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Art Has Been Replaced by “Content” and Music Is Merely A “Product”

In order to bring more creative beauty and uniqueness into our world, we must stop being lazy consumers of culture, writes Will Witt, Editor in Chief of The Florida Standard.

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With streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music in conjunction with Instagram reels and TikTok viral videos, the music industry – as well as artistry overall – is in a state of decay.

A new artist or musician, to get their song used as a sound on TikTok or to appear in one of Spotify’s curated playlists, must create inoffensive music, usually based in a simple four chord structure with some sort of catchiness within the first 30 seconds to hook the listener.

They turn knobs, they sample, they take what others have done and do the same. They write easy to understand lyrics with the largest mass appeal possible, and they cross their fingers that what they made is good enough to appear where people can hear it. It is soulless, unpassionate, and derivative.

In The Smiths’ 1987 hit Panic, Morrissey sings:

Burn down the disco

Hang the blessed DJ

Because the music that they constantly play

It says nothing to me about my life

It is a very Morrissey thing to say in his classic tongue-in-cheek style of songwriting. But I wonder what Morrissey would write if The Smiths were a band of today, not of the 1980’s? Would a song like Panic even get featured online? It is hard to say, and in all of this it is hard to blame the artists of today for the decrepit music world we live in.

Streaming services do not like art. They like content. TikTok does not like art. It likes virality. Plain and boring and blatantly catchy songs make money, so an up and coming musician – to get known and seen or make a living – must adhere to these standards.

Gone are the days of having to work your way up, performing at live shows, connecting with a small audience and dropping a demo to get noticed with some unique or beautiful talent. Now, anyone with a computer can make some nonsense dance pop song or EDM hit in a matter of seconds by mashing their keyboard in their room.

The music of 2023 is nothing but a business where the only goal is to make money. Artists who strive for more, who are experimental, who do not want to adhere to the cultural standards of what music today is supposed to be, are ostracized from the mainstream. Where once you had an Astral Weeks by Van Morrison, or a Shine On You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd able to achieve success despite its strangeness and structure because of truly how beautiful it was, you now have “content” and a “product” at the top of mind of every artist and streaming executive.

Unfortunately, much of this is consumer driven, and the masses are content with mediocrity in not just music, but movies, art, television, architecture – really any medium that used to require innovation to be adored. Now, innovation and beauty is admonished, and those who stick with the status quo are rewarded for their simpleness and safety. It is depressing, even more so because there are great artists out there, but our society today is in such a state that their flourishing is almost impossible.

If we want the trends of ugliness and stagnation in music and art to change from not just content but back to creative beauty, we as the consumer must become wiser. We must not settle for what has been given to us. We must demand more from art and not be content with the easy creations we have been presented with. And we must put the objective goodness of the art we are consuming above the ease at which we can procure it.