Question of the Week: What’s the worst or most disturbing trend in modern music?
Local Spins’ Question of the Week (April 27, 2023)
What’s the worst or most disturbing trend in modern music?
The winner in last week’s drawing of email subscribers who responded to our question of the week was reader Chris Carr. To be placed in a drawing for a Local Spins gift pack, sign up for email updates and the weekly newsletter here: https://localspins.com/subscribe-local-spins-mailing-list/
THE READER RESPONSES:
Alex Austin – All three trends mentioned – Auto-Tune, AI, backing tracks at live shows – have been very concerning for me at various points. AI is probably my biggest concern right now though. I found that Weeknd-Drake song debacle really unsettling when I hear about it. I will say that backing tracks at a show are less of an issue for me now, provided they are not for the singers or any key players. As backing loops are string parts, I can live with them. I prefer live musicians though.
Kurt Ehinger – All of those – and STANDING for the whole damn concert. Me in a wheelchair looking at butts.
Michael Packer – Don’t get me started on that. Stand to clap, but when the band’s playing, sit & pay attention, I’m assuming those people don’t appreciate the music at all. You got me started! It’s the reason I no longer go to concerts.
Ryan Birtles – Autotune, beat quantization.
Robert Biggie G Gill – All of those, but AI is the scariest.
Greg Miller – Homogenization, and lack of melody.
Chris Carr – I do lament the lack of actual interpersonal interactions between a group of musicians.
Lance Hendrickson – I think it’s bars not paying musicians spit. Maybe it’s not a recent trend, but gone are the days when musicians could make a living (albeit not a great one) touring locally.
Tom Slendebroek – I’m not an expert but if a band wanted to make money, have their anyone/ manager at the door and collect $5 a person. That way the band plays for the dDoor and the bar gets the drink money.
Wile Preston – I don’t know, I’m at the age where I don’t feel relevant criticizing the 20-something generation; the age point in the recorded music era where paradigms are created from new sounds, concepts and aesthetics but, I hope they are connected to an authentic source. Only the future can truly sort that out though.
Stephen Aldrich – Let’s go Boomers, bring it!
James Wolf – None of those are the biggest problem. Nothing about music itself is ever a problem. The problem is, and always has been, the monetization of music and art. We wouldn’t be making things more perfect for consumption if it weren’t for trying to make money off of it.
Justin Stover – EDM fans who clearly don’t know how to do drugs properly. This one is more personal, but EVERY time I attend a show at Frederik Meijer Gardens, I always end up sitting next to that one dumbo in short shorts who stands up and tries to get people riled up when all of us would obviously rather be spiritless and remain seated. The experience of having my head next to his bare thighs is the only thing I can think of that’s worse than reading AI lyrics.
Larry Zoppa – Justin Stover: May I remind you you are at a concert and not at the local library.
Mark Lavengood – Justin Stover: Ddude – my bad man. It’s so hard to contain myself sometimes.
Lee Chase – Songwriting sometimes seems to have taken a turn for the bland, though admittedly I’m only exposed to a small sample of it. Autotune is cringeworthy and I’d like to see rock ‘n’ roll get more political (again). Yeah, I’m old.
Dean Madonia – Tracks.
Jakey Thomas – Needing to constantly create content designed to please an algorithm to stay relevant.
David Garland – I think Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree hit it on the head in 2002 with this track: “The Sound of Muzak – Remastered.”
Bradley Raffenaud – Most disturbing trend for modern music is people complaining. Freedom of choice people … go or don’t go, listen or don’t listen … but stop filling the room with complaints. Don’t we get enough of that everywhere else? Music is expression. Why does it need to be done only within your parameters? But it’s been the trend since the beginning of modern music … go ask Elvis.
Sam Granger – My generation was dealt a hat trick of problems with 1. Streaming music, 2. Social media, 3. YouTube. 1. The analog form of an album encouraged sustained listening: from beginning to end, even the songs you’d don’t like (but will later come to like). But when everything is chopped up and shuffled, turned into a continuous blur of background music, people are trained to not listen for distinctions or be moved by music. Instead constantly streaming music is an anesthetic for the anxieties of life, meant to numb you with low-grade, controlled stimulation, so you can *get through* whatever boring activity you find yourself in: this study session, this coffee shop or bar, this restaurant meal, this party, this drive, etc. People would have fuller lives and more musical lives if they could just sit with themselves for a half hour without any stimulation.
