The Devaluation of Music: It’s Worse Than You Think
Craig Havighurst

A response to Craig Havighurst.

The issues mentioned are only issues if the “value” of music is its monetary label in the market of luxuries. These issues are not issues if you can perceive music the way compassionate musicians and music lovers value the art: a meditative, energy flowing device that allows one to express themselves and their emotions. This is something that you very clearly do not recognize on the broad scale, for you discredit the unpleasing sound of pop cultures “music” in the current day.

Sure, as a jazz pianist myself I am not a fan or listener of 95% of the top 100 on iTunes, but that is not the point. People get a peculiar feeling when they listen to music. It’s warmness. Some people feel the need to simply tap their shoe or even dance when they hear whatever sounds this warm, energetic confidence. That is the point. It’s the feeling of happiness, or sadness, or comfort that music brings. That is the point to music, regardless if it’s video game music, jazz, of the most violent death metal.

I’m not so sure Miles Davis or John Coltrane would fight the fight that you are suggesting important. Miles and John would just play because they loved to play. I listen to jazz because I love jazz. My little brother listens to Eminem because he loves Eminem. You cannot argue that Eminem is less of an art than Miles, because the quality of art is not measurable, it is subjective. What would Leo Tolstoy say about Miles Davis vs. Eminem, Craig? He would say that art is an expression of emotion and feelings of an artist that infects the consumer with the same emotion. Neither Miles nor Eminem is more art than the other. The only “nexus of commerce, culture and education that have conspired to make music less meaningful to the public at large” is the one that influences an unhealthy consumer culture. This is because the emphasis is on the consumerism, not the feeling of comfort or emotion that the artist produces. The stress put on substance abuse, violence, and objectification to women is the only at large issue the music industry is directing.

Spotify and iTunes music has actually supported the progress that music has on our aspiring Miles Davis’s. As a musician, my vocabulary and library of music is constantly growing due to the access I have to teachers like Miles. I constantly crave knowledge, which I gain from listening to the greats. I have become a much better pianist due to the availability of Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Art Tatum, Chick Corea, and Ahmad Jamal at the tip of my fingers.

And Craig, if you are searching for DJ’s that passionately hand select hour plus playlists, you surely haven’t heard of Soundcloud. Or Cymbal, an app for your mobile phone that allows users to post songs they are listening to. It is basically an app that allows you to create your own infinitely long feed of favorite songs that others can view and relate with. There is also 8tracks, a website that allows you to create your own playlist and share it across social media. The future of music is on the Internet, not the radio or the television. There is no hope for the radio for it is its own game now.

Nor is the future of music going to be advertised in print. Due to the only legitimate issue I mentioned earlier, all mainstream pop culture prints are going to be singing the same tune of “I WANT YOUR ATTENTION” and preaching the gossip of the artists not using their art in a healthy way. On the bright side, the history of music is on the Internet where we can read websites that dedicate themselves entirely to music and the future of music. Some websites even focus on specific genres like jazz, classical, and the analysis of the masterpieces of the greats.

I’m not so sure that features like iTunes’ combination of multimedia and music in one platform has dwindled the consumption that music holds on one’s attention. Everyday when I walk to class I see kids with headphones in. They are listening and walking, listening and riding the bus, and listening all the way until they go in the classroom. Music is ubiquitous. The feature like the one you mentioned is not to degrade from the place music has in our lives, it is to promote iTunes as a universal platform. Don’t take it too personally.

I agree the music business is struggling. And I don’t mean to sound antagonistic with this response but maybe the change is for the better. Maybe it is better for the musicians to find their own place, away from the inevitable consumer culture that is suffocating the music business. Places like Cymbal and Soundcloud offer us a healthy environment to succeed in and have our own voice. The number of small labels is growing. The number of artists giving away their music for free to increase community influencing larger turnouts at concerts is becoming a more popular business plan. Craig, I think it’s the future.