Friday, December 02, 2005

Talking About Music's Future

There were a pair of interesting programs on public radio this week discussing the future of music. The first one was on Monday on WNYC's show Soundcheck and the other one was the next day on NPR's All Things Considered.

The segment on Soundcheck dealt with Eliott Spitzer's investigation into the payola that radio stations receive to play certain bands and what impact will the investigation have on future music. The feature on NPR basically told the story that we all know by now of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and their success resulting from being hyped in the blogosphere. The 7-minute piece used the story to shed light on the impact that the internet is having on the direction of music. While neither story mentioned the concept of the other story, I think the two pieces make good companions (albeit from opposite ends of the music business).

The fact of the matter is that activities such as payola makes it impossible for independent label artists to get radio airplay. Therefore, they need to find another avenue to gain that attention and the internet has become that avenue.

However, one of the guests on Soundcheck made an interesting point. He said that if radio stations were not receiving payola, they would still be playing crappy music. His cynical point was that radio stations cater to the masses and the masses want crappy music. If that is the case, then the internet isn't going to change the music industry. It's simply going to do what it's currently doing...being an outlet for people who's tastes aren't served by the radio.

Perhaps, rather than the internet impacting the way the music industry operates, the internet will just inherit problems like payola. With the success of Arcade Fire and Clap Your Hands, how long will it be before someone offers Pitchfork money for a positive review or Stereogum for a few posts stretched over a month. We are in the neophyte days of the mp3 blogosphere but as it grows, we may import the problems of the radio industry rather than export our meritocracy.


-jace said...

the guy from Slate on Soundcheck really peaved me, but I can't really say why. I thought his arguments sucked and his analogy of payola being akin to publishers paying for shelf space at a Barnes and Nobles was so shortsided...ugh. The other guy from whatever artists' assc was pretty spot on though.

Flatlander said...

jace, I kind of agree with you. The guy from Slate was a downer. Even his comment about radio stations playing crappy music whether they are getting payola or not was very cynical; even though I thought it was kind of interesting.

The point that the other guy made that I thought was keen was the one refuting the point about payola being no different that publishers paying B&N for prime placements of their books. His point was that payola is worse becasue the airwaves belong to the public and radio stations are only allowed to use them because we let them. Therefore, we, as the public, get a say in how they conduct their business.