Is music valueless? Just yesterday, I had an extensive conversation with a producer and publisher from L.A. The topic? Naturally, it revolved around vinyl pressing and the concept of 'digital vinyl' and NFTs. A striking statement emerged during our discussion: 'Today, music holds no value.' He further added that it's merely 'marketing fuel for tech platforms.' This is something I've been talking about for a while. There's a difference between having suspicions and receiving confirmation from someone who works daily with Bootsy Collins.
What is the problem?
Why has music lost its value? I believe there are several reasons contributing to today's perception of music as 'marketing fuel' rather than a standalone product. Let's delve into these reasons, and in the next two installments, we'll explore solutions. Part 2 will focus on traditional solutions (WEB2), and part 3 will delve into solutions involving Blockchain, NFT, AI, VR/AR.
The battle for attention
Perhaps this is the most important reason. Before social media, music competed with other art forms. Now it competes with attention-grabbing technologies designed to capture and hold our attention. Although music plays a significant role in social media because of its importance to our wellbeing, on these platforms it has been reduced to the role of 'marketing fuel'.
Shortened Attention Span and Instant Gratification
This is a result of music's uneven battle with social apps. Over the last 20 years, social media algorithms have learned from us and adapted accordingly. They've become so efficient that Netflix competes with our sleep, Facebook infringes on our privacy and intellectual property, and TikTok disrupts our attention. In return, we get dopamine hits, a temporary compensation for these intrusions. We no longer watch, listen, or read fully. We live in constant tension and anticipation, unable to engage in anything that lasts longer than 30 seconds, fearing we might miss out on something.
Ted Gioia, one of my journalistic heroes, often writes about this! Streaming isn't just about the paltry payouts to artists or bands. It's also riddled with pathologies, from fake artists to absurdly low entry barriers. Every day, 120,000 songs land on Spotify. This couldn't possibly benefit anyone: 100 million songs for just $9,99. It hasn't even been beneficial for Spotify itself, as the company continues to incur losses.
Lack of Physical Products
The world of music is dominated by streaming, an unavoidable truth. Year after year, the significance of streaming grows. Fortunately, the market for physical carriers is reviving strongly.
As mentioned with streaming, anyone can now upload music content online, flooding the market. If everyone is a creator, who's the audience? Hundreds of millions of songs are just part of the available content, creating chaos.
Lack of Context and History
The absence of physical albums and jumping between tracks can lead to a loss of context and history associated with music and its artists. Before streaming, I listened to artists and albums. Now, as a Tidal fan, I listen to playlists.
The Rise of Singles Over Albums
The modern consumption model often focuses on individual tracks, potentially diminishing the significance of albums as complete artistic works. It's odd, considering the phonographic history essentially began with singles. Are we coming full circle, or is it regression? A race of trends and commercialization.
'TikTokization' and Algorithmization of Music
Artists are increasingly focusing on creating tracks that can quickly go viral or become trendy, potentially leading to a loss of authenticity and artistic value. Quality is worth its price.
For years, I've observed a shift in the perception of value. Increasingly, something becomes worthy of our attention (our time and engagement) because it's cheap or free, not because of its quality.
It's crucial to note that these causes don't operate in isolation; they often intermingle and reinforce each other. Today, music may hold no monetary value, but it still has the potential to convey emotions, inspire, and build communities. However, the challenges of the modern world require the music industry and its participants to adjust their strategies to deliver value in new and creative ways.
Stay tuned for the next part in 'Music Devalued! The Causes and Solutions' series."