Recently, a friend called to let me know that he was selling all of his DJ equipment. I joked, “Let me guess, new girlfriend?” My friend laughed, called me an asshole, and then confessed to having a new girlfriend but insisted that she had nothing to do with why he was selling his gear. “I can’t do it anymore, Leon. The music on the Pop charts now is terrible. How do you stand it?”
I made it clear to him that I understood his feelings. Then he asked, “Do you think that the music is really that bad or we’re just getting old. I mean, our parents didn’t like our music and their parents didn’t like theirs.”
The big myth is that musical tastes divide because of generation gaps. Nothing can be further from the truth. People that love music keep their ears open until the day they die. Good music is good music. Time is irrelevant. A good Motown track moves a room full of people from ages 14 to 74. Why? People of all ages dance to Motown because a good song is timeless. To answer my friend’s question…no…it’s not because we are getting older. Music in general isn’t getting worse it’s just that we have less good music to choose from. The current generation doesn’t have a Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder or Burt Bacharach equivalent to churn out timeless tunes.
As far as the plight of the DJ that really loves music, finding a truly educated, music-loving audience is relative. Where you are determines the sophistication of your audience. With the exception of Chicago, finding an audience that doesn’t fall for the usual Pop chart refuse in the Midwest is nearly impossible. The two operative words in the Midwest on all accounts are “fear” and “familiarity”. I