Modern music sucks.
I went to a concert recently to see a stellar Austin-based blues guitarist at a local dive bar.
I caught this guy years ago while strolling down 6th Street on a Tuesday night in Austin. Once the blues capital of the world, the sweet sounds of gritty guitar riffs filling the air was a staple part of an evening stroll. Now, your typical top-40 bullshit litters the Austin air.
Surely, years later, this guy would draw one hell of a crowd since he’s nothing short of amazing. Think Stevie Ray Vaughan meets Jimi Hendrix.
Yah, I was excited.
I grabbed my drummer buddy and made sure we showed up at least an hour before the doors open. I figured there’d likely be a line down the block.
Much to my surprise (and dismay), we were the first and only people waiting.
“Ok, maybe we went to the wrong place,” I remark to my friend. We check our tickets.
Nope, it’s here.
Soon enough, a few other folks join us in line. There are now six of us in total.
Eventually, the doors open and the now handful of fans file in.
Let the show begin
The bluesman doesn’t take long to set up and from the first guitar lick, I am instantly in auditory heaven.
My buddy, who had never seen this act before, was mesmerized.
“Bro, he literally strolled on stage and proceeded to completely fuck my face!”
The fact that nobody was there to witness such God-like greatness was a bit disappointing. However, I did get to sit front and center, literally inches away from this soon-to-be legend.
But, upon further thought, I still felt saddened that more people weren’t there to share the experience.
Sure, I enjoyed the intimacy of viewing my favorite artist up close and personal. I just couldn’t get over the fact that only 6 people showed up.
Six. Fucking. People.
Why is modern music so bad?
On the car ride home, my buddy indicated he was mutually amazed at the lack of turnout. This got us to thinking… why is there such a huge underappreciation for real musicians?
Maybe most people just prefer plainly average (read: crap) modern music.
I still couldn’t explain this experience. So, I decided to float some ideas around to answer the ever-itching question:
Where is there such an abundance of shitty music in our society?
Here are my thoughts about why modern music sucks …
1. Modern music has no soul
The days of running to the record store, spending an entire evening thumbing through dusty milk crates stuffed with vinyl, and the exhilaration of finally setting the stylus for the first time upon your latest find are long gone.
Today, marketers decide what consumers will hear and when they will hear it.
And hear it they will. Literally everywhere.
Ever notice how upon hearing a new song for the first time it decides to follow you around everywhere you go? This is no accident.
The powers that be literally rape your ears with the latest sacrificial song. Until you literally can’t stand it anymore… or the next canned piece of crap drops.
Sure, artists need to make a buck for the value and enjoyment they add to society. But today, the business of music trumps artistry and talent.
2. All modern music sounds the same
I like to think that a “musician” should at least be able to play an instrument. Or sing. Or do anything that produces a string of sounds that are appealing to the ears.
If you’re like me, you’d be wrong.
Modern music no longer requires:
- Playing instruments
- A good-sounding singing voice
- Song-writing skills
- A recording studio
Here’s the recipe to create every modern music hit you’ve heard in the last 10 years:
Pre-selected beats drive modern music
Modern music uses the same four chords
This guy writes the lyrics of most modern music
Think your genre of music is immune?
Musical mediocrity has completely infected our society, and it’s taking zero prisoners.
Today’s commercially-produced popstars don’t even play own instruments or have basic knowledge of music theory.
3. Modern musicians are forced to produce shit
Now you might be thinking that all modern musicians are completely untalented. This isn’t necessarily true.
I once saw Lady Gaga live and let me tell you, once she blasts through the bullshit and actually gets to perform, she’s got some pipes!
Hell, she started playing the piano at a very young age and was even accepted to Juilliard. Take a listen to her voice unedited.
Another starlet I typically can’t stand is Miley Cyrus. That all changed once I heard her nail Dolly Parton’s classic “Jolene”.
Will you ever hear modern music this good on the radio? No.
Why? Simply, when something sounds good it’s hard for people to not stop and listen.
Imagine walking through a crowded shopping mall and hearing that cover. You’d forgot you were there to mindlessly purchase shit you don’t need.
Modern music is really just background music, serving as a soundtrack to our auto-piloted lives.
4. Poor sound quality meets cheap sound equipment
As a sound quality guy, I’ve experienced the following far too often…
Cruising with the top down to a SoCal sunset enjoying the rays, waves and fresh, salty sea mist. Suddenly, some dipshit with rims worth more than his car and crudely-fashioned, Bondo-bound quarter panels pulls next to me. “Fucking great,” I think to myself, as Henry Hipster revs his 82-horsepower Honda and darts that “I’m cool” dumbass look in my direction. Me, confused, react just as I would if I were driving home drunk. Head just above the steering wheel, body slightly slouched forward, hands 10-and-2 and eyes directly focused dead ahead. Unfortunately, I can’t avoid homeboy’s muddy bass as it literally shakes the shit out of both our cars.
The loudness war
This is where idiots think higher volume equals higher quality. Many people have grown so used to listening to highly-compressed digital music on tiny in-ear headphones, they don’t know any better.
With the inability to discern any sense of quality with inferior playback equipment, I understand why people confuse high volume with high quality.
So what do producers do?
They amplify the fuck out of a track, clip out any crisp high notes, muddle the bass and mute the mids.
Now that the source music sounds like shit, you’d think sound manufacturers would stop there. Nope.
Bad sound quality from headphones and stereos
They must also flood the market with audio reproduction devices that sound like crap. Compressed audio, small in-ear headphones, and excessive bass reproduction are all standard. And absolutely brutalize your ears.
As a consumer, you’re constantly forced to suffer. By default, your YouTube, Spotify or any other streaming apps will all produce compressed audio. Unless you select otherwise in your settings.
Even then, this usually isn’t enough to undo the damage.
My only guess is that that music degradation continues because people just don’t know any better.
I can’t tell you how many teens I see wearing $300 Beats headphones, which offer no dynamic range and sound like a wet fart.
Do not confuse a fashion accessory with a suitable audio playback device.
Hell to the no.
5. People don’t listen to music anymore
Occasionally, I like to test my friends.
When I have company, I’ll throw on some classic vinyl led by a female vocalist on my entirely analog 1970’s stereo system. Then, say nothing.
Before the end of the first song, they’re almost always standing in the middle of the living room, staring at a blank wall and actually listening to music.
Pro tip: The “This song sounds so much better on vinyl, let’s go back to my place to listen” line works charms.
Unfortunately, people of less-than-average intelligence dominate the market, so music producers and equipment manufacturers have no choice but to cater to bland tastes.
People actually buy this slop and think it’s great. Although I’m a strong proponent of a supply-and-demand free market, we need to treat this like illegal drugs. By waging war against the demand for such poisonous products.
Support good musicians
What’s the only way to rid society of bad modern music? Stop consuming it.
There’s still plenty of talent out there. You just have to dig through a pile of shit to find a piece of musical treasure.
See your musicians live.
By supporting actual talent, you too can help stop the spread of shitty modern music.