The way most people think about music was made clear to me when I heard an interview about Hallelujah by Lenard Cohen and what it meant to different people so I started asking people whom I know liked the song what they thought. “I never thought about it.” was the most common answer. The most used and abused song of the last century and most people don’t care enough to even wonder what it’s about. I realize that music is an Audio-Emotional Pill for most people now, a facilitator to the mood they want to be in and anything that might change desired mood, like knowledge of a song’s meanings, is potentially bad and therefore avoided. I blame capitalism.
A friend was complaining that a band was putting out EPs of 4 or 5 songs instead of albums and he had finally downloaded enough EPs to be worth the time to listen to. Let’s break that down to a non-infuriating level. Which will actually still be a little infuriating.
In capitalism the market sets the price. Let’s say you make chairs, the materials and time you put in can give you a baseline for a price but if the market has an average price for chairs already then you got to be there or it’s going to hurt you. Because under capitalism the buyer has the power, you need a chair you go shopping for something that fulfills your need to sit – at a price you want to pay, usually meaning as little as possible. So let’s say the baseline for your chairs is now zero. People are accustomed to getting their audio-emotional pills for nothing, they consider that normal. And in capitalism people are accustomed to mentioning problems and the market jumping to be more accommodating. That is why people who pay nothing for something an artist has worked diligently at for years feel entitled to bitch about it. I blame capitalism.
The sad thing is capitalism is also ruining music for the listeners as well. There was a study done with wine that showed if you give someone a $20 bottle of wine and tell them it cost $10, they don’t much care for it. That exact same bottle and tell them it cost $90? You guessed it, everyone in the study rated it as amazing. Capitalist perception of quality is tied to the money you put in. So all those people listening to all that free music are unconsciously thinking it’s worthless from the start. Story-from-my-own-life-time: Often I’ve bought an album, not liked it on first listen but gave a few more listens because it cost me $16.99 and I’d hate to feel that money was wasted just to wind up years later realizing I love the album (looking at you, Billy Corgan’s TheFutureEmbrace). Whereas a few times bands I’ve loved have streamed their new records for free and left me unimpressed at first listen and I’ve never considered giving them another try. So like a member of the opposite sex who puts out way too easy, we can all wind up disdainful of music we might otherwise enjoy.
As a closing addendum let’s talk about paying cover at shows. Someone who’s used to getting into a bar for free now paying an infinite mark up of 10 bucks is outrageous. The market value was nothing and now they’re buying something they used to get for free. The thing is, oh capitalist, you’re not buying a chair when you pay cover, you’re contributing to a larger thing. Like kicking in for a case of beer and drinking with your friends. You haven’t purchased a night of fun that has to meet your expectations you’ve pulled your weight in a collective experience that may or may not supersede your expectations. Take a risk capitalists, try having fun without worrying if your percent of the market share is larger than everyone else’s.