All pop songs sound the same. (Pop Theory)

Hello, my name is Roomie and welcome to “Pop
Theory” – The show where we analyze pop music. This episode is about how, arguably, all modern
pop music sort of sounds the same. In this episode when I say pop music I mean
best selling pop music, like Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Katy Perry. If you write “pop music is” into Google,
all of the auto-suggestions are really negative. It’s clear to see that a distaste for pop
music is widespread on the internet and one of the most common arguments is that all of
it sounds the same. And that might actually be sort of true! Let’s take a look at some
reasons why pop music may be getting less diverse. Reason 1: Record companies need to minimise
risks. The way big record companies record and promote
music isn’t cheap. According to IFPI, an organisation that represents
the recording industry, “breaking” a new artist in a new major territory may cost anywhere
between $500,000-$2,000,000. Like any company, a record company needs to
minimise the risks with such an investment. Given the crisis that the industry is in with
declining sales etc, they need to make sure that everything they promote will sell. This translates to low risk music, that is,
the kind of music that is already in the charts! And how do you write low-risk songs? Well,
you hire low risk songwriters. This leads us to reason 2: The same, pretty
small, group of songwriters work with most of the big artists.
If you’re going to invest millions of dollars in promotion, you can’t risk having the
artists write the songs by themselves. Rather, you want people who have proven time
and time again that they can write hits. As mentioned earlier, the songwriters that write
most of the singles for the big names are a pretty small group of people. For example, this is one of my idols, the
Swedish songwriter Max Martin. He’s written or co-written 21 Billboard
#1 songs as of March 2016, including The Weekend’s “Can’t Feel My Face”, Taylor Swift’s
“Shake It Off” and Katy Perry’s “Roar”. He has had a total of 54 songs in the Billboard
top ten, none of which he has sung himself. As much as I love Max’s songs, songwriters
like him arguably play a huge role in making pop music sound “the same”. You may think
that you’re listening to singles by Ariana Grande, Ellie Goulding or Maroon 5, but in
reality you’re listening to the musical language and productions of Max Martin and other expert
songwriters. Reason 3: Feedback Loops.
Humans are drawn to familiarity. If something sounds similar to what you’ve
heard before, you’re more likely to enjoy it, at least initially.
This is a fact of life for everyone in the music industry – same sells, and it’s not
anyone’s fault. However, this has led to a pretty depressing
culture of songwriters almost copying melodies, structure and productions in order to play
off of familiarity. The conformity of the music in the charts
also leads new songwriters and artists to believe that the only thing that works in
the pop industry is this low-risk music. That, in turn, makes those new musicians pick
up these low-risk musical choices, further perpetuating the stagnating diversity in top
40 music. To summarize, believe that there IS reason
to believe that pop music is getting less varied. So what can we consumers do if we want more
diverse music in the mainstream? First off, the online space, like what you’re
in right now, is filled with a plethora of different music. When you find something you really like, make
sure to support it. You can do this socially, by telling our friends
about it and sharing on social media, and financially, by buying music, shirts, or supporting
the artist on Patreon. This will give those artists the funds and
momentum they need to either build their own way to promote their music to the masses,
or to get picked up by one of the existing players in the music industry. Thank you for
watching, and I’ll see you next time! Bye!

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