This is an argument that happens almost daily. “Most artists of the past wouldn’t make it in the digital age” and vice versa “Most artists of today don’t have the talent to sell like past icons.” I’m here simply to tell you that this argument is stupid, and one we should stop wasting our time on.
The Internet is a wonderfully terrible thing, depending on what day it is and who you’re talking to. The most unanimous asset of the World Wide Web however, has to be the ability to find whatever information or media you would like in a matter of a few clicks. Thanks to this overwhelming library of knowledge, most of us today tend to be a lot more selective about what we choose to know and acknowledge. Simply put, because we are able to access and download any music we would like; we only access and download the music we like.
“Well duh,” you say. “Why would I waste precious storage space downloading music I think is trash? Of course I only support those who are already proven to me, my favorite artists always deliver, why listen to anything else?” Well, because you are the problem with the industry today, that’s why.
Back in day, Acura days, radio was the largest platform for new artists because the Internet had not been invented yet. These artists relied on record labels (mainly Motown) to ensure radio play so that their music could be heard by the masses, gaining them a fan following and eventually that legendary icon status that is so many entertainers chase. The results spanned a generation of entertainers that were so successful, they set the bar for future artists higher than Greg Oden on the Miami team plane after playing the Nuggets. These top radio artists were able to impact because they were mostly the only artists that people heard. Of course you were a Michael Jackson fan in the 70s, who else were you going to listen to? Didn’t like Diana Ross? Oh well, Berry Gordy was way too invested in that snatch; he made sure you heard her voice everyday, at least a few times a day. If all you have to choose from is a (relatively) small pool of artists who’s music you listen to on a regular basis, whether by choice or not, of course they are going to sell well. Most of us would rather listen to some music, regardless of taste, rather than have no music at all.
Flash-forward to the digital era where, thanks again to the Internet, the way we view an artist’s success has changed. We look for artist to still be able to sell millions of records (even if we pirate music individually, we still expect SOMEONE to pay for it), sell out tours, and have significant crossover appeal. Artists nowadays have to work differently, (not harder), to enjoy a microcosm of the success that their predecessors had. Why is this? Because digital music is hard as hell to quantify. If your single goes triple platinum, who cares, your album might not even go gold. Album went platinum? Good for a rookie, but you’re a veteran dammit! Are you a new artist? Congratulations on having 247037273165839 views on Youtube; too bad we’re still not going to click the below link to download.
Does this mean that Michael Jackson’s accomplishments, like going platinum 26 freaking times is less amazing because of the superior backing from radio and MTV? Absolutely not, just like implying Rihanna’s thirteen #1 singles in the past few years don’t matter because she’s not as “talented” as a Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey. At the end of the day, both of them are on a level the rest of us just aspire to reach.