Why pop music today has to be of phenomenal quality to succeed
No, you didn't misread the headline — the most successful music today really is high-quality. In fact, it's arguably better, more creative than anything ever written in the past. And the reason is simple. Streaming.
With ownership-based modes of music consumption — typified by records, cassettes, CDs and downloads — it was enough to sell a track once, the only competition being whatever other tracks were released around the same time.
As long as fans were convinced to buy a track, it didn't matter whether they listened to it once or a thousand times, it was a one-time deal. A song just had to be 'good enough'.
But as we transition to access-based modes of music consumption embodied by streaming, every track released must be ‘sold’ repeatedly while in constant competition with tens of millions of other tracks for our attention.
This, by definition, means it has to be of higher quality to succeed in such a crowded marketplace.
What's more, the universal availability of such massive amounts of music has removed the shackles — such as radio formatting — that have constrained music creation over the past half century.
To put it another way, in terms of creative freedom, there's never been a better time to be a songwriter.
What do you think? Do fewer constraints boost creativity? Do market forces boost quality? Or do you see the situation differently? Let me know in the comments below.