The next time your friend says “They don’t make good music anymore”…
I still hear people say this now and then. And I always ask them: Do you know what was the top-selling single of 1969?
No, it wasn’t Zeppelin or the Stones or Black Sabbath or any of the other awesome music you’re thinking of. It sure as hell wasn’t “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges. It was “Sugar Sugar” by The Archies.
That’s right. Fucking “Sugar Sugar.”
So far as I can tell, the best-selling music of any era is the music sold to teenage girls. Why not? They’ve got expendable income, and they tend to form a rabidly eager fanbase around their media idols. You can see why it makes business sense for the major labels to throw their promotional machine behind someone like Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber. And yes, this has grown more pronounced over the years: Back in the day, major labels used to hire “company freaks,” music-obsessed kids who would tell the old businessmen what’s hot right now. But styles come and go, revolutions fail, what’s hip today seems trite tomorrow, and genuinely brilliant artists like Lou Reed and Iggy Pop made amazing records that failed to find a wide audience. Artistic successes are often commercial failures, and the major labels—who were in the business of making money, mind you—fired all the “company freaks.” They decided it was a more reliable business model to spend more money on advertizing and simply tell the kids what to like. It’s not an evil plot, it’s just business, and if you feel disappointed with the CD selection at Target and the shit they play on Top 40 stations, it’s not because music is in decline, it’s just that you’re not part of the lucrative 14-year-old-girl market. Or maybe you’re a 14-year-old-girl with peculiar tastes. And there’s nothing wrong with having peculiar tastes—just look at my own record collection, for chrissakes—but it means you’re going to have to look a little harder for music that appeals to you. And fortunately for you, we’ve got this thing called The Internet.
We didn’t have the World Wide Webiwhatsit when I was a kid, but I’m insanely grateful for it now, and anytime someone younger than me complains that “they don’t make good music anymore,” I want to respond: “You know, your computer is for more than just porn.”
Here’s a few records I’ve been excited about in just the last few weeks. Don’t tell me they don’t make good music anymore, because I’ve never been more excited to have two functioning ears.