Yes, that's a pretty good analysis of where we are. The points regarding timbre are particularly unfortunate for those who care for such things. If only there was some way to make audiophiles look cool and sexy!
As things stand the industry seems to regard them as beneath contempt and those in the public eye who do have any audiophile tendencies tend to keep quiet about them.
Here's an article on the pro's and con's of digital recording and the impact it made.
You really have to look for decent songs these days. Here are a couple:
And, of course, an old song from a true artist who not only sold 100 million records, but also sang Pirates in the park one summer:
As I always told customers, it is all about the MUSIC--forget the brand name of the gear. If it transports you, the gear is probably good enough.
Cheers, and happy listening!
I tend to agree with most of what the man said, although I personally think the Beatles are over-rated. It is, I'm afraid, the steady march of commercialisation of everything - food - music - you name it. Instant gratification is the unfortunate name of the game. You can add that in the UK we have smooth, capital, smooth, and heart playing narrow song lists of popular tracks - and the top 10.
I always knew the world was being taken over by sinister blonde bearded Swedish men - just kidding - in fairness the 80's had the 'hit factory' the 00's onwards simon cowell
In the past a lot of musicians got no exposure - the internet has helped in this regard, but rather ironically as the availability is at its widest the mainstream selection is at its' narrowest
The Beatles are a musical phenomenon that becomes harder to believe with every passing year. Even the Faul saga is fascinating.
Or how about the famous Rick Rubin eulogy from 2009?
"If we look at it by today's standards, whoever the most popular bands in the world are, they will typically put out an album every four years. So, let's say two albums as an eight year cycle. And think of the growth or change between those two albums. The idea that The Beatles made thirteen albums in seven years and went through that arc of change... it can't be done. Truthfully, I think of it as proof of God, because it's beyond man's ability."
Must all be strange for the people who were at school with them in Liverpool, or saw them in Hamburg.
@nickecb, keep up the good work!
We should demand more product placement in films. There's got to be more to cool Hi-Fi than just reel to reel and err...Beats.
I love poking fun at Beatles fans - sorry can't help it - I have a quite a few of their albums - and fully maintain they are seriously overrated - a bit like the Linn Sondek. It's due to growing up in the 80's and 90's when people answered when asked about who their favourite band was they would sanctimoniously say 'the Beatles' and only have 'Sgt peppers...' in their collection.
Anyway - I digress - it speaks for itself that we are debating the greatness of a band almost 60 years after their inception - I can't imagine people will argue over Robin Thicke, Ariane Grande and the rest of the current rubbish bunch.
I have to say thee chord/tone/ key change is interesting and unfair - there are many blues, jazz, and country and western riffs that resonate in songs over the decades.
I think that rather oddly I think that the launch of the digital era was the starting point - First of all I'm not sure about you, but Digital rarely has the kind of 'Moreish' sound that keeps you listening - it always seems on edge. We then have the convenience of track skipping - and then streaming and bit by bit we keep narrowing our attention span like a drug addict needing a quick fix hence the homogenisation of pop music.
"So the burning question now for a true audiophile is obviously how accurately can your rig reproduce these modern recordings in question? At live-like volumes?"
I believe this is the real point to be made and asked. I don't care much about the volume as much as I do the size of the soundstage.
Something HEA has not covered with accuracy is (as well as some studio engineers "pre mastering") compressing the signal as a loudness compensation is not the same as compressing the soundstage size. A lot of guys who can't make a recording sound good is because they have squeezed soundstages to start with and have not learned how to replay a stage at it's real size/real space.
@bmontani yes and the same goes for vintage recordings. Thanks to YouTube it's easier than ever to explore the lesser known or forgotten recordings from Pop's colossal back catalogue.
Here are a few examples,
Elvis - Puppet on a String
Bob Dylan - Abandoned Love
Genevieve Waite - White Cadillac
and many, many more you won't hear on your radio.
For the most part, I agree with the overall dismal view of modern music and it’s production and recording - particularly pop.
While I ocassionaly come across a new artist that lights a spark, for the most part, they seem to be stuck on the same techno, syntho drum beat, with one or two short verses, with no story and a five word catchy chorus, repeated fifteen times. Most of today’s pop music seems over miked, over dubbed and edited, over mixed, over compressed and quite lacking of real instrumentation.
There are a few modern day pop artists I’ve come to like - Amos Lee, Ray LaMontagne, Sia (a little techno, but what a voice) and a few others, but moreover, I find a good deal to like about some of the modern music, in genres that still features mostly real instruments and somewhat decent recordings - Folk, Irish/Celtic Folk, Jazz, Blues and some R&B.
All N All, though, IMO there’s still, in many genres, some pretty fair, modern stuff out there, to set back and enjoy on a nice system.....Jim
You kind of hit on what I was thinking but did not know quite how to ask.
