My Conversation with Ted Gioia

Here is the audio and transcript, the chat centered around music, including Ted’s new and fascinating book Music: A Subversive History.  We talk about music and tech, the Beatles, which songs and performers we are embarrassed to like, whether jazz still can be cool, Ted’s family background, why restaurants are noisier, why the blues are disappearing, Elton John, which countries are underrated for their musics, whether anyone loves the opera, whether musical innovation is still possible, and much much more.  Here are some excerpts:

GIOIA: …Spotify still isn’t profitable. I believe Spotify will become profitable, but they’re going to do it by putting the squeeze on people. Musicians will suffer even more, probably, in the future than they have in the past. What’s good for Spotify is not good for the whole music ecosystem.

Let me make one more point here. I think it’s very important. If you go back a few years ago, there was a value chain in music — started with the musician, worked for the record label. The records went to the record distributor. They went to the retailer, who sold the record to the consumer. At that point, everybody in that chain had a vested interest in a healthy music ecosystem in which people enjoyed songs. The more people enjoyed songs, the better business was for everybody.

That chain has been broken now. Apple would give away songs for free to sell devices. They don’t care about the viability of the music subeconomy. For them, it could be a loss leader. Google doesn’t care about music. They would give music away for free to sell ads. In fact, they do that on YouTube.

The fundamental change here is, you now have a distribution system for music in which some of the players do not have a vested interest in the broader musical experience and ecosystem. This is tremendously dangerous, and that’s the real reason why I fear the growth of streaming, is because the people involved in streaming don’t like music.


COWEN: Do you think music today is helping the sexual revolution or hurting it? Speaking of Prince…

GIOIA: It’s very interesting. There’s market research and focus groups about how people use music in their day-to-day life. Take, for example, this: you’re going to bring a date back to your apartment for a romantic dinner. So what do you worry about?

Well, the first thing I have to worry about is, my place is a mess. I’ve got to clean it up. That’s number one. The second thing you worry about is, what food am I going to fix? But number three on people’s list — when you interview them — is the music because they understand the music is going to seal the deal. If there’s going to be something really romantic, that music is essential.

People will agonize for hours over which music to play. I think that we miss this. People view music as distance from people’s everyday life. But in fact, people put music to work every day, and one of the premier ways they do it is in romance.

COWEN: Let’s say you were not married, and you’re 27 years old, and you’re having a date over. What music do you put on in 2019 under those conditions?

GIOIA: It’s got to always be Sinatra.

COWEN: Because that is sexier? It’s generally appealing? It’s not going to offend anyone? Why?

GIOIA: I must say up front, I am no expert on seduction, so you’re now getting me out of my main level of expertise. But I would think that if you were a seducer, you would want something that was romantic on the surface but very sexualized right below that, and no one was better at these multilayered interpretations of lyrics than Frank Sinatra.

I always call them the Derrida of pop singing because there was always the surface level and various levels that you could deconstruct. And if you are planning for that romantic date, hey, go for Frank.

There is much more at the link, interesting throughout, and again here is Ted’s new book.


Seriously? I think he is under the impression that music meaningful. It's just noise that we enjoy vs noise that we don't. I don't care about the musician or what he/she/it thinks and I don't care what they are saying in the song. it's just melodious sound, nothing more. It could be created by chimpanzees and computers.

You and your comments are tone deaf.

You and your comments are tone deaf.

"The hills are alive with the sound of music . . . "

I prefer the bagpipes.

Such benighted folks do indeed exist...

We are still years away from an AI strong enough to generate rationalist commentary this dumb

But the opposite view is some kind of hero worship of singers or actors and people who are famous for being famous. I don't care. I don't even know the names of singers and I'm not sure why I would want to.

There's a middle ground. Also, you can't really generalize your own relationship to music to the rest of us.

"you can't really generalize your own relationship to music to the rest of us."
The post is all about the author generalizing their relationship to music to us. The reasonable way to respond requires generalizing your own relationship to music. Should I have waxed eloquently on chocolate chip cookies instead?

Well played! Lol funny!

"Putin will try to stop a group from performing in Saudi Arabia"


Bad transcript. Should be: "Putin will try to stop a group from performing. In Saudi Arabia, somebody will be thrown into prison for a song."

