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There’s one thing I hear artists say all the time that immediately raises red flags.

Well, there are actually a few things artists could say that’d raise red flags, but this is perhaps the most common one:

“No one is writing good music these days.”

Or any variant of “I don’t listen to new music.”

That’s ridiculous. Did all the talent dry up in 1972? Or 1984? Or 2001?

I get not having TIME to listen to a lot of new music. My daughter is 4 years old, and I’m just now feeling like I have the mental space to explore new releases again. But I never once fooled myself into thinking that there’s nothing of merit being created these days.

I heard yet another artist say the other day that all modern music is garbage. Hmmm, have you ever heard anyone else say something like that? Maybe your grandparents when you were falling in love with swing, or rock n roll, or hip hop, or EDM? Sure, not everything is for everyone. But there’s something new out there for you — and if you don’t believe it, well, that just tells me your own music is probably crusty and irrelevant.

Harsh? Maybe. But I’m far from alone. Hell, you don’t even have to incorporate the influence of new sounds in your own music. I’m not expecting you to be as wowed as you were when you were 16 and the whole world waited up ahead. Just don’t be so self-satisfied in your close-mindedness. Acknowledge that maybe, just maybe good stuff is happening today that’s every bit as thrilling as your favorites from the the past. It’s a small request.

What do you think?

Why do some musicians have such a hard time admitting (or recognizing) that quality didn’t go extinct when they turned 30? When you hear someone talk trash about something as vague as “new music,” do you immediately write off their own music? Do you actually think all new music is terrible? Let me know in the comments.

[For a somewhat different take on this topic, check out “Now THAT was music: Why do your musical tastes get frozen over in your late twenties?]

 

 

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  • Marion Fiedler

    Great title of this article, I clicked on it with expectations on finding in detail information what turns fans away if they read certain lines in your PR or online marketing etc.
    If I may – in my experience, artists get ignored if they:
    – do not share their story but overly emphasize that they want to sell
    – write too much without focusing on the core content – short announcements are helpful
    – do not learn from what works for their project and audience eg. on Twitter or other social media outlets
    – questions are catchy and place the listener in the right mindset when announcing a song
    – if musicians brag about themselves listeners or readers turn away more easily
    Hey, maybe you can write an article about your experience, which announcements of songs work, how to develop your social media language, what your attitude should be when presenting your music on stage, online, to the press etc.

    • All great points. And we have talked about some of them before, but I just couldn’t help writing this one after hearing another musician this week say there is nothing worth listening to coming out these days.

      I will definitely think about some of those bullet points you mentioned for future articles. Thanks!

      • Marion Fiedler

        Great, I love it that you respondn and that you liked reading them.

  • Marion Fiedler

    I agree that many musicians only focus on their heros and on themselves. There is great music published of fellow newcomers or fellow musicians who are about the same level. I find that jealousy or disrespect is very common among musicians, which is unfortunate – if you team up with your fellows you are actually stronger and can go further!

    • Maybe it’s jealousy, just kinda… general jealousy?

      • Marion Fiedler

        Well, I have established a group. Its growing and its awesome. Yet what I learn when working with other musicians is that we are all super busy since the industry is challenging. The fear to fail is higher than ever I believe – especially what will be shared online is exposed to experts and musicians, fans and business execs alike. On stage you want to deliver energy and bring across your message, yet no concert is perfect. There is always the fear of failing – the fear of never being good enough. Or is this just me? I try to become better on so many aspects, its way too much to deal with at once. But I push on anyways since I want to become better and help my project grow! It is such a tough job. It leaves you hungry, on different levels. The industry does not feed you well if you are a newcomer, even the eager ones have to invest smartly and live humbly. Anyways – all this being said, maybe some musicians do not recognize other bands since they could take your spot in so many regards. Booking – you want to play that show on this really cool festival and not them? Attention – they have eager fans, but “they dont deserve the attention” – I see it everywhere. Musicians are not wanting to be open and supportive of other bands. Only 5 percent out of the bands I ask for the collaboration group say yes. We are a lucky bunch. we have developed some cool tools to support one another, yet if I ask new bands (even people I have been working on a long term basis!) they do not want to open up to work with others.
        I wished it was different. There is so much we can change if we all work together and support one another, we could stand up and show the industry that the power is indeed with the artist who creates the music and touches the audience.
        There is only so far one musician can shout about his own project. Imagine five other people are shouting for you, too. You get heard five times more.
        I think its all. Fear of failing, jealousy, insecurity, self-centeredness (which you need to survive, but if you lock yourself in you will not have a chance to blossom).

