Quora: The Quality of Popular Music

Original question: How do the record executives decide what music is in demand? Do they give the public what they are wanting, or just play certain music and then say that it is what people want?

My Answer:

That’s a good question!

I think it would be pure speculation, whether they tried to guess what the public is wanting, or not. Your assertion they play music “then say that it is what people want” makes me chuckle.

I spent 25-years in radio. During my career, radio would make or break a song. It’s still important, and what I’ll tell you here is still valid.

The bottom line is, these three truths: There are great bands out there you’ll never hear about; there are mediocre-in-every-way artists who are pushed by labels and agencies who you’d THINK were the best just because they’re being played and promoted everywhere … and third, in order to compete you need the labels and agencies. Whoever has their support will usually become a household name; but more importantly, whoever doesn’t … won’t.

This leaves hundreds, maybe thousands of worthwhile acts that never mature, but have even more potential than some high-paid bigwigs. Bands that never saw the planets align, which is how rare it is to be spotted by an A&R person and embraced by hitmakers! That’s what they do. Make hits and stars! It’s like a machine.

Case in point: Ariana Grande

Ariana isn’t yet 30, and Wikipedia says she’s received “numerous accolades throughout her career, including two Grammy Awards, one Brit Award, one Bambi Award, two Billboard Music Awards, three American Music Awards, nine MTV Video Music Awards, and 30 Guinness World Records.

This is a woman who has some talent. She scuttled an age-old debate over who was the better singer, Whitney or Mariah, by swooning, belting and gracefully manhandling every song that came her way, the former two queen divas left in her dust while Grande made boasting with your body in skintight catsuits a normal, frequent occurrence on national television. Wiki says Grande’s first album “drew immediate comparisons to Mariah Carey.”

She started when she was fifteen, colluded with Disney, found her way, and worked hard. This is a case where record executives are telling us what’s good, and they have some collateral. Look at Carey herself, originally singing gospel in churches, and people like Michael Jackson or Taylor Swift. Their careers simply spun them in the right direction, but the momentum didn’t rally up all by itself; they all cared deeply and worked righteously beginning at young ages.

Case in point: Then there’s the purely manufactured stars. I’ll use John Legend as an example. Katy Perry also qualifies, and to some degree even Britney. These are artists who have plenty of mojo and talent on their own, but to achieve their greatnesses, they need the industry foods; some need the push that comes from big money marketing, some need the big sound systems and backup dancers to perform songs written by professional (not original) composers.

John Legend? That’s his stage name.

Maybe he should be called silver spoon man.

Ask yourself honestly, would you care about this musician if he weren’t already on TV?  “Legend” is exactly the fish in your bucket, when you ask if the industry takes mediocrity and boils it until it turns a fleshy, shiny bright red, then wags it in your face unsolicited in all its 65-inch, 4K glory.  I’d refresh memories of who he is (for the non-die-hard-fans out here) but I don’t want to tarnish my post with such a really, truly boring-looking image.

What’s Legend’s claim to fame, other than his being in the right place for someone to snatch him up and put him on stage? His politics, of course.  IHeart Radio did an article, placing Legend on the same “influential black musicians” list as Alicia Keys, Bob Marley, Chaka Khan, Jimi Hendrix and Nat King Cole, describing Legend thus: “His Oscar-winning song, ‘Glory,’ couldn’t be more relevant in today’s world, and he is often one to speak out on racial injustice in this country.”

John Legend doesn’t belong on the list. He is an example of what the industry can do through “perceived popular opinion.” Just like in high school, they take advantage of the attractive powers of “everybody else likes it!” And we all fall for it!

Hope this helps! Keep looking for the good quality!

Original question: How do the record executives decide what music is in demand? Do they give the public what they are wanting, or just play certain music and then say that it is what people want?


Mark Urso

One Reply to “Quora: The Quality of Popular Music”

  1. popular has 0 to do with what the collective might want or quality. has everything to do with meeting the (mind control) programming standards and it can only be produced/delivered by approved cult slaves/programmers/handlers. same with news. same with movies/tv. same with education/indoctrination. same with history. same with poli tics.

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