I have built my system over years/decades with not a whole lot of equipment changes. The more important changes have been room acoustics. In my case, all done by ear. My feeling is this approach allows me to experience most music in a way that's pleasing to me.
@crazyeddy, the business got smarter and less willing to take risks.
Popular music (creativity) always came from the ground up, the street if you like. But nowadays the industry wants to supply it prepackaged, I don't think they enjoy gambling to find out which tastes will sell. It's probably too competitive out there, and they want a sure return.
This narrow minded approach has seen the market shrink alarmingly but the real killer nay have been the birth of the internet. If they thought home taping was killing music...
Oh well, things can change. Remember when someone once told the Beatles manager, sorry boys no contract, guitar groups are on the way out!
Popular music (creativity) always came from the ground up, the street if you like. But nowadays the industry wants to supply it prepackaged ...This is really not accurate. If you go back to the ’50s and earlier, guys like Mitch Miller - who was the head of A&R for CBS records - controlled just about every detail of new releases . That included who recorded what and with whom. There was very little artistic freedom. That didn’t start to change until the ’60s; Clive Davis is the one who brought Columbia into the modern era, as Arif Mardin did at Atlantic. The rise of rock and roll and the singer-songwriter changed the industry, because those artists really had something to say. Most of today’s pop artists just want to be stars and make money. Hence, the "prepackaged" products that result.
Nobody who really knew what was going on ever thought taping killed music. That was a red herring. Napster, however, did inflict lasting damage because it devalued recorded music.
Interesting that the New York Times had a piece this last Sunday (Feb 3) about the "loudness wars" utilizing digital compression to "destroy" music. Been a long time since I saw anything about this in the mainstream press, much less a semi-technical article complete with lots of comparative dynamic range charts.
@cleeds Perhaps I was being a trifle idealistic but I like to believe that the new genres in popular music were generated from social trends often identified by fashion and hairstyles etc. For example Rock and Rollers, Mods, Skinheads, Hippies, Heavy Rockers, Punks, Disco, Heavy Metallers, Rappers etc were all social movements of one kind or another.
Apart from the growth in popularity of tattoos and piercings it's difficult to think of a recent sociological movement that might be connected with music in some way.
It's as if social media has now replaced music as the common bond or glue that used to unite these individuals into a recognisable group.
We probably need someone young, at the cutting edge so to speak, to point out what the next musical trends might emerge from the underground, if any.
@tostadosunidos Thanks for the link to the Greg Milner article. His book Perfecting Sound Forever is an interesting read on the development of the recording industry all the way from Edison to recent times. I got the impression that the 1950s were a golden age for audiophiles in the sense that the industry followed the money back then and paid real attention to us.
The onset of the CD era loudness wars reveals only too clearly what they think of us now. No wonder many audiophiles always hold vinyl close to their hearts.
I have to agree with much that is in the video. On some level, this has been going on for a long time. I think it just got progressively worse and we are at a tipping point--into realization and backlash by consumers OR acquiescence into it further with the potential for great damage to be done (maybe quasi-permanent damage that could take another generation or two to recover from).
If we like and use the fast food analogy, it took a generation for that vehicle of food delivery to be rejected by a larger chunk (but still adopted by a big chunk) of consumers.
Some of this is certainly subjective. Some of the subjective conclusions are backed by partially objective evidence. That said, I think we've crossed a point where we can say, with intellectual honesty, that the music industry is fine, the quality of pop music is as good as it ever was, and that there is substantial diversity in pop music. It is, however, true that you can search out stuff to find quality and bright spots in music. The fact of the matter is--to me--that the searching out requires more diligence and the overall status of Western popular music is not as healthy as it was from the 1920s through the early 1990s.
I agree that music is getting worse. But I couldn't keep watching the video because so many of the reasons he gives and the science behind them are not valid. There is huge selection bias. There are unsupportable assumptions: There is no law or dictum that dictates that timbral variety is a measure of what makes music good. Also, as much as I despise the result of the loudness wars (which is going on stronger than ever), that is not necessarily an ultimate measure of what constitutes a good song or piece of music. There is a long list of great new super talented artists releasing well written, well played and well sung songs that some idiot engineer ruins in production. There are many symphonic works of the romantic masterpieces that are recorded and produced poorly. That is not Mr. Brahms' fault.
Then there is the argument that all this new millenial pop sounds the same. Well, I hate to break it to you, but by that measure all rock and pop music sound the same. That's what our parents were saying in the 60's and 70's too. The truth is all popular music sounds very much the same if you are looking for certain elements. As someone mentioned in another thread even classical and romantic era music followed fairly set segments and most used the same instruments in about the same proportions. And let's be honest, during the Beatles' rise there were countless bands that sounded, intentionally, just like them.
I also don't think he accounted fairly for the tremendous variety of music available now in the digital/streaming era.
Again, I didn't finish watching the video. I didn't see any reason. So maybe I missed something.
But I think the reality is that most purely pop music stinks. I would also contend that Sgt. Pepper was never pop in the true sense anyway.