What's the meaning of the audience reaction continuum in live concerts? The spectators at a chamber orchestra performance are subdued while the music is played and their applause isn't especially loud between numbers. On the other end of the spectrum, maybe an AC-DC concert, the audience is raucous during the songs and deafening between them. Why?

As someone who enjoys chamber music and heavy metal: Cultural differences. The culture around chamber music was built around muted reactions. At the time, overt expressions of emotion were considered uncouth. Heavy metal, in contrast, was a conscious attempt to break out of that sort of mold, and metal is built on passion, so explosive reactions from the audience are expected. Doesn't mean someone likes one piece of music more than the other--again, I listen to both routinely, and deeply enjoy both--it's just a difference of how one expresses one's enjoyment.

It's sort of like how in some cultures you bow when you meet someone, while in others you shake hands.

Or the odd hush at a tennis match while the ball is in play, vs crowd noise at a baseball, hockey or football game.

I blast metal in the afternoon and then switch to classical at dinner and afterward. This is a life in healthy balance, much like having personality aspects of both Oscar and Felix.

I agree with the "culture" answer, but would also note that one is amplified and the other is not.

When Bach played at the Leipzig coffeehouse the audience would applaud an improvisation mid-piece just as in a jazz concert. The reason classical audiences are so quiet today is that you are supposed to be hushed in the presence of the dead.

This was also true of Mozart, Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, etc. I don't know about Beethoven, he was more of a private person. All great classical music started out as popular music with a rabid fandom.

Age is probably the main factor as I bet the 60-something metalheads are on average quieter - Also - In classical you need to be able to hear the delicacy of the notes. This is not really the point at a metal gig.

I find these concerns about the music industry odd and not actually concerning. There's tons of music being produced. There's no shortage of it. Perhaps we were overpaying for music in the past.

Yes, we haven't seen much development in pop and rock since the 90's, but I'm not sure that has much to do with how profitable it is to write new songs.

Also, why can't music be a hobby for most artists? How many highly paid or middle-income rock stars do we need? Many of my favorite musical performances have been by very good amateurs as opposed to professionals, who sometimes aren't that good live by the way (3rd Eye Blind, Franz Ferdinand, nearly every Superbowl Halftime show ever...)

"Yes, we haven't seen much development in pop and rock since the 90's..."

Disagree. Maybe you don't see it on the radio, but...that's kind of the point. Radio and other traditional music outlets have doubled-down on their traditional formulas, entrenching themselves in a model that's always worked, in response to inroads made by the variety of alternatives available to folks.

The biggest shift in music since the 1990s (which is when I started listening to music other than what Mom and Dad had on the radio) is the sheer variety. Want to listen to German synth-metal? Cool, there's like 50 YouTube channels for it. Want to listen to filk about a Medieval Re-enactment society? Heather Dale's got you covered! Want to listen to re-mastered video game music? There's too many to mention (it's great for studying, because it's designed to be atmospheric without interfering with focus). Want to find classical music played on wood working tools? Got that too! Society is still trying to figure out what to do with all this music, it's being produced at a rate so high that no one can possibly listen to, much less categorize or systematize, all of it in one lifetime.

YouTube is astonishing for music, which I think gets obscured amid all its other offerings. I suppose I could feel guilty about listening to so much current music for free, but more strongly feel I've paid my dues buying all those albums and concert tix back in the 70s and 80s.

I've heard that the profit for rock groups today is touring rather than recording. But I just saw four semi-legendary Swedish metal groups for only $39 (although Ticketmaster took another $15 cut). I don't know how that leaves much profit after paying for the travel, the venue, the stage crews and the giant inflatable dragon.

"I suppose I could feel guilty about listening to so much current music for free..."

I don't. Usually I can find the band's official page, so any money goes to them. In other cases, the artist (in particular Heather Dale) has gone to some lengths to allow others to make videos using their music. It's advertisement for the artist. And it works--I've introduced three or four people to her music via YouTube, and they've bought albums.

And yeah, a lot of bands make their money touring. But even then, it's the Yogurt Principle ("Merchandizing! Merchandizing! Merchandizing!"). It's not the tickets that the bands make money on, it's the stuff you buy there.

A veteran guitarist/songwriter chatting me after a show said we are in a live music bubble which he is very much enjoying.

Good point, which also strengthens my argument that this concern isn't very concerning.