        I guess I have a very specific approach here, and I do not expect yall to agree with me. But hey, who knows. Maybe I can inspire you to think of other bands more highly again. We are all fighting the same battle.

        Out of this insecurity results the quote that only music made many years ago is better. That is a difficult statement. There is great bands out there – niche as well as mainstream. The classics are our heros for their music and for what they have achieved.

        I believe that many bands do not listen to other bands with an open ear and open heart. It is easier to blind them out – your path is hard enough the way it is.

        Well, that’s what I have experienced many many times.

        I am grateful to have met a bunch of like-minded musicians to exchange and collaborate with. By talking to one another about the music we play, the PR we could do better and together, and by giving feedback we all have grown like crazy. But I have seen it so often that I do not think this will ever change !

        Gosh sorry for typing so much. I thought your observation was interesting, and I can only agree with it. Thanks again for responding.

  • Jakob Thyness

    “Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but Talent instantly recognizes Genius.”

    • Ha. That’s a good one. Thanks for sharing.

    • Marion Fiedler

      excellent comment.

  • Louise Louise

    I like plenty of pop music but it all sounds the same. Then I realized that the pop music I like as a kid probably all sounded the same.

    • Haha. Yeah, maybe. Mostly I think people should look beyond the Top 40 when they’re saying things like “it all sounds the same” or “it all sucks.” There’s so much more music out there!

      • wes pohl

        Absolutely – Top 40 is a commercial machine and not the best indicator of what’s out there in terms of creativity and artistic expression (i.e “good” music). Sometimes it’s good, but more often you have to dig a little to find the really good stuff. But it’s out there!

  • wes pohl

    I agree, whenever I hear someone say that music was so much better “back in the day” or any other sentiment that music has gone down hill, that person instantly loses credibility with me. I feel the same when somebody is locked so tightly into their genre of preference that they believe that music in other genres and styles is crap. I just turned fifty and I am impressed, surprised and delighted by music regularly, and across many genres. I find it sad to see others my age stuck replaying old Eagles, Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac albums and refusing to give newer music a chance. Those old records are great, but every decade has produced excellent music, in every style and for every taste. When people ask me what style of music I like, my response is “good music”

    • Oh yeah. I forgot about that: “All rap is crap” or “classical music is boring.” Boo!

  • James_Keith_Norman

    There’s another aspect to this: that so many new artists think that older music is crap. They think that only what is being created today is any good. As a songwriter and music fan, I think it’s hugely important to recognize great music, whether it was written today or decades ago. It’s also wonderful to experience and learn from a multitude of genres and styles. You never know where great inspiration will come from. I’ve been as influenced by what Gershwin did in the 1920s as by what Ed Sheeran is doing.

