When Music Ruled the World

For anyone who enjoys the music industry, technology or pop culture, you need to subscribe to the Lefsetz Letter. A friend let me know about it over three years ago and I have enjoyed reading his musings, insight and rants in my email inbox since. While most of his letters focus on the music industry and its artists, there are the occasional non-music related discussions that open my eyes to something new or expand my thinking. In a recent letter discussing a song he enjoyed listened to over and over, he wrote the following:

It’s about music! This is something the baby boomers know. Which is why they overpay to see the stars of yore. Ask young ‘uns, and you find out music is disposable, grease for the event, something to laugh at and discard. But for baby boomers, music is life itself. Because they remember when music drove the culture, ruled the earth.

After I read those few sentences, I stopped, and read them again. While I somehow knew this intuitively, it made complete sense to me when I saw it written down. Just think of the Top 40 right now, the YouTube stars and the rise of electronic music – how many of those artists become legendary, cultural icons, or rule the world? These days, it’s hardly about the artist and it is definitely not about the music most of the time. Music is, as Lefsetz writes, solely the “grease for the event,” a facilitator.

Music was still driving the culture in the 1990s, when people still bought CDs (I was still buying plenty of cassette tapes then too), but soon, along came MP3s and streaming music and access to any song any time almost anywhere. What has come along with it is a generation of young adults that may know certain songs, but barely own any music and may never know the enjoyment that comes from following an artist through his or her musical career.

I have kids at home. One of my goals will get them to appreciate the music of yore while still living life to the disposable music of today.


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