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Ben Kaplan

Special Correspondent

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.

-Plato

One thing that Plato forgot is that music puts money in the pockets of the businessmen, or at least that seems to be its purpose in today’s society.

In 2013, the worldwide music industry made 47.4 billion dollars in revenue, with a mere 15 billion dollars coming from music sales. The rest comes from ticket sales, advertising, and general merchandise posing the question is the music industry actually producing music, or just substance for profit?

“[Music] is so uniform they might as well just make it into a factory,” said senior Antoine Trombino Aponte in a Facebook polling on the current state of today’s music. He is not far off. Record companies are churning out quick club hits at an astounding rate.

The digital single is the most popular form that music comes in nowadays. In 2013 it resulted in $1,328.9 million in revenue. Record companies build up the hype for a certain song or artist and spend the majority of their funds on the advertising rather than the production of the song.

It is a cycle: find a teen act that will appeal to the masses, hype them up to overwhelming proportions, maximize profit, and then find a new one. Some examples would be pop singers such as Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus.

This conveyor-belt-style production is detrimental to music as a whole. Not only does it limit the exposure of potentially big bands, and, therefore, squeezes the diversity of sound out of popular music, it is an insult to people. Record companies always seem to cater to the “lowest” common denominator. Apparently we are all molly-popping non-stop partiers.

Obviously that is not true. Individualism is stronger than it has ever been with new social movements, yet record companies find it easier to group people together in order to find a “best fit” in hopes that the majority of society will enjoy it, and more importantly, buy it.

Thankfully it does not matter that in 2012 the top four major record labels (Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and EMI) accounted for 87.73% of music sales. While the companies may be cranking out slop, now is still the most prolific time for music lovers.

The Internet has led to a revolution in the ways we discover music. We do not solely rely on the radio or television shows to know what is good anymore, we can discover it for ourselves.

Online streaming is probably the biggest change to the music industry since the development of the mp3 player. When asked about how they got their music, a number of students answer that it was through online music streaming sites such as Spotify and Pandora. According to Totem, users have streamed 1500 years worth of music since Spotify’s beginning!

What makes streaming so popular? It could be the price: some sites are completely free while others require monthly subscriptions (which can still be cheaper than buying music separately depending on how often/how much a person listens to it). It could be the ease: in a world of smart phones, the recordings of thousands are located in your back pocket. No matter the reason, streaming sites are dominating the music world, with 41% of American music listeners using them.

People are not just streaming music they know; they are discovering new bands when they listen to their favorites. Seniors Dan Hendrickson and Ally Rosati are frequent users of Pandora and Spotify.

Hendrickson listens to both his own playlists, and those created by others.

Rosati likes Pandora because “[she] can find new songs through it based on ones [she] likes.”

For as long as the Internet has existed, there have been forums for communities of people with similar interests. Nowadays, the options are endless. Reddit, a popular social media site, is a great example of how anyone with an interest can find friends in one place.

“Subreddits” or categories of miniature communities within the larger website are dedicated to pretty much any interest a person could have in anything. In regards to music, they range from gangster rap to djent metal! Here people post new songs, videos, pictures, and conversation topics all about music genres.

Some argue that the sheer amount of music out there drives people apart, but these kinds of forums and discovery centrals bring people together. When talking about the pros to an online radio site called 8tracks.com, Jim Beaver said, “I have met people from all over the world on there.”

Record labels are still a major player in the music industry, but those four main labels mentioned earlier are just a few of the thousands upon thousands of labels that are going strong.

Independent, or indie, labels are growing, as people want more and more music that diverges from the mainstream. Some are small, run out of basements or people’s garages, and others have signed acts that have come to be well known. Many indie labels exist solely for the purpose of creating music. That is what separates them from the big ones. Money made goes back into the music.

It may not seem like it due to the haze of popular and sensationalized music, but this is a great time to be a music lover. The good stuff is there; it is just hidden. It could be that punk band that plays shows at the local coffee house; it could be a suggestion from a friend on Facebook; it could even be a CD from a street performer. The point is, good music is just like any other luxury, people cannot just wait for it to come to them, sometimes they must search for it.

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