  • Iltoro

    Have you Heard about Opiuo,Griz,Mr Bill,kshmr,Mr. Rogers,Andreilien,Desert Dwellers, Stickybuds, Jonah Freed,
    Ben Levin, Adam Neely,etc,etc,……………so many great guys making Music out there…….Much much much more than before…..that’s the best moment in history for Music !!!!!! I’m 54 and I’ll never stop dancing and discover the world
    Enjoy the beuty end you’ll never get old

  • Earnest Vander

    I observe music with an ear for music and not the overrated propaganda of the pitch. As an audible art, it’s quite absurd to get caught up in the hype of the visual marketing without listening to the music to make an observation. I, personally, am a lyricist and I listen to lyrics more so than the production of the music in rap nowadays. My observations of rap since 2010 have allowed me to hear that most people follow the crowd and not stand as individuals. As far as other genres, the fans appreciate most of their artists. As a sole proprietor, CdBaby hasn’t been successful for me like I expected, but it’s not CdBaby, nor myself. I feel that it’s the influence of commercialism and the hypocrisy of digital piracy of the people. cdbaby.com/artist/earnestvander – EARNEST VANDER ®

  • Fred LeBaron

    Ha! Really good one, Chris! As an old guy I hear this all the time, and it makes me want to write off not only their music, but their critical opinion on … pretty much everything. (Although I do like that song “They Don’t Write ‘Em Like That Anymore”)

    • That’s true. They don’t write ’em like that anymore. The write ’em like this. (And I do miss the crazy rhymes of the Porter, Gershwin, Berlin era).

  • That’s an interesting point about the aesthetic now being freed from the format. We’ll see if songs get longer or… even shorter!

    • Ronnie

      Found this data on song length interesting. https://plot.ly/~RhettAllain/131/average-song-length/#plot

    • Steve Low

      I’ve got this workmate who says the greatest music was made and written in the classical music era. And I say how can it be that today with a world population 10 times greater – and therefore with a talent pool at least 10 times greater – music is a lesser thing now? The bare bones of music (melody, rhythm, harmony, theme and lyrics) are the same in any era. So all of those things can be done still in an amazing, if not better, way. What has changed is technology and so the sound of the end production. People who say the best music was years ago are probably saying that because they are stuck with the sound of their times – they don’t put the effort in to adapt to change. Because so many music styles have been put out there, it is harder to surprised by a song these days for me. But I still get hooked on new stuff because of the beauty of melody or harmony, or a great metaphor, or the groove in a rhythm . . .

  • That’s a great article. Thanks for sharing. I added a link to it at the bottom of this piece.

    I certainly don’t think artists need to be AS moved by new stuff, for the same reasons mentioned in the article you shared, but it helps to have an open ear — and that takes the simple recognition that good stuff is out there to be found.

  • Anne

    Ha! The first sign of aging is the intolerance for listening to new music. I remember how my dad said, “How can you listen to that garbage?” when I listened to the top hits when I was a teen. There are always gems to be found in the newest music. I play lots of covers, and I ALWAYS find great new music for all ages of my audience to enjoy. I discovered that the more music that I can play across all genres, styles, and decades, the more gigs I can land.

  • john thomas

    There is so much music out there. Most i believe mainly listen to music only on the radio, if you do that then you limit yourself to much music out there. When it come to music one should break the comfort zone they are in and explore all types of music. Then you will see and hear there is tons of good music out there…

  • I don’t like it when people say things like that either, but some people just like the older music–the classic rock. There’s nothing really wrong with that, and it doesn’t mean the musician is over 30. Many young musicians prefer the older stuff. And there’s a lot of good “old” music that needs to be heard.

    You’re right, though, it’s important to keep fresh, listen to what’s out there. At least become familiar with different styles of music, so you can keep in touch with current trends and influences. Personally, I like it all–old and new!

  • Seán Eric Harris

    Hmm… There’s so much more to this for me than the article gets in to from multiple perspectives.

    So as I see it, there are two major fronts that perhaps we should touch base on. The thing is that older music that has SURVIVED tends to be “better” (as subjective a topic as that can be!) Popularity may have made something huge when it was new that had little to do with “good” or “bad” as far as the song goes. Longevity rewards quality more often than not, though.