I think the problem now is that if you listen to the radio or watch TV you'd think that pop, country pop and hip-hop were all there was. Across all three of those genres you'd think there were maybe 30 artists at the most.
And therein lies the real issue. Its the kids. They have lots of money and tiny attention spans and are mindless consumers all of which has been cultivated by the culture since the 1990s. If all they want is the millenial whoop and three repeated bass notes there will be an industry ready and willing to sell it to them over and over again.
Today's music is forgettable. The Beatles music isn't forgotten, nor will it ever be.Funny people say they love the Beatles ...But only have one record Sgt.Peppers.Well that's about 100,000,000 people.Like.1/3 of the earth's population. LOL.You don't find to many artists who were like by there Great Grandparents.Thst is still popular today.
"And therein lies the real issue. Its the kids. They have lots of money and tiny attention spans and are mindless consumers all of which has been cultivated by the culture since the 1990s. If all they want is the millenial whoop and three repeated bass notes there will be an industry ready and willing to sell it to them over and over again."
You don’t have to be a raging conspiracy theorist to question just how this came to be.
Once upon a time, ok in the post war US boom, some kids (Elvis, Buddy, Chuck, Roy, Richard, etc) starting picking up guitars and a whole new genre of music was born.
Back then the industry responded to the fashions and trends that were created on the streets and in the back rooms of mainly young men soon to be dubbed teen-agers.
Unfortunately as the science of marketing has advanced, no doubt alongside advances in psychology, it has unfortunately become far easier to condition human beings than ever previously.
It is, in short, it’s nothing less than an attempt at a form of global psychological and economic slavery, that we see at work today.
However, Rock and Roll (alongside film - Brando, Dean, Newman, Pacino etc) has never previously failed to throw up the occasional rebel, the maverick, the iconoclast.
The truly subversive that can touch something deep within all of us.
We can smile now, but back in the 50s some TV stations would only shoot Elvis from the waist up. Even long hair was a big thing back then, just look at the flak the Beatles got for their hairstyles back in 63/4.
Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and the Doors also caused quite a stir in their time didn’t they? In the UK there’s been nothing like the Sex Pistols for introducing cultural change in my lifetime.
I guess we now need someone who could also show us that this is not all that there is. It will probably mean the dividing of generations but so what?
The big question is, who’s going to lead the resistance and rekindle the apparently flagging human spirit?
Or id if you prefer a Freudian term.
So all this new music is coming out all the time and none of it is as good as 'the old days'? Baaa. I'm 70 years old and enjoy contemporary pop and indie rock a lot more than Crosby Steals my Hash, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles etc etc.... Of course there was plenty of great music back then too - love me some Beatles, Hendrix, Grateful Dead, and loads of others. My point being that there is great music constantly being produced; whether you care for it or not is another story....
I don't think that this is a golden age for new popular or indie music. Take a listen for instance to the bands that are featured on CBS Sunday Morning. All "honored " by Rolling Stone or the New York Times, and all the same old boring non descript retreads. There have certainly been more interesting and exciting periods musically in my life, like first and second British Invasions and of course our own mid and later sixties greats.
He obviously does not listen to Radiohead or NIN. The music is there if you look for it. Popular music has always been mundane, for the masses.
Relative to some new music Sgt Peppers sounds positively antiquated.
Check out Modest Mouse, Artic Monkeys or Big Thief. All are current bands bending the rules. Jaz is also still going strong. The problem is that there is also way more garbage than there use to be. There is more trash you have to pilfer through to get to the good stuff.
Music is NOT getting worse. To repeat, music is NOT getting worse!
Mainstream forms of POP music are getting worse.
If all one does, is compare mainstream popular forms of music of today, vs from the past, then we agree. But there is so much truly great music being made, if one steps out of the mainstream, is open to different forms of music, is not hoping to find modern mainstream music to replace the music that was the ’soundtrack of their youth’.
I listen to various forms of: modern and contemporary classical, contemporary progressive music (prog, avant-prog, Zeuhl, prog-metal, Canterbury, etc), progressive jazz (avant-garde, fusion, chamber jazz, post bop, M-Base, etc), and my main problem is keeping up with so much great music.
Hell, if I purchased every great new release just from just one label, say ECM, that would probably be 40 new recordings a year. And that’s only one of many labels, and one of many genres.
The things I listen for in music: very high level of musicianship, complexity, broad and deep levels of emotional content, creativity, are being created from bands, composers, musicians all over the world, on a constant basis.
Let me also add, I am in my 60's, so my post is not from some young guy complaining about a bunch of old codgers, claiming that all music was better in their youth.
"If all one does, is compare mainstream popular forms of music of today, vs from the past, then we agree."
And this is what is so depressing.
The Zeitgeist of our age has splintered and disappeared into innumerable individual strands.
We are now more divided as a people than we have been for a very very long time.
This cannot possibly be a good thing.