“The Kardashian” Effect In The Music Business

March 30, 2015 5:32 pm

On November 10, 2014, I strolled down to The Fleece in Bristol eagerly awaiting to see the Swedish Rock group Blues Pills live in concert on their UK tour, with opening acts The Vintage Caravan and Black Wolf.

Upon arriving at the venue I came across an unnerving scene: 90% of the crowd in line were over 35; a great deal of which were in their middle age. It is somewhat disappointing to see that rock bands, despite being very young and consisting of young musicians, still have difficulty in connecting with the younger audiences.

Is it the music that no longer appeals to this generation?

I don’t think so.

Even though they might not listen to rock music as much as the current pop scene, it’s hard to find someone who does not enjoy the music of classic rock acts such as Queen, the Stones etc. The Indie and Alternative rock bands have difficulty in competing with the Rhiannas and Kanyes of the world, but are still quite successful and have a following of die hard fans.

Is the music industry and the spotifys that only cater for the generic pop acts of today that are to blame?


While certainly rock is not exactly in demand at the moment, many labels devote themselves purely to the style (such as independent label Nuclear Blast), and there are countless producers with exceptional talent, whether they’ve been in the business for years or are relatively new, that are working tirelessly to help these bands produce sounds of a high caliber. Their music is certainly around for the listeners. It’s all over Youtube, Spotify, iTunes and pretty much any website that shares files. Many have argued that this has killed the music industry. It certainly made record sales drop substantially, but if anything, it’s helped these rock acts get more attention. The early 2000s up to 2010 was definitely when rock found itself in its most dire state. In the past 4 or 5 years, more bands have been surfacing and more people have been introduced to them. Nowadays it is so easy to keep up with the world that any band can have its music available for the entire world to hear. Go to any video of these bands on Youtube and I guarantee you’ll read comments like ‘I’m so glad to have discovered this band’, ‘Did anyone else get here by clicking on “Recommended videos”?’ or ‘Such and such a thing brought me here’. This in turn generates more people sharing, and more people being exposed to it. At what other point in time would this be possible?

So the music is there, and people dig the sound. What’s the problem then?

It’s tough to say. Everyone has their theories. I certainly think the music industry and the Simon Cowells who run it are somewhat responsible. Nowadays the strategy is to find a pretty face and turn it into a star by releasing one or two singles as quickly as possible to make a quick buck. It doesn’t really matter if they can sing, that’s not really what’s important, there are devices that can fix that. If the single does well, that person’s 15 minutes of fame is then extended for another 15. If it does not reach the desired success, they’re disposed of and no one ever hears of them again.

The music industry has become solely based on image. Talent has become merely an accessory. And even if someone does have it, it’s distorted so it can only fit the standards of the record companies. Television shows like The X Factor and The Voice claim that they want to find ‘The New Thing’ and want someone ‘Different’, just so that they can in turn transform that person into the exact same thing as everything else. ‘Discernible qualities are dangerous and risky, we want more of the same’ – is what seems to be their mindset.

Is this attitude wrong?

Without question.

But in essence, this only happens because the public allows it; nay, demands it. If it didn’t work, the industry would change its strategy. But unfortunately it works, and brilliantly. It’s only getting worse. It’s getting harder and harder to build a career these days. An artist releases a single and is instantly under pressure to follow that with another hit immediately. If it does not replicate the exact success of its predecessor, chances are that artist is done.

In my opinion the public acts rather hypocritically. They can react coldly to an artist’s second attempt. ‘Meh, that was not special’ is what they’ll say, shortly before turning their attention to something exactly the same and saying ‘Why, what a fresh new song this is!’.

That’s when the song itself is actually the focus. Does anyone actually know the lyrics to Minaj’s “Anaconda”? I have not heard it play separately from its video. And that is indeed what generated the most attention, as is the case with many other songs today. At least half of a song’s glory is now determined by its music video.

dire straits

Forgive me for my old fashioned view, but that goes against everything music stands for. There’s nothing wrong with making a music video, but that should be the last thing people focus on. This trend began to take hold in the 80s, with pop stars dishing out thousands, even millions on videos; and the music itself was often secondary. A good example of a successful song and music video done right for me is Dire Straits’ ‘Money For Nothing’. The video is famous mostly for its abysmal effects by today’s standards, and MTV played it non stop. But it was Mark Knopfler’s epic riff and humors lyrics that made it successful and iconic. I’m sure it would’ve been just as big if the video didn’t feature those minecraft-like graphics in the video.

Certainly this mentality is largely responsible for rock being always put beneath the current pop icons. The public would rather focus on their bodies, or their private lives: who they were seen with at a club in Paris, if they said something idiotic on television or if they looked momentarily imperfect following a session at the gym. The music industry has become ‘The Kardashians’. Trivial matters get the most attention, and the most important element has zero substance or meaning.

Of course, this applies to the most popular artists today. As I said, there are plenty of artists who do what they do for their music and for their listeners and have built themselves a respectable career with loving fans. That’s not the problem. The problem is these are second to ‘The Kardashian’ pop artists. It’s troubling that they are the popular ones, getting all the attention and making the most money. If this mentality ensues, it’s not just rock that is in trouble.

Yet, the future looks a little brighter. Rock acts are getting more exposure, and are becoming more common and appreciated. Yes, perhaps most of the Blues Pills’ crowd in Bristol were of an older generation, but the most enthusiastic there were certainly the younger ones. The important thing is the new rock bands are getting more exposure and are still making very good music. All three bands last night put on a stellar performance. They are all tremendous musicians and showmen; I cannot recommend you to see these guys live enough.

If these new rock groups continue to do what they love and do it well, I believe rock will see stronger days ahead.

The flame still burns.

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