    All that said, from a commercial music point of view, “lowest common denominator” is where the money is. By definition, that is the thing that will appeal to the MOST people, regardless of quality. Sometimes that hits on something of extremely high quality (“In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel), and sometimes not (“Muskrat Love” by Captain and Tenille?!) Mainstream radio has a very hard time determining what is both going to be popular and what is actually good. So they’ve hedged their bets in collusion with major labels and instead DECIDES what is disseminated based on factors that rarely have anything to do with the quality of the composition, often decided by a group of suited white men in a room trying to feel connected to youth somehow.

    All eras in music create a TON of crap, but great music too. The best stuff survives better and longer. Therefore, what most people refer to as no new music being good has a grain of truth to it. History hasn’t had time to weed out the weaker hits that won’t survive for generations or centuries…

    Then when you take in consideration the increased proliferation of “hits” being decided by a corporate board rooms where their motivation is profit and accessibility, not quality, and then spoon fed through the corporate owned radio stations and media outlets to the masses without room for much diversity or choices (because that cuts into potential profits) … One can see how many older fans may get jaded about everything new sucking; and perhaps having a reasonable standing for that assessment. That said, “everything new sucks” is ALWAYS an over generalization! Over generalizations are bad for music just like ethnicity.

    All that said, there is also greater access to non-signed musicians (like myself) to reach an audience efficiently and build a career connecting with fans making what I believe to be “good” music that many should “like.” I don’t try to please everyone, I try to make what I believe to be good music, and let the potential fans decide for themselves. That completely bucks the corporate model, but has its drawbacks as well.

    AND, even in the corporate arena, there examples of extraordinary music that somehow makes it through the filters so it can gain mass exposure. But we also need to acknowledge that the labels use a different model to maximize their profits (not the artists’) and they honestly don’t care what people do and don’t like beyond whether they can profit off of it in a large enough quantity. Some of the biggest bands in history would never have become the greatest bands in history if they signed a label deal today. The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, U2, INXS, The Pixies, Duke Ellington, Carlos Santana, Miles Davis, Little Richard, etc, didn’t have a big enough return coming out of the gates. Today, they would have been shelved and forgotten. So in that regard, you can also see where someone saying anything new sucks might be coming from.

    (Mind you, I use the terms “LIKE” and “GOOD” as NOT equal above! I agree with Duke Ellington’s assessment that there are two kinds of music, “Good” and “Bad.” I think of those as two ends of a spectrum, but it must be cross referenced with a second scale that is “Like” and “Hate.” Like and Hate is PURELY subjective, Good and Bad can be defined and quantified. For example, Poison’s “Nothing But A Good Time” is not a “GOOD” song for many reasons, from sociological content matter of defining self-satisfaction being the only relevant thing in life to somewhat poor execution of guitar solos, etc. That said, I take guilty please in that I “LIKE” the song, and it was fundamental in making me decide to become a musician when I was a greasy haired teenager fairly convinced I’d probably never date a girl. lol)

  • Sir Baby De Porky

    ” Those who don’t have a past , don’t have a future ” …

    Most modern music is truly garbage , because … besides that music doesn’t lie , most people have no appreciation for what was good in the past , will always be good , and are stuck into some technological gizmos rat race , always fallin ahead of themselves , antsy … and lost to some ego pipe dream …

    And most ” musicians ” just don’t have any talent whatsoever , and would be better off doing train modeling instead !!!

  • RyMic

    People fell in love with the music that they liked growing up and they don’t know how to handle the change. They wanted to hear more of the awesomeness that they heard years ago, but then people made music that sounded different instead.

    Like if a person is a big metal fan and their favorite band starts making Jazz. They’re going to say that band sucks and they used to make better stuff back in the day. When the entire genre changes its sound, people say the music isn’t as good as it was back then; as that is what they want to listen to.

  • El Zoro Camacho

    What is music?

  • El Zoro Camacho

    tough question my fellow musicians?

