How the consumer has helped to devalue artistry

Vanessa Adams is an advertising student at Humber and music enthusiast.

To say that I am a music fan is an understatement; music is the soundtrack to my life. For many songs and albums before 2005 there are specific memories that are associated with them which triggers “the feels” when I hear certain records. This is during a time when creating an album that was a classic was taken seriously by not only the artist creating but the listeners who were anxious to hear the album. With the introduction of Napster during the early 2000s it gave all of us a choice of picking and choosing what songs us as consumers wanted to hear from our favourite artists as opposed to buying their whole album. For casual music listeners and enthusiasts not only did it set precedence on how we retain music, the music was all FREE (even if they were pirated)!

Now fast forward to the late 2000s; the way music is listened to has changed many of the artists breakout today. They have more access to get their music out there to listeners at a faster rate that reaches more people. With the inception of music and visual social sites such as Soundcloud & YouTube, it has put the power back into their hands where they can either release their whole album for free, have it streamed or put it up on iTunes; the possibilities are endless. So for somebody who is reading this will probably ask, “what is the problem then if there are no restrictions when it comes to artistic freedom for musicians?” The problem lies with the listeners and consumers, period. The reason being that this generation of music listeners have the shortest attention spans due to being able to have everything at our finger tips at the press of button and that extends to music.

Lately, the art of music mirrors the ways of fast fashion. Many of times with newer artists I have seen them come out with more than two bodies of work (that can range anywhere from two major album releases, a free album, and 2 EPs), is not only over excessive, it shouldn’t have to be necessary. With many artists today I have seen (especially in the realm of urban music) there is a need to always stay relevant. Artists don’t want to lose their fans hence the enormous amounts of music within a year from just one artist. If that is the thinking of one artist multiply that by infinity and there is a lot of music flying around and a good amount of it is mediocre. And if an artist is coming out with such a large amount of music within a short period of time whereas back in the 90s how can they create a classic album?

Well the idea of the classic album no longer exists due to us as listeners and here are some of the reasons why:

  • The online presence of artists:
    • With social media sites such as Periscope, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram to name a few, many of our favourite artists are on at least one of these sites. Therefore for many of us they seem more tangible as opposed to this mystique of them being a star or someone who is out of far reach. There is access to seeing their lives and thoughts on a daily basis making the artist and fan relationship very close which is something that has never really happened before until the internet and social media
  • Listening to music communally:
    • I think this the largest issue if not one of when it comes to what is deemed a classic album because when music is released we are listening to it together. This is especially seen on Twitter an example of this is when the Drake & Future collaboration album ‘What a Time to be Alive’. The album dropped at 6:00pm and by 6:30pm everyone listening had already deemed one of the tracks a hit. The album itself is about 40 to 45 mins -___-. I’m just going to leave that thought there to simmer for my readers.
  • Premature opinions:
    • ‘THIS IS ALBUM OF THE YEAR’ ‘THIS IS A CLASSIC’ I see this line and it’s only been a week since the body of work was released. I hate seeing it so much because in order for anything to be deemed a classic it needs to have the ability to stand the test of time. Which means listening to it for a week on and off just does not cut it. And if we are being extremely frank after that week is over most listeners will forget about it and it will serve as background music during a commute to work, school, etc. Which will then lead listeners to do this next bullet point:
  • ‘When are we getting a new _________?’
    • If I had a nickel for every time I have seen that question on artist’s fan page, tweeted at them, or as a comment under a picture that has nothing to do with music I would be able to pay my tuition at a Humber without the pain I feel in my stomach. This notion of entitlement when I see people ask, ‘when are we getting the new record, new single, new EP, new track where you’re breathing (okay maybe that was excessive) is aggravating to me. It doesn’t matter how music that is put out us as listeners we are never satisfied. If people get very antsy over just a new single how much more an album.

In my humble opinion there will never be a classic album at the rate we are going because of the demands of fans when it comes to their always wanting to be a constant flow of music as well as the duty artists feels to keep creating at an accelerated rate. I honestly think its impossible to create a body of work without actually spending a great deal of time not only working to perfect it but living life as well to provide as the inspiration to create quality music that will stand time and the relevancy of the album over time won’t erode. To close this (because I do feel like I’m rambling), my mother use to always say this, ‘music changed as soon as they introduced the fast forward and rewind button’. For once I think the crazy lady might be right.

Do you think that there will ever be a classic album in this era of music? 

Has the microwave culture of music consumption destroyed the idea of the classic album?


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