The Student Voice of MU Since 1955
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Column: The “follow your dreams” philosophy’s effect on the music industry

Can there be such a thing as too much music?

Feb. 3, 2014

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

Year 1950: Meet Todd McKid. Todd was eight years old and lived in suburban America. When he grew up, Todd wanted to be in a rock band. When Todd was 10, his dad told him there was no money in music, and he should go into engineering instead. Todd listened to his dad and found a new passion in engineering. Now, Todd makes $100,000 per year and lives comfortably in a gorgeous house with an even more gorgeous family.

Year 2014: Meet Tim McKid. Tim is eight years old and lives in suburban America. When he grows up, he wants to be in a rock band. When Todd is 10, his father will encourage him to follow his dreams, no matter how big. Tim will listen to his dad, drop out of school, and make several lackluster rock albums, none of which will garner him any money or attention due to the huge number of musicians doing the same thing. Tim will then work as an assistant manager at a local Chili’s, earning $20,000 per year and driving the same ’95 Volvo he did in high school.

The growing sense of post-modernist individualism that has slowly tightened its grip on modern Americans’ way of thought has yielded many spectacular results: new forms of art, the progression of human rights, a more diversified sense of culture, etc. As long as we feel that something is the right thing to do, then it’s the right thing to do.

However, this way of life has a substantial negative side, as exemplified by Todd and Tim. In the past, the general consensus was to sacrifice your dreams in order to make more money.

Many young people dream of more career-oriented work, such as engineering or teaching, and this column isn’t questioning them. They’re already on the right track. This column is questioning the ones pursuing an ‘artistic’ medium as a career.

Now, as our country has adapted to a more individualistic mindset, we are told to follow our dreams, no matter what the cost. And while it will inevitably work out for a few, many dream chasers will come up empty-handed.

Many of these dream chasers are musicians.

Though the music industry has always been challenging to break into, it may now be harder than ever. While you might get discovered, the chances of making a living through music are slim-to-none. Unfortunately, the industry is only lucrative for the best of the best, making the term “starving artist” more and more prevalent today.

The “follow your dreams” philosophy isn’t only affecting artists, though. With thousands of musicians putting out albums every day, it forces us to reanalyze the way we approach music.

A society with a “surplus of art” has never been seriously suggested before, but look at these numbers.

-There are 4,000,000 songs on Spotify that have never once been played.

-Of all the songs on iTunes in 2011, only 6% sold more than 100 copies.

Even with the huge number of music consumers in the world, there are simply too many tunes for us to pay attention to. As a result, millions of subpar songs plague the market, and they’re starting to bring down the overall quality and expectation of the music industry as a whole. It’s safe to say we officially have too much music.

In classic finger-pointing fashion, I’ve identified a problem but don’t have a solution. Maybe we need to change the way we think about how our individualism affects our career choices. Maybe the media needs to portray a more accurate depiction of what it means to be an artist, no longer exclusively showcasing the lifestyles of the most successful. Maybe we just need to have different dreams.

Whatever the solution might be, for the sake of the music industry and yourself, please don’t go the route of Tim McKid just because you can’t see yourself with a day job.

Share: Facebook / Twitter / Google+

Article comments

Jan. 20, 2015 at 3:37 p.m.

Andy: While I feel that your point may be misdirected, I do agree that there is the effect of too many people trying to 'make it' in the music industry. The problem, however, does not seem to be in the amount of music that is produced, as this is of little or no consequence to anyone but those who produce it. The problem seems to be more in the intention behind the creation of the music - to sell records in order to make a living (and potentially more). This is to say that it would seem much more desirable for musicians to compose (perhaps also perform, but this may be another discussion) in order to fulfill a desire to create something that moves and/or challenges themselves and the audience, or to create a certain ambiance, rather than because they have chosen to make a career of it. As such, it seems unhelpful to suggest that there is too much music, or even that much of it is 'sub par' (incidentally, having few or no listens on Spotify shows an absence of effective promotion rather than any indication of quality - how can something be judged if no-one has heard it?), but we can urge people to make music because it is what they like to do, and not with the primary intention of making a living from it.

Post a comment

Please provide a full name for all comments. We don't post obscene, offensive or pure hate speech.

Start a discussion

Concurrence or rebuttal, if you have a strong opinion, let's hear it. The Maneater Forum seeks to publish a diversity of opinions and foster meaningful decision. Readers are encouraged to actively contribute to and develop new discussions. Add to ours, or make your own point.

Send a letter Send a tweet