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Is music a matter of personal taste?

Posted July 27, 2017

by .

Is music a matter of personal taste?  Well of course it is, but isn’t it also true that the trend and style of music is steered by that one stand-out artist or band that changes the direction of our personal taste in music as a society?  As we look at music through the decades, there are distinct sounds that define a generation.  From 70’s disco to the boy bands of the 90’s, types of music have become synonymous with a decade.

Interestingly enough, I never thought too much about the change in musical style as it just seemed to happen.  New bands came out, new songs were played.  Some I liked, loved and hated.  Seemingly simple. 

Earlier in May I went to the Muse Expo in Hollywood where I happened to attend a seminar with some of the top A&R executives in the music industry across labels and publishers. The moderator asked each A&R guru to pick a slip of paper from a box.  One by one, a snippet of a song from an up and coming no name artist was played.

The first song was a bubble gum pop song, and unanimously the sentiment was that the song was 90’s sounding and no longer relevant.  It was proposed that perhaps this young musician try getting her songs in advertising as she didn’t have a commercial or contemporary sound and basically there was no hope for her.  I have to say as I heard it, I thought it sounded catchy, but agreed that it was a bit passé and definitely wouldn’t be something I’d listen to. 

The next A&R giant picked a piece of paper and another song was played.  The moment the song came on, you saw all their heads moving to the beat.  It was agreed across the stage that this artist was a hit. One by one, they proclaimed their excitement for the young artist and wanted to hear more, questioned if she was signed, did she have more music that they could hear, did she write her own music, etc.? 

The second her song was played, I likened it to Adele, the style that is so very popular today.  This young artist had an edge to her music, but it was undeniable that her sound resembled what is current and popular in today’s musical genre.  In the A&R executives’ eyes, they heard a nuance to this particular song that each felt was a new take on what was current now.  I have to admit, I did like the song, but to me I didn’t think it was too dissimilar from most artists of today who tend to stress their syllables in just that certain way to create a particular cadence to the lyrics.  Maybe that’s why I’m not in A&R.

As I sat in the audience listening to the songs, I can’t say that I had a different opinion from these A&R executives.  I had almost the same thoughts that they verbalized.  Interestingly, to me they seemed to be looking at music in steps.  Is that song and artist unique or similar enough to today’s sound, but with a slight difference, so they can claim this artist as the next big thing?  This is why when you look back at a decade, there is clear definable identity. Bands or artists are produced in accordance with what is similar, but different.

So I go back to my original question. Is music a matter of personal taste?  My answer is still yes, but it is clearly steered by what is considered the latest sound in music.  That is, until a new artist or band pops up that is just too unique for anyone to ignore, and then current music as we know it is changed yet again.  


About the Author:  Natalie Eig is responsible for Account Management and Business Development with Vistex in Los Angeles, providing royalty administration solutions for the music industry throughout North and Latin America. You can learn more about our products Record Maestro and Music Maestro at https://www.vistex.com/product-suites/counterpoint-suite/ or contact Natalie.eig@vistex.com

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