There’s a lot of discussion among music fans about what is ‘real music’ and what’s not. Usually, it’s more a question of ‘manufactured’ versus ‘proper musician’, which can lead to some frank and pretty derogatory discussions. It is, however, a difficult question answer when you really think about it, but for what it’s worth – here’s my twopence…
When we think about ‘real’ music, what we’re really talking about is how authentic the artist appears to be. Authenticity is about two things; how the artist portrays themselves, and the strength of their musical connection with the listener. When an artist makes a positive connection through their music, they create a relationship with the listener and this is the basis of fandom; the listener begins to buy in to the music and to the artist.
When an artist is fully involved with the production of their music, and are seen to have creative control over it, the connection between fan and artist seems more direct, and thus more powerful. The artist is able to communicate effectively through their songs and through their media image exactly what they wish to portray, whatever genre or style they are working within.
‘Manufactured’ music that appears to be controlled heavily by outside influences (such as producers, additional songwriters and industry professionals) can, arguably, be less effective at creating these same strong relationships with music fans. The relationships are more transient and changeable, often with the fans quickly moving on to the next big thing.
But the question is, does this make the music any less ‘real’? It may not have been written by the artist who is performing it, it may have snazzy production and Auto-tuned* vocals, but this is nothing new. All music has to be created by someone, be that a producer or the artist themselves. Someone has put their time and energy into writing, playing and recording the songs that you’re listening to. You might not like it, but then that’s your perogative.
So when the latest hit by whomever is topping the charts comes on the radio for the millionth time it’s very easy to dismiss it as manufactured, even when you understand the work that goes into making it. But the truth is, what’s happening there is simply the listener not connecting with the music that they are hearing. Even a self-confessed music snob like me can find examples of pop productions that I enjoy.
In the end, I think, it boils down to two types of music – that which you as a listener can find a connection with, and that which you can’t. You could call this ‘good’ and ‘bad’ if you like (and yes, we all often do!), but really it’s about music you like and music you don’t. It’s all down to taste.
*More on Auto-tune in a future post me-thinks