How Manufactured Music is Slowly Killing Talent In The UK

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MUSIC | 6 minute read

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Throughout the years generations and the subcultures within found a voice through music, either starting within or inspiring a new genre. From the sixties Beat, psychedelic and blues movements through to progressive Rock in the seventies, punk, metal and electronic in the eighties through to Britpop and Grunge in the nineties.  Regardless of whether you loved or hated them, each was a form of expression for the youth to expand upon or rebel against what went before. A way to find a voice and define an identity.

Personal interests, views and experiences were at the core of music that reached the hearts and minds of people. This allowed even the most unpolished artist to break through and define themselves as a leading musical artist. Experimentation, pushing boundaries and an authentic human touch were key, creating new genres and outlooks. Musicians were either inspired to put their own stamp on existing sounds, explore alternative sources or create something new.

This untethered expression did not come without it’s weaknesses. Musicians had to rely heavily on the infrastructure of the music industry if they were to progress. Unfortunately the industry didn’t always care about authentic music and the creative process. Many musicians by nature, or at least the scene they were in, where unpredictable and their music wasn’t always guaranteed to hit the hearts of the masses. Inevitably the music industry identified the weaknesses and took the opportunity to gain full control.

The result of this has led to the majority of mainstream music being produced in a factory like environment with a workforce of writers, producers and disposable artists churning out music that is designed more in the boardroom than the bedroom or studio. Reports, sales figures and focus group data now influence music more than the passion and expression that once did. In reality it would be naive to think it would work any other way, it is a business after all.

‘Manufactured music’ has been around since the industries earliest days, it just wasn’t always so clinical in its approach. The process seemed more about finding the magic formula, finding and bringing together talent that offering something special. Unfortunately the obsession for efficiency at any cost has forced this process to evolve into something where everything is controlled, predictable and profitable.

Reasonable singers with a likeable personality, a sellable face are the basic requirements an ‘artist’ needs much of the time today. Finding ready made talent that fits the mould or raising the profile of this years disposable artists on live TV (with a little extra earning through phone voting) is the new formula. One size fits many music made to order. The sad thing is many of the artists involved probably entered the process with a passion to create genuine music before having adapt to the existing way for they careers sake. Authentic creativity isn’t always on time or good for business unfortunately.

What is wrong with this you may ask? First, could you imagine some of the greatest artists we have had to date becoming successful in todays system? quirky looks may manage to slip through but unconventional voices and styles rarely get to see the light. Would the likes of Jagger, Plant or Bowie get a chance in todays world? If they did, their antics and personalities would pretty much rule them out in todays obsession for clean cut and safe. Most importantly, how much power does this manufactured, diluted approach have on our society as a whole?

Music is more than just background noise and single sales. It is an integral part of who we are. Throughout history It has brought us together, torn us apart, connected us with the gods, given power to the powerless, provided us with a way to communicate and express ourselves whilst providing a method  for generations, cultures and subcultures to define their identity.

It seems like the current generation have been robbed of this important tool and as a result, an identity. Their places to socialise are disappearing with the closure record shops, pubs, music venues and nightclubs. Celebrities and media seem obliged to tell them how to think and feel, news websites and social media continually instil guilt and anger and music, the one thing  each generation in the past has turned to gain a voice, is being diluted to the point where it is unrecognisable. What remains is a holier than thou attitude and justification to shoot down anything that goes against the groove.

The music scene, along with industries such as game development, sport, film and even food has been totally taken over by a mass production mentality. From what you are exposed too, what is available and how it is distributed.

The obsession to cut costs and increase profit margins even creeped into how we listen to our music. Physical media was taken away from us, replacing CD’s, Vinyl and Cassettes with an essentially worthless bit of data.  All in the name of convenience. This move of course had nothing to do with the fact that certain business realised you could now be sold a piece of data for the same price as a tangible item that would cost time and money produce. Record shops closed, manufacturers suffered and you can’t even hand your collection down to your kids or sell it to your mate when times are tough. Who exactly is it convenient for? Thankfully the experience of finding, owning and playing vinyl has made a return with UK sales outperforming digital in 2016. As for the closing music venues you can blame the property market and local council for that one.

The dawn of the internet was an opportunity to save music, as it allows musicians to bypass the usual pathway and put musicians directly in front of their audience. Opening the door of opportunity for people to share unrestricted, authentic music. The problem is good stuff has become mixed up with the crap whilst the big business uses it’s funds to retain the loudest voice.

There needs to be a revolution in music in which the new generations grasps the power previous generations had. We need to start exploring music again, both online and offline, Rejecting what is handed to us whilst exploring local musicians and supporting the venues they play. Returning to independent music shops to enjoy an experience you cannot obtain through digital online stores. Most importantly we need to stop being told how to think and feel and express ourselves as individuals and as a community.

Music is more powerful than we realise. In the hands of the people it can shift trends, change attitudes and empower. To discover this you simply need to ask yourself why certain societies restrict it.

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