People should be freely allowed to purchase whatever kind of music they wish. This is a truth I’ve come to accept. Having worked in a record store, the pain of watching consumers pick out Michael Buble before Sinatra, Billie Holliday, Nat King Cole or Aretha Franklin gouged a hole in my head, but you can’t resent a person for preferring one of two items both freely available.
I am always faced with the legitimacy of imposing restrictions on the individual on the grounds that their actions represent harm to others. The question is always the degree of harm versus the restriction of free will. (E.g. I lament the defence of reprehensibly produced music but because it doesn’t harm anyone it cannot be restricted.)
However, in this case the harm is not the product but the effect (or non-effect) of that product on listeners, and this product can only be affected by altering the process by which the music is made. My argument is based on a desire to see some of the uglier hypocrisies in the music industry ironed out, regardless of the artists who embody them from decade to decade, and by doing so enable the medium of radio to act as a passive educational facilitator.
This can be achieved via a twofold process.
Any music released by an artist should be their own work and not the work of ghostwriters.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, worldwide outrage followed the revelation that the girl singing during the opening ceremony was miming over vocals provided by an overweight, pock-faced girl hidden beneath the arena floor.
Apply this outrage to the music industry at large and demand a system of honest credit. If the musician is naturally saleable, so be it, but if not let their music’s merit be what determines their success. Many a musician without immediate charisma has risen to superstardom. Plagiarism is exposed and shamed in academic circles because it represents a very base deception; why not celebrity circles too?
Music broadcasters should be required to fill quotas.
I’ve worked in businesses that have a radio going in the background all day every day. The grounds on which the radio station is chosen are those of palatability. In almost all cases this means your biggest local pop music broadcaster is it. Within a week you know every one of the songs they have on repeat. No effort has gone into finding this music. It’s come straight from record labels to radio stations the world over. Radio stations are the arse end of a business.
The music that led to those songs deserves a 50% share of airtime. Listeners credit popular musicians with inventing, creating and innovating, without an understanding of the great innovators who preceded them. Broadcasters are capable of acting as a passive educator. For every genre there is a succession of influence, thought and inspiration.
For instance, interweaving Kings of Leon with Pink Floyd, The Doors or Jefferson Airplane—every one of them palatable and directly responsible for the sounds you hear today. Likewise, artists such as Drake, B.o.B. and Kanye West should be flanked by N.W.A., Grandmaster Flash and Public Enemy, and before that Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus, Al Green and Fats Domino.
Advocating a frame of reference, the same for music as for history, science or literature, is a worthy undertaking. If artists write their own music and people like it then there’s no reason I can think of to cease producing or distributing it. However, the people who inspired those musicians should be given their place in the mental repertoire of listeners.