Your confusion is this: he's not concerned with the industry, but with music itself. As in QUALITY NOT QUANTITY something apparently impossible to understand around here.

Sure. Quality over quantity, but what's the evidence that quality is down and that it's due to the new music distribution system? Was quality higher when records and labels played a stronger role? Is that why Bach was so good? Sure, he had a patron, but again, there are A LOT of full time musicians in the world. Whether Spotify is making it harder to be a musician or not seems so far removed from the real concern about quality.

The amount of high-quality music has gone up, because the amount of music has increased. Sure, the average may be declining a bit (depending on how you define "quality"), but 1) that's not been adequately demonstrated, and 2) if it is true it's because the amount of music being produced is overwhelming. Sure, 99% of it's going to be crap--you're not the target audience for it. Folks who like, say, dissonant elctro-grunge-core don't really care whether their music fits in your definition of "high quality".

The issue isn't quality of music. It never was, and never will be. The issue is that now, you need to actively look for music you like. You can't just turn on the radio and passively experience music; you have to hunt a bit for it.

To put it another way: The reason it's harder to find "high-quality" music is that the gatekeepers are gone. Alternative interpretations of what constitutes high-quality music are dominating music-making. And many people simply can't wrap their brains around the concept that their definition of "high-quality" isn't a universal absolute.

Maybe there is a quality quantity trade off, but the increase in quantity is absolutely huge. Because of my earbud headphones, I can listen to music all day, even when working, exercising or doing chores. (There are some chores I look forward to, because I'll have a guilt-free space in time to listen to Conversations with Tyler on my smartphone.)

You better have a wider mix of tunes than just Sinatra. Played alone, he might be good for a quickie. His singing starts to wear you down pretty fast. That's why I'd let Pandora mix it up for me instead of Spotify.

My daughter and her husband, both in their early 20s, chose Sinatra and other mid-20th century music for their wedding. She walked down the aisle to Ella Fitzgerald, father-daughter dance was Sinatra. The modern stuff came later, during the reception dancing. This is one of the plusses of nearly-free music. Anyone can listen to any music from any era at any time. Radio play is now essentially meaningless, whereas before it was make-or-break.

I think I will sell all my investments in England. The risk of a communist regime, expropriation and death camps is too big to risk.

I'll get a paper bag for you to breathe in, hun.

My point is that the Kingdom is going down the Road to Serfdom Hayek warned about.

No, it won't happen!! We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

They triumphed and then gave it all up for a mess of pottage.

Sinatra. For a 27-year-old. OK, boomer.

I feel like I am watching cavemen discuss which cave paintings they like the best.

"This boomer called Werner Herzog will absolutely dig this beast I drew in a few thousand years."

so does that mean Moondance is out?

Eh, no, boomers didn't listen to Sinatra -- their parents and grandparents did. Frank didn't live long enough to do this, but Tony Bennet did. I have a couple of millennial kids. One of them actually does listen to Sinatra once a while. I could imagine him putting it on for a date.

"Boomer" is apparently a term for anyone out of date, especially for technology and social media. John Philip Sousa or Stephen Foster would be boomer music, too.

On the other hand, anyone using the term is admitting to a desperate ignorance of history and culture, so we're even.

Oh, I'm aware -- which makes somebody who thinks a millennial would never listen to Frank Sinatra an out-of-touch 'boomer' in that sense themselves.

We've seen something of a revival of pre-boomer culture in millennials (music as noted but also cocktails, board games, and mid-century modern architecture and furniture).

In the college-educated hipster millennial bubble, that's right. My son is one and plays that kind of music. In the larger world, the "median" millennial is a minority with some college experience. I don't know what kind of music they listen to. Hip-hop, dance pop, and techno would be my guess.

I could see 20-something playing Sinatra when preparing or eating dinner. But not when you start to narrow in on the actual seduction, it's just not sensual enough. I like triphop or lofi for this, which probably dates me as an older millineal.

At that crucial stage it seems that unobstrusive instrumental music would be a wiser choice because a charismatic or sensual singer would upstage you.

Does the music really matter in an Netflix-and-chill world?

When I was in law school, the last thing I would do before going to take a final exam was listen to Rachmaninoff. It both calmed me down and picked me up.

What would films be without music. Without the music, would Stand by Me be worth watching? I grew up in the 1950s so the music in that film captured the era like no other way.

