If you haven’t read it yet, go read Taylor Swift’s op-ed in the WSJ.
While not a riveting novella or groundbreaking piece of original research, it is an interesting read, with interesting insights and at least a glimmer of optimism, something we could use more of right now. In it Ms. Swift says “In the future, artists will get record deals because they have fans—not the other way around.”
That reminded me of a theory I’ve been kicking around for a while now — that pop music actually sounds different because of social media and the internet— the Ho Hey singalong chorus is taking over.
It’s simple. Now more than ever “likes” and “fans” and “followers” drive revenue directly.More clicks and more eyeballs means more money. The two are directly related. It even manifests itself into real estate transactions down to the level that the fortune 500 companies (mostly franchises) grading of real estate to determine how many eyeballs dry by a given site on a given day as do websites etc. Traffic = sales = revenue, it’s very simple. More traffic = more money, virtually and in reality, going both ways.
No secret there right? So what does that have to do with the actual content of a song?
Just listen to some popoular songs and you will hear the musical manifestation of artists trying to mimic “likes” and “followers” in song form.
Every time you turn on the radio there is a chorus of 10 or 20 people singing along with the artist during the chorus. The chorus has an actual chorus singing in it <– see what I did there? Yes that is where the chrous gets it’s name, it’s supposed to be singable by a chorus, I get it.
So go listen to songs like:
Ho Hey - The Lumineers
Demons - Imagine Dragons
Pompeii – Bastile
I will Wait – Mumford and Sons
Happy – Pharell Williams
A light that never comes - Linkin Park and Steve Aoki
American Kids – Kenny Chesney (even country gets in the act see also every Brad Paisley album recently released)
These songs all follow s similar formula. A guy alone with his contemplative self thinking about stuff and then BAM – instant group of followers all singing in agreement. The songwriter just hit the like button a million times. Sounds like Kickstarter, Twitter or facebook or – (fill in the blank technology company)
It’s the the musical equivalent of a million “likes”. It’s like saying, this artist got a whole army to sing along with him. Many people like them. They must be successful, therefore they make a lot of money. Therefore they must be valuable and I shall like them as well.
I’m not saying I agree with the tactic, or if it even works but I am saying that the ongoings of society may actually be driving the aesthetic decisions of musical artists even if they are sub-rosa or even just coincidental.
No different than the roaring 20s and jazz. The 60s and rock and roll. Or the 70s – coke and disco. The 90s grunge —all the music reflects the times.
Todya’s music is built to make you feel like, a lot of other people like it.
It’s social music…
…with a built in feeling of all your friends agreeing with you and singing along right there in the chorus.
The music industry has rediscovered the value of a singable chorus, that can actually be sung by a chorus. <– sorry did it again :-)
It also helps that mega music festivals are also a thing, with huge flocks of folks flooding the doors and singing along in real life. Yeah real life, so there’s that too.
So there you have it - social media is actually changing the way music sounds.
I’ll leave you with parting words from one of my musical heroes, Dave Grohl who said, “Don’t bore us, give us the chorus.” And I couldn’t agree more.