  • Roger Bourne

    It’s very hard to stay current. Those under 20 writing songs and listening to what’s out there don’t yet realize these are the influences that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. This is when we are at our most impressionable
    I’ve just done some research on 20 top songwriters who write for the big artists and they also struggle and have to ask their children what they like and why. We become distanced for a variety of reasons. There are so many musical styles, genres happening right now that are wonderful but most never get the attention they deserve because of the constant need labels/publishers/artists have to fit into that narrow slot called ‘pop’ music. Through time some of us grow away from pop music–it’s not what we want anymore-we’ve changed and developed in different directions and we can’t always see the merit of it–that doesn’t mean it’s no good, just that it’s evolving in ways we can’t apprehend. Songs are like a chandelier or a great painting or beautiful clothes. If the design is right they never date or go out of fashion. I still write on average 20 songs a year with minor success but I know none will ever grace the top 40 because they are not ‘current pop’ but they are however the songs I want to write and the ones I’m proud of and given me my own voice and that’s all any songwriter can ask.

  • Ill Soul

    Sorry but this holds true in Rap right now. There are only a handful of truly talented artist giving us music worthy to be called “music”. I don’t know about you other genres but in mine there isn’t much diversity going on.

  • Paul Britt Garcia

    I do not believe there is such a thing as “Bad Music”! Music is designed

    to stir the spirit and soul! (I can listen to music and think it is bad but if I listen to it repeatedly; I find it has riches hidden inside it!)

    That being said; there are horrible singers! (The worst that comes to mind is Yoko Ono’s moaning! lol!)

  • Emmanuel SILVA

    Its actually very interesting the fact that we are in a sort of transition of paradigmas ,even if you have not been paying attention, somehow i do understand when people talk about the old days, i do miss the musicality and realtime expression , the musicality the “real” musician feel. When people complain about new music is mostly because of that, to look a great guitar player doing his thing is something really engaging, think of jimmy page in led zepp.

    This generation after watching that failed to understand techno and machine feel, which is great too imao, but the musical structures and musicianship (realtime) playing is missing imao, and yes I do understand the complexes of turntable and secuencers etc, i ve been making all that shit for 18 years now.

    The fact that you can use computers to fake a lot opens the door for people to polute electronic music, there is. Alot of realtime artistry in upscale and avant garde electronic music and computer music but too often people tend to go for complexity of algorithm and over composition because is “smart” music, and also tent to be a bit full of cliche, like im so smart and great composer i can write a piece for a pen and a condom.

    Anyway what im saying is that real artistry should be present in the music of the future, music with the quality of the best jazz, rock performances or any other great style that leads to that musicianship, but wait do i want to keep listening to old ensambles? Guitar, bass etc horns trumpet etc? The same temperade scales over and over, same notes, same chords , same sounds, same cliche lyrics talking about the sun, the ocean, love and hate NO WAY!

    That is so overdone, no wonder why people dont give the value to music anymore, it feels that music styles and technology, composition and marketing, all this is showing very clear signs of a deep wear and tear!

    I hope in the future we could give value to musicianship hand to hamd to technology, and we will be talking about something new and exciting and perhaps we could talk more about musicians and bands and less about styles and tendencies.

    At least this is where im heading and puting all my efforts into it.

  • Rebecca Parks

    Bland, formulaic corporate music has always been around. When we listen to new music on the radio, we hear a lot of that. When we listen to older music, the fly-by-night fluff tends to be filtered out. I haven’t been impressed by most of what I’ve heard on the radio lately, but back in the 60s and 70s, I remember feeling the same way about a lot of bands whose music is no longer played very much. Good music stands the test of time.

  • That sounds like a great playlist. Thanks for sharing. And yes, no shame in a good beat. I actually cover a Katy Perry song with my band. It’s a great palette-cleanser after 45 minutes of originals.

    • justine

      Haha right? Been thinking a lot about covers – I think some performers (myself included at various points) stay away from covers altogether because they’re not “yours” – but sometimes people just want to hear a song they already know. Simple as that, it makes a connection. Palette-cleanser is a great description for that!

  • Amen to that.