When I was in high school I had an 8-track player installed in my GTO. I'd get in my car, start the engine, and reach for my cell phone to make a call. No, I'd inset an 8-track. One didn't ride in my car without listening to the 8-track player blasting away.

Nobody listens to music anymore, at least not when they are having friends over for dinner and conversation. What happened? I always have music playing in the background. With streaming, it's so damn easy. Maybe that's the problem: it's too easy, so easy that few bother to take the time to earn an appreciation of music.

A few months ago I visited my sister in my small hometown (not so small now). We went to see her friend who has a boutique just off the town square. The place looked so familiar. Then it dawned on me: it was the location of the record store when I was growing up. When I said in a loud voice "this was the record store", everyone looked at me like I was crazy, even my sister's friend who owns the boutique. Shouldn't there be a plaque or something to commemorate the place.

I don't know why I read your stuff.

Did you have a cell phone in high school? I thought you grew up in the fifties. I was born in 1950. Graduated HS in 1968. We had no cell phones.

Anyhow, it's refreshing that you omitted the usual anti-Trump diatribe.

Trump blows.

It was a joke: it seems today that the first thing people do when they get in their cars is reach for the cell phone. Butcher, you need to relax and let your imagination flow. Just this morning when I was talking to my workout buddies I mentioned something about our Saturday maid when I was growing up. My Yankee friend responded "Saturday maid? That implies more than one maid". Well, yes, in the South in the 1950s we had a weekday maid and a Saturday maid. "No", I told him, "we were not rich, it's just the way things were in the in the South in the 1950s." And we had a (segregated) record store off the town square with racks of vinyl and several "listening rooms". The 8-track player came later, and even though I attended a segregated school, most of my tapes were Motown. left out sliding the matchbook cover under 8 track to balance out tape, (they cost about $6 a piece in late 70’s...the days of disposable income)

Courtesy of our corrupt and corrupting Media Establishment, no media representation of "reality" (much less of "drama") can POSSIBLY be offered today without accompanying NON-DIEGETIC SOUND (or music). Any musicality naturally inherent to "life" gets out-decibeled henceforth and forevermore by corrupt tech propagation of commercial sound engineering.

Damn this ubiquitous musical excrement with all of its ontologically excremental appeals intended chiefly to steer economic consumption and otherwise addled affective zeal. (Granted, humans the world over are emotionally starved these days given the emptiness of most media consolations, but thanks for this sorry circumstance can go directly to our corrupt and corrupting Media Establishment for foisting saccharine and vapid pop music crap across the entire planet, no matter how stylish it might be deemed.)

(The Beatles? Vastly over-produced and oversold--their music, their photos, their movies, their trading cards, their wigs, their posters, their everything, no matter how much British pop music was intended to console Brits for the loss of their empire.)

Imagine fighting in world war 2 to save the glorious empire and ending up with the Beatles, socialism, European Union, mass migration and Americans telling you what to do.

What a way to fall through history's basement and sub-basement both, with neither parachute nor oar (with not even the prospect of rescue by a fancifully fun submarine).

I begin to gain the impression that our valiant elites are preparing themselves (if no one else) for protracted troglodytic or subterranean existence.

You are reading too much into this. The Beatles were excellent. So was much of British pop. It was not designed to console the British for the loss of their empire - it was not designed at all. It was just what young British men wanted to play after they had been exposed to American rock and roll, blues, and hillbilly music. The boom in American music after the war wasn't designed to console Americans for the loss of our empire, either, because we didn't have one.

British pop music post-WWII was not necessarily so simply conceived (or marketed: I have to suppose the post-war demographics were apparent to attentive marketers of the era), and it was not so simply spontaneous, either (which is to say only: once it emerged, it was not permitted to remain any simple expression of adolescent spontaneity, since it showed itself prone to [adult] commercial exploitation and thus had to be leveraged with commercial production and distribution--if in doubt watch or watch again the Maysles Bros. doc of the Beatles' 1964 US tour).

American pop music of the post-WWII era was found to have value in PROMOTING America's imperial ambitions and competencies, which helps explain the dread persistence of US media outlets' happy suffocation of the planet with saccharine pop music (but well-produced saccharine pop music).

If you're a Beatles fan thank Ed Sullivan's weekly network variety show for making them a household word in teen girl America. Without the exposure of one of the highest rated TV programs in the country they wouldn't have become anywhere near as popular as they did.

