The other day, a good friend and I were discussing 'the state of the music industry' from a talent/quality perspective, and the conclusion we came to was that music just isn't as good as it used to be. I don't know whether that's because we're getting old, or because the quality of music has decreased over time.
It's probably a mixture of both, but my friend had a very good point. His point was that you can normally judge the state of society by the music that is around in that particular time period. For example, rap was born out extreme racism in America in the late 60's/early 70's, and Grunge was born out of the poverty and depression caused during the Reagan era.
In the UK, punk was born out of a collective unhappiness amongst teenagers about the state of politics and the monarchy, and nu-metal was born out of a feeling of being 'different' or not 'fitting in' in the mid 90's, right the way through to the mid 2000's. Music used to be politically and emotionally charged, but that doesn't seem to be the case any more.
Gone are the days of 'Beatlemania' and the teenage angst and rebellion that was once encouraged by iconic lead singers such as Johnny Rotten, Fred Durst, Ozzy Osbourne and Axl Rose (at least for now, anyway). Again, my friend brought up a good point. Maybe people have nothing to complain about in this day and age. Maybe they're happy and there's no need to rebel any more.
Or, as I suggested, maybe we've 'given up.' Maybe we've lost our courage to fight back through music and change society for the better. At our last 'Strictly Go Networking For Music Professionals' event on 23 May, I had the privilege of interviewing music industry legend, Keith Harris OBE who has managed Stevie Wonder's career for nearly 40 years.
When asked 'what do you think has been the biggest change in the music industry since you first started out?' Keith answered with a statement that resonated with me as it describes today's music industry perfectly. He said 'music isn't central to people's lives anymore.' I agree. But why? My personal view is that there's nothing to get excited about.
But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe times have changed. Maybe people just aren't as bothered as they used to be. Or, maybe my theory is right, and the reason people aren't as bothered, is because the quality of music just isn't as good as it used to be. Where are the Michael Jacksons and the Whitney Houstons of today?
And I'm not the only one that feels this way. Festival organisers are worried too, because once the Coldplays and the Foo Fighters and the Adeles of today die out, who is going to headline the major music festivals in 10-20 years time? Currently, there aren't any new artists reaching 'iconic' headliner status. The ones that are have been around for 10-20 years already.
If the quality of music has decreased, why? Who is responsible for this change? Do we blame it on online piracy for devaluing music (meaning that labels aren't willing to invest a lot of money in new artists and take a gamble), or do we blame the consumer for buying these records in the first place? Or, do we blame the A&R Managers for the talent they're signing?
Or, maybe we blame the musicians for making lower quality music? It's hard to pinpoint exactly where it all went wrong and where it all started, and it's even harder trying to work out how to change it, but one thing is for certain. If the music industry continues to operate the way it is now, we can pretty much guarantee that it will never recover to the wealthy industry that is once was.
Adele has proven that people are willing to spend money on music, and after her recent £80million record deal stint with Sony, it's fair to say that if labels were a bit pickier with who they signed up, in a few years to come, we might start to see more musicians rising to iconic status, creating a reason for people to get excited about music again, and creating some new headliners for tomorrow's music festivals.