One of my side hobbies is reviewing music submissions for a college radio station. I get to pick through a pile of music, some well-known, some quite obscure and listen to it all.
The majority of it is terrible.
Yep. Most of it suffers from some lack of professionalism, vision, or just energy. And it’s not just my taste. I find “good” submissions by artists that I don’t like at all. You can see quality, even if you don’t like the music.
And it got me to thinking about the vast sea of music that’s out there. How much of it is adding value to the world of music or our daily lives?
Musicians and producers rarely stop to consider these things because “Well, of course we need more music. Music is life. Music is in my blood. Where would I be without it?”
And I’m right there with you. But the majority of the world doesn’t feel that way. For many people, music is a wallpaper background to life, ever present, but rarely focused on. They don’t expect music to change their lives and they’re likely to follow trends in music, listening to what the masses choose. And then there are people who are completely indifferent to music. Scares me just to think about it.
Is music adding value to their lives?
This is a tough question. And it’s not one I think we can answer. The implications are mostly out of our control. But what we can control is our own efforts.
Are you adding value for listeners with the music you make? With your production?
To me, adding value means delivering a “product” that they customers can’t get anywhere else. But it’s something that they can relate to. Something that resonates with someone other than just the artist who wrote the song.
With production, are your efforts adding value to a song? If you’re throwing every trick at it, trying to make the most dazzling record, then you’re probably not adding value. But if you listen to the song before you mix and you wonder what you can do to make it better, then you might be adding value. If you’re showing the artist’s vision in a way they didn’t expect, you’re adding value.
And are you adding value to your own life by doing any of this? If it’s a chore that brings no joy to your life, then you’re draining value from yourself.
There is so much music out there that doesn’t do much more than distract us for 20 seconds. But there is a dearth of new music that really adds a dimension to our lives. Adding value to and with music isn’t something that can be taught. It requires that we listen to our work and ask “Does the world need this?” This one question can guide you to better choices and better records.
Here’s a quote from Boom Merchant, an Irish DJ, that really encapsulates my thoughts on the matter:
We’ve created a culture of disposable music, and most of it sounds the same. I want to make music that is unique and timeless. I think if we all slowed down and put a bit more emphasis on quality rather than on quantity, the music would be better for everyone.
What about you? How are you making music that is adding to listeners lives?