She refolded her pants legs, walked to the trunk of the black cherry and lifted a tin can to her ear, stretching the wire taut.
“What was the bet you lost?” he asked.
“You mean when I moved to New York City?”
“Yeah,” he said.
“I forgot one of the Beatles.”
“Okay,” he said.
“I’m serious. No momentary lapse or anything. Ringo Starr had been stricken from my memory.”
“All right,” he said. “Why’d you visit?”
“This restaurant called Baker’s Dozen in Venice Beach. I sat on the patio, drank a coffee and flipped through the newspaper. The day the waitress I planned to ask out quit, the bartender had a heart attack, died. A band played that night, a band smaller than the restaurant. The drummer wore a Johnny Walker T-shirt. The lead singers’ hands were in his pockets. The low chords charred as I stared at this neon blue sign, and a summons of clouds formed a smoke ring.”

Wow! I can't believe Gulda's Beethoven 25 was specifically praised. I can distinctly recall hearing it for the first time (i.e., the first time hearing Gulda playing, it, and not the first time ever) and being absolutely blown away, thinking why hadn't this piece stood out in my memory before.

Incidentally, I heard it first in the stereo version, originally on Amadeo (mine was the Brilliant Classics reissue). I've since heard the Orfeo Austrian Radio tapes version from a decade earlier, which sounds equally fine. Never heard the Decca mono as of yet.

Many thanks, Tyler, for the long overdue shout out for this particular recording!

Emerson Lake and Palmer! Oh LOL!

When I was a teenager I loved - I mean loved - ELP. Ten years later dug my old ELP albums out, had a quick listen, and... was mortified. I've calmed down a bit since and I can now listen to most of their playlist with some sort of pleasure. But, oh my giddy Aunt... ELP, goodness!

Certain kinds of 70s proggie keyboards and synths have not aged well, to put it mildly. But Tarkus still rocks.

I always preferred Triumvirat -- kind of a bargain-basement German ELP with a more human touch to its writing. Re-listening today is a mixture of ridiculous and sublime.

Since Gioia is a jazz musician, I have to add this bit of recent history. Back in the 1980s, every city of any size had a radio station that played exclusively jazz. Real jazz. The jazz station in my sunbelt city was great. They sponsored regular concerts that brought in highly acclaimed jazz musicians. Then came the fall. First it was the transition to smooth jazz (it may not have been called that back then, but you get the idea). That eventually led to the exodus of the hosts who selected the music to play because they were forced to play music they believed didn't reflect quality jazz. In time, the jazz station converted to pop or country or whatever. The same thing repeated across much of America. I remember attending a free concert in the park by Al Jarreau in 1999. My date and I were the only white people there (a slight exaggeration, but only slight), and she had no idea who Al Jarreau was. The crowd was small but appreciative. This was a free concert. As in free. On a beautiful spring afternoon in the park. Back in the better days of the 1980s, the jazz radio station sponsored weekend jazz festivals, highly acclaimed musician after highly acclaimed musician. The place would be packed. With white people! White people! And the cost of admission was expensive, not free. My view is that Americans are drawn to celebrity, and jazz musicians are not celebrity. Then again, neither are classical musicians. It's sad, but an America that would elect Donald Trump is an America that is obsessed with celebrity not talent.

"an America that would elect Donald Trump is an America that is obsessed with celebrity not talent." You could say the same about O, I suppose, and about W.

Conservatives certainly did say the same thing about O and then they all turned around and voted for a reality TV star to be president.

"Apple would give away songs for free to sell devices. They don’t care about the viability of the music subeconomy."

Boy! Totally clueless.

Apple is a rent seeker, and as device saturation nears, Apple needs to charge for music, as well as video, and will seek ways to charge for reading. When first selling iPhones it charged for reading, too, by selling only locked phones via telcos that kicked back a share of rents to Apple.

Amazon charges rents via Prime, but is not a rent seeker so far, pouring all revenue into building more capital. It has carved out Prime Video, Music HD, etc which are rent seeking, but small in context of its overall rental business of web servers, warehouse services, cloud servers, which are both priced low to grow demand and revenue poured into funding expansion, so they are not rent seeking.

Rent seeking involves restricting the market by some means to extract monopoly profits. Apple has a premium brand lure, but as competitors replicated the features behind its premium, Apple sued to block competition, which failed. But now Apple locks users into its ecosystem more than Google does.

