Welcome to 2018. Music is something you watch alone. A song is something you consume. Three minutes is acceptable. After that, you're skipping ahead. You're entitled to be bored by this content.
Those who promote and sell music on behalf of the creators have devised a way to sell more. They no longer promote music which isn’t going to be a hit. They know it’s going to be a hit, because they employ people who are able to precisely predict the response from listeners according to their demographic, tastes and interests.
This is the result of a generation willingly handing over their private information to social media. This is the reason that when someone asks what type of music you like, the expected response is a genre. The results are being baked into the release. If the results aren’t profitable, the music is relegated to obscurity. The game is owning the data. We did this.
Every song or album which is created in this way is damaging to those who don’t comply with this stringent system of force-fed artwork. The production machine relies on the choice that the majority of listeners make to passively consume content rather than digging up niche work. Streaming services offer a buffet of flavours, spread out before you with limitless possibility for finding the category you know you like, but don't easily allow for deviating from the most well-trodden of paths. The overt listing of play counts is a practice which is particularly damaging to anyone without major financial backing.
So if we're able to have anything we want right now, why is so much of it seldom satisfying? Because there is something about the human heart that doesn’t want to be spoon-fed. When we grow out of our candy cravings, we start hunting something more authentic and more nourishing. Because we all want more than colourful, short-lived adverts for other people and lifestyles. Because we all want to grow out of it and get real, eventually.
Music is a soft target for budget cuts, but it’s also the most popular thing in the world. Don’t fuck with it. It’s too close to home. It's too sacred to be homogenized and finely classified. It's the reason that song adverts have never taken off, despite the massive marketing power that they might hold. Imagine how disgusting a Coke advert song would be on the radio. It's happening, but the product is disguised as a person. The product is not the listening experience. It's the emotional kick that comes from backing the winning horse. From following the trend.
But if you want something that you can listen to on repeat, it will not arrive in your lap. You’ll have to hunt to find it.
We, the music makers, simply will not win a head-to-head battle with the production machine. Our responsibility is to make the best music we can with what we have right now. The listener’s responsibility is to find it. To consciously look for it by something other than genre keywords. By succeeding in discovering your own taste in music, you achieve something different. You avoid the product and experience the music as it was intended. You dial up a hotline into the hearts of the creators. You contribute to a culture of music which is not curated by emotionless AI. You prevent the cycle of demographic analysis and relentless data mining. You abandon the trend. You form your own opinion.
Yours is the the power to disable autoplay. To find music streaming platforms created by musicians instead of publishers, intermediaries and non-partisan copyright representatives. To find those who have more invested in it than capital returns. To find those who have invested their comforts, hearts, lives and souls in it. Your responsibility as a music lover is to listen attentively. Not only to the music, but to the trends and patterns you support in your listening habits. And to raise the bar by being more discerning, ethical and conscious in your choice of how to listen.