The value of music has changed from when it first existed, largely because of how it is presented and consumed nowadays. Music has transitioned from art to entertainment, whether it be for the better or for worse, the answer to that would likely be put down to a matter of taste. Looking at the lengthy history of music, starting with the discovery of the forty-thousand-year-old Aurignacian Flute, it is clear that music has transitioned from simplistic roots to a technological phenomenon. Nowadays, music is thought of to be more than meticulously manipulated sounds, but instead an experience capturing all five senses of the human body. Tim Wall explains this in his introduction to Studying Popular Music Culture, writing that ‘music has been called the soundtrack to our lives’, as it has become essential, but also unavoidable to each of us.
Music itself is no longer seen as audio. It has been commercialised to be inextricably linked to video, artist image, branding, merchandise; leaning towards the idea of style over substance. This movement has likely evolved from music’s first evolution, as it became a means for groups to have a clear identity, shown as each country’s national anthem and also demonstrated in smaller groups, for example, each African tribe has a song that is their own.
Music is so often attached to something outside of itself, something bigger than itself, and then no longer becomes about the actual creative art-form made but the surroundings in which it presents itself. This can also be seen with examples like company jingles linked to advertisement. Paul Greco, director of music for the advertising firm JWT, spoke about the notion of an artist being seen as a ‘sell-out’, also explaining the benefits of being linked with companies, as ‘the artist gets exposure and financial support, and the product gets linked up with the artist, and the artist’s fan base’. This idea of ‘selling-out’ has likely disappeared as it has become normality to consumers as it has been recognised by artists as an extremely effective way of promotion. However, it does give ammunition to the idea that music is no longer singular, but is linked with multiple industries, which arguably devalues music as it strips the attention away from itself. Of course, this is not the case for all music, and millions of musicians around the world would likely disagree with this model. Nevertheless, popular music culture does take this form, with the majority of consumers making decisions on what they listen to because of an artist’s reputation, brought about by image through promotion.
Georgia Tech professor Philip Auslander stated in his study of glam rock that “In the ’40s, and I believe well into the ’50s and the rock ‘n’ roll era, the idea of what it was to be a musician wasn’t as pure and pristine as we seem to want to think of it now, the idea that to be a popular musician is not just to stand up there and show off your ability as a musician, but to entertain in other senses — that was very much a staple of what popular music performance was about.” The current generation of music consumers need visual to accompany audio. This is displayed as music videos become essential and performances become filled with numerous visual effects. Many artists themselves, within popular music culture, embody this movement, for example live shows recently have become more and more extravagant, and each artist attempts to outdo their competitors. Justin Bieber’s latest Purpose Tour, for example, is more of an overall experience than a live appreciation for the actual music; with its indoor weather changes, making it ‘rain’, a giant travelling trampoline on wires with dancers performing carefully choreographed moves at all times, as well as him singing inside a glass cube which also travels around the arenas, accompanied by an excessive lights and pyrotechnics show that doesn’t take a break until the show ends. This type of performance displays how music has changed, and how it has become a small part of something much bigger than itself, which would be the music industries; an endless and ever-evolving collection of multiple industries collaborating together to obtain the end goal; money.