Meghan Trainor. I caught myself thinking ‘this sounds catchy, fresh and promising… I wonder what she’ll follow this big hit up with?

I didn’t have to wait very long before I was invited by the Radio DJ’s to hear her subsequent follow up song; ‘Lips are Moving’. Immediately it got me thinking ”hmmm….Now where have I heard that song before? Well…Meghan Trainor of course! Yes Meghan “you don’t need to be no silicone, stick thin Barbie doll” but it seems that your music will certainly have to conform to the modern, sound-cloning stereotype.

The desire and fascination to create an immediately recognizable, familiar and generic sound across the board as demanded by the record companies from every pop artist is seemingly no coincidence. It is more of a prerequisite these days.

Ok – I get the fact that; if you have used the same recording studio, producer and equipment, that you are going to get a similar soundscape, however, this dedication to ‘cookie cutter music’ goes far beyond any environmental consequence.

Scientists from Spain have studied historical musical trends and discovered that effectively; popular music is getting louder and the variation in timbre is decreasing. Ostensibly, we are deliberately making a bland and easy-to-digest, more palatable musical landscape; that apparently ‘the people’ want!

I understand from having recorded a number of albums and EP’s over the years, that music is getting louder. This is probably attributed to a number of factors: We digest music differently and have adapted it sonically to tally with media devices like iPods and computer speakers which are not ideally suited to the broad dynamic range that you will hear in a recording studio.

Also, we live in the most competitive music-producing era ever known.

The Internet is swamped with more big names and independent artists than ever before, and as everyone is trying to catch the listener’s attention; the volume level has been pushing up and up!

But what about this homogenized sound that we are hearing on the radio? Am I foolish to believe that music is an art form which; should allow creative individuals to express themselves and place their own unique spin on their sonic incarnations? The answer is probably – Yes!

The music industry is pouring hours into studying statistics and consumer habits. We are being scrutinized to the minutest degree, like a cigarette-smoking-lab-monkey, and whenever we show any signs of approval, this is a signal to the industry to inject more of those addictive ingredients into our musical diet. Hard-nosed music executives would happily put me right – “It’s called the music business” after all.

I suppose you could always argue that, with the dawn of the world wide web, we have opened up the door for any musician or would-be songwriter to try their hand at grabbing the attentions of the listener, and If we searched hard enough we could find all the diversity in timbre and genre on the internet; until our hearts content!

I think my issue is; (and has probably always been) how the music industry has chosen what people should listen to, in their bid to pervert the course of sales and revenue. I’m far from naïve about this, I’m just fearful of genuinely talented artists and songwriters being constantly overlooked and missed because their music is not deemed generic enough.

Yes – I know it’s a ridiculous statement to make. The face of music has changed, and It’s like it has booked an appointment with a Hollywood plastic surgeon, because it would seem that the music played on our radio, has lost all it’s expression! Why do we have to iron the character and quirks out of every art form before it is deemed to be a better deal for the consumer?

I will always prefer my music less manufactured, with fewer sweeteners, enhancers and hidden ingredients on the record labels. Give me organic songs any day!

Perhaps this is why I have gravitated towards the more homegrown sounds of traditional music, bluegrass and old country music (before the country pop invasion).

With the increased sale of Vinyl records due to a yearning for traditionally better-quality recorded sounds and the cry from artists within the industry for originality and musical diversity; it looks like we will continue to take the fight to the music bosses over universal branding or should I say… ‘blanding’.

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Thanks.

Gavin.

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