I was scrolling down my Twitter timeline a few days ago and clicked a link posted by one of my favorite music blogs. This blog happened to be called Dance Rebels and they had just posted a new song by an up-and-coming artist. While I enjoyed reading the bio about this new artist and listened to the song, I could not help but think how so much of the most popular music we listen to today is so repetitive in style. In today’s society where almost anyone has the ability to bring a recording studio into their own home and create music, I believe artists have become infatuated with copying other people’s patterns and styles. The science, phycology, and music theory behind this issue is truly fascinating, but rather than talk about this, I decided to research the role blogs and social media have had in what I think is a downtrend of creativity.
Unpacking this issue was a long process and I decided to focus in on Dance and Pop music specifically. These two genres holds many of music’s biggest artists right now such as Calvin Harris, The Chainsmokers and the world famous Justin Bieber.
As we all know artists all aspire to be people of this caliber and would kill to have their music played even 1/100th of the times these celebrities get played (Justin Bieber’s top 5 Spotify songs total to roughly 2.5 billion plays). Logically, these aspiring artists look and see how the top performers in music are leveraging so much publicity and so many song plays.
Enter blogs, the newest way for music listeners to hear about new songs and get to know their favorite artists deeper. Blogs have taken much of the dirty work out of finding new good music, and listeners appreciate this in their busy everyday lives. Artists recognize this as well, and this why artists now are targeting blogs with similar sounding music to those celebrities that blogs have posted about or frequently promote. As if this rush for promotion via blogs did not incentivize artists enough, Hype Machine, now one of the most beloved listener websites has added to this too.
Hype Machine is one of the newest and currently updated charts in music right now, and this is because of their special blog algorithm. This algorithm tracks when verified blogs post about a new song and an artist. When a song and artist reach a certain amount of posts they are entered into the charts and continue to climb with Hype Machine user popularity and more blog posts. Despite the frequent turnover on a daily and weekly basis, songs at the top of the Hype Machine charts tend to receive anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of plays, and these plays through Hype Machine are counted directly on artists Soundcloud profile. After seeing Justin Biebers’s account, some people may not be impressed with these play numbers, but these people should not forget the amount of plays these songs get directly from the tens of thousands blog followers and from the social media accounts these blogs run. A prime example of these socials is Dance Rebels’ Twitter account, which has 23 thousand followers.
There is no doubt that all the publicity blogs control has created incentive for artists to target them, but the question going forward is this a blog and social media cycle that can create a downfall of musical creativity. One of my favorite blogs, EDMprod did a study on the Beatport Top 100, which is essentially the iTunes Chart of Dance music. Not to my surprise, in this study Sam Matla found that out of the Top 100 songs, 72 of them fell within only 5 structural categories.
Overall, I think these findings and this trend is worrisome. The listeners trust the blogs, the new artists needs the blogs to gain a following and popularity, and social media tools and charts like Hype Machine, have created even more incentive for blogs to post and gain more followers. As the music becomes more and more social media driven this is a cycle that could trap artists into recreating popular sounds just to get picked up by blogs and us as listeners may fall victim.