Blogging the Downfall of Musical Creativity?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

5 comments

  1. Austin Ellis · ·

    Great post Mike, really appreciate the music topic! I think you are right, it really can be worrying how similar modern music can sound, and how the same artists get all the attention. I have never really used music blogs to find new music, but when artists are looking to fit a standard the results are never good for creativity. I am still a huge fan of Soundcloud, I think it exemplifies the simplicity Clay Shirky spoke about; that technology only matters up to a certain point. Soundcloud offers anyone to publish and share their music, and for people to like a comment and build a following. Sure, certain accounts gain bigger followings by reposting songs into a playlist, but I hear far more small producers than big DJs on there. Music is a great topic in regards to social media, so I hope its one you stick with, and I’ll probably write a little on it too. Do you think the bigger pressure for artists is from blogs or still from radio stations? I don’t listen to any local radio, only Pete Tong’s show on BBC1 every Friday.

  2. There’s an interesting critique of social media that we used to read in this class (by a guy named Jaron Lanier) that used to make a simlar argument. It was that with all the social media interactions and analytics, it actually led to less true creativity, becuase everyone was overly influenced by those that have gone before. Nice post.!

  3. Insightful post! I’m glad you touched on the music side of things since we haven’t really discussed this in class yet. I think this algorithm that Hype Machine uses is pretty cool and I’m interested to see what factors they look at when rating these songs. I feel like these blogs were meant for people to find niche music. But I agree that it could turn into a dangerous trend of music converging in style just for the fame.

  4. I’m much more of a mainstream music listener (whatever’s top on the charts works), but things like the Discover feature on Spotify are really great to find artists most people wouldn’t listen to on a daily basis. I think what Hype Machine is trying to do is very interesting, though. I had never even thought about your point of musical creativity decreasing, though. It’s an extremely interesting angle because so many people out there are listening to the mainstream stuff I listen to. Great post!

  5. mikeknoll98 · ·

    Thank you everyone for the comments. Austin I think radio shows rely on blogs, and like you said Soundcloud. I think the blogs (and Soundcloud) get the fresh talent and are a preliminary testing market. If they do well with those two, then radio shows may think they songs and artists have enough credibility to play out. Along with this, I think the radio shows only get the jump on the newest music produced by well known artists.

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