2. Social media is terrible because it makes musicians performative rather than making them performers. There was an air of mystery when an artist would hit the stage in the past. They rolled into town from God knows where. Maybe you saw them once two years ago, but now their look was different. You had no idea what kind of practicing, soul searching, or transformation they went through before getting up there. Often strangers would knock your socks off. But now I know too much: I know their guitars and pedalboards, I see little clips from practice sessions, I know their political opinions, I’ve read dozens of diatribes and confessions from them (which were trivialized by the cat memes and clickbait posts above and below), I even know what they had for lunch. What’s worse, these are not rare, BTS sneak peeks, like we may have enjoyed stumbling upon in the past. No, they’re incessantly given to us on social media, because our local musicians have to compete with the torrent of background noise that we’re also streaming. Forget their music, that’s easy—they need to focus on their content: should they use a particular hashtag, change their frame to what’s relevant, make a post that lets people know they’re tuned in and they’re listening to what’s going on? In the worst cases (which are unfortunately common), social media just amplifies a narcissism all performers are tempted by (and which social media use increasingly encourages). Some people get up on stage and I can’t remember a melody or a lyric from their set, but I remember it sure sounded like they like being on stage. They couldn’t wait to post about it.
3. YouTube is a problem, because musicians tend to think they’re learning by using it. But really often wasting time. Videos comparing pedals, guitars, amps, or other gear. Musical breakdowns on tunes they never listened to, nor care about. Interviews with musicians. The best performances of any person or style is always just one search away. It’s definitely a helpful resource: but it’s hard to constructively employ it a couple times in the afternoon, while multitasking with dinner or cleaning, and certainly not late at night in bed between news clips, podcast clips, doomscrolling, fail videos, etc. It’s just too much information, that people do not even have the patience or attention to properly enjoy the good stuff. So instead it just becomes another stream feeding the torrent in the first two points.
In the end, autotune and AI are unnecessary, we’ve already done the work for them. As everyone has already been groomed by their algorithms to follow the same program, we don’t need something to turn us into orderly, obedient, robot muzzak. We did it to ourselves first. Good luck finding the raucous, almost out-of-tune, vulnerable, graceful and gritty human music that we used to have. That’s the music you hear prowling around in your soul when you’re quiet. Many of us heard it and we got scared and put on our headphones hoping to drown it out. But if we can’t sit with ourselves in silence, we don’t deserve to make music.
Bradley Raffenaud – Sam Granger: MTV which led to YouTube excelled the commercial market for music. MySpace excelled networking for musicians. Depending on what side of the stage or sales counter you are on, both had advantages and disadvantages. It’s a wash.
Jen Sygit – Sam Granger: If I could like this a million times I would. Spot on.
Kyle Brown – The full-length album is dying. Singles and Instagram/Tik Tok reels are winning out . Music isn’t meant to be disposable, it pressures the artists to continually push out mediocre product since it will often be viewed and forgotten about in days or weeks. Listeners are bombarded with constant content, but the content isn’t given the time and thought that recordings were given pre-social media. So now the creator is overwhelmed by the expectation to constantly create and the listener is desensitized by fast food music and art. Everyone loses.
Justin Stover – More serious one: I still think Spotify is horrible. I love their layout and social streaming, and the playlists are oddly accurate. Their micro royalty model for artists is atrocious. Everyone brags about the playlists they have but the ones with the logo essentially are made to funnel more money to Spotify. Their CEO is a rotten human. People pick on AI (and I hate that they write lyrics and whole songs) but they do have some capabilities that could challenge Spotify. It would be cool to have a more third party AI that scours your data and provides songs from a mix of sources, including Bandcamp and actual record stores .
David Kirchgessner Consolidation of the industry into the hands of a few corporations. It is especially acute when it comes to ticketing, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When you have one or two players who control the venues, promoters, ticketing, management etc, it becomes a major problem and crushes artists, fans, independent promoters etc etc. Do we need anti-trust litigation/legislation? When do we need it? Yesterday!
Julio Gómez – I miss when MTV was good
Mark Jilbert – Electronic ‘perfecting’ of things. From excessive use of Auto-Tune to quantizing a drum track erasing the player’s feel, groove and energy.
AJ Dunning – Mark Jilbert: Exactly. There’s a reason those old mistake-ridden Kinks records are so great.
Jeff Shoup – Lack of melody and harmony.
Harry Oman – Tribute bands.
Karl Schantz – They seem to be multiplying.
John Wenger – A disturbing trend in live music is a lack of good sound engineers and quality sound equipment.
Emilee Petersmark – The monopoly of entertainment companies that sell tickets at inflated prices to skim profit
Kevin Fein – This, plus that same company essentially owning all large venues and radio stations.
John Harvey – Electronic meddling with singers’ voices. If your voice isn’t in the proper key or doesn’t sound right in the raw, no amount of electronic frosting is gonna make the cake taste better.
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