Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Musicnomics Part II: Decline and Fall"

I'm not sure where this came from and think I owe someone a hat tip. If it was you, drop us a line and we'll do the right thing.
From Swift Economics:

So a while back I wrote an article about the wacky world of music where talent is ignored in favor of prepackaged, overproduced tweenie heart throbs and beauty queens who have little discernible talent other than a voice that would typically rank around 7 to 8 on a scale from 1 to 10. I have a friend who’s in a very good band called The Hoons. Quite a few have commented that they should be famous or that they will soon become famous… You know, when people realize they’re really good. Unfortunately, since being good is not a qualifier for musical fame, I would hesitate to make such predictions.

The problem is this; people really like music and thereby many will dedicate themselves to it even if the odds of financial windfall are small. Who wouldn’t rather be a musician than say, an insurance salesmen? Thus, there are a lot of really talented musicians and bands out there and they get lost in a sea of other music. The market is over saturated. Whereas there is probably plenty of room for improvement regarding the talent of insurance salesmen.  This may have not been the case in the past as much, but it certainly is now. People can only keep so many bands in their heads at any given time. Dunbar’s number dictates human beings can only conceptualize something like 150 people as friends or acquaintances of note. Everyone else is a number. I suspect our tolerance for musicians and bands is substantially smaller.

Record companies know this, so they’re not really selling music, they’re selling a brand. Why do you think every movie that comes out today is a remake/reboot/reimagining/sequel/spinoff/prequel or adaption of a TV show, video game or at least a book (which seems to be becoming more and more rare). The established brand helps guarantee that the $100 million or so the studio dumps into filming our 2 hours of escapism will come to the top of the enormous mound of garbage begging for our attention (and money). And so it goes with music, just make a smaller investment up front and try to sell a charismatic and attractive “musician” who can technically sing and maybe dance a little. Then sell them songs written by someone else (or something else) that have been scientifically tested to be as catchy (and empty) as possible. While the songs are often overproduced, they are also simple, with very few and very predictable chord changes. This makes them easy to dance to, sing along with and get caught in the head. Throw all that together with said “artist” and boom, a famous musician is born… or probably more accurately designed, tested, manufactured and marketed....MORE
Possibly related:
Hallelujah!: How Handel Orchestrated a Classic Financial Portfolio