Google uses device maker competition to bring users into its ecosystem. A Samsung Android device can be sold with no Google proprietary apps because Samsung has expanded all critical "free" apps to decent Galaxy apps. Not sure if Samsung offers products sans Google apps in the EU, but probably does in Asia where language favors local apps. Samsung does sell cloud services, but its "free" in the US to help sell hardware.

However, artists are as back off as artists before the 70s. Only music copyright holders got 2 cents per cut, the same price as copyright royalties for sheet music decades earllier.

Musicians got paid for performing. Before the 70s, live performance was everywhere. Then came disco, and other ways labor costs were cut, putting musicians out of work.

The point is actually that Apple DOESN'T need to do anything connected to music. They could turn off the system tomorrow and still have billions of dollars. The point is that so few money men in music now have skin in the game.

I don't listen to music, except the pop tunes my hot Filipina half my age puts on, but I'll say this: a sure way to start a fight in the Philippines is to play Frank Sinatra's "My Way" in a karaoke bar. That's because it's a funeral song and considered bad luck to play it in a bar.

Why is “My Way” played at funerals? Are Filipinos libertarian? Genuinely asking, as it’s quite a libertarian piece.

@GOT - yes they are, though nominally they are statists and socialists. De facto, there are no laws in PH, so de facto Filipinos are libertarians, just like Somalians. But it's not all good, since to operate a big business you need to comply with so many laws it's almost impossible. Case in point: some German guy I heard about started a tourist business, was successful, married a local, then the local authorities drove him out of town and took over his business via threats of non-compliance with PH laws (which are selectively enforced). Very common story. PH protects its own, which for big business is an oligopoly. A good book that I've never read on this theme is Joe Studwell's "Asian Godfathers".

"If you don’t have good input, you cannot maintain good output." I suspect this is true--maybe also a good reason to default to being a generalist in one's input. This was another great music episode, and I found it interesting even when I found myself disagreeing.

'Cause what the world needs now
Is another folk singer
Like I need a hole in my head
'Cause what the world needs now
Is a new Frank Sinatra
So I can get you in bed

You beat me to it. So I'll add a different quote:

Eddie: "When you're making out, which do you prefer, Sinatra or Mathis?"

Boogie: "I like Presley."

As is often the case, the subject has been well-studied in the much maligned (and to some extent deservedly so) field of psychology. In articles, not books. Consult Google Scholar. A worthwhile book (from a historical rather than psychological perspcetive) is The Triumph of Music, by Tim Blanning (2008, Harvard UP). If memory serves it was "self-recommended" here on MR way back in the day.

The old paradigm of music distribution was perhaps over-curated due to hegemonic influence of the labels, distributors, Dj’s, critics et al. but also allowed more focused inter-artist musical dialogue. With the new Spotify era, there is much less curation, so how do we know what’s good or new or inventive? A true post modern problem that applies to many areas.

"so how do we know what’s good..."

The customer has to actually think. They have to listen, evaluate the music, and draw their own conclusions. Caveat Emptar. That anyone considers this a bad thing is deeply disturbing.

"...or new or inventive?"

Why do I care? Honestly--why is this a valid criteria for evaluating music? In any other context it's called the Fallacy of Novelty. If the music is good (by your standards) what does it matter if it's the newest, latest thing, or if it's something from the Middle Ages or earlier?

After reading the interview I conclude that Ted is well-informed and generally insightful. However, record companies have always viewed music as "product". Their objective is to move product (physical objects, like records and sheet music, or as now digital objects). There have always been a few John Hammond types ("discovered" if that is the word, Benny Goodman and Stevie Ray Vaughn among plenty more). And musicians (and others in the "creative" side) have always been highly motivated to be rewarded (money, acclaim, girls, peer recognition, etc.,) for their efforts. And always, there have been exceptions (extremely few, no doubt) who didn't care what anyone thought or liked, and didn't get heard or paid.
It is and has always been a fact (in recorded history) that to make money from music you need either a sponsor or a mass audience of people with disposable income. Sponsors are hard to get so mass audiences are the main target for most musicians. But the masses have simple tastes. They like what they liked before, so the risk-averse strategy is to give them more of the same. Ted is correct in his comments about the Beatles' effect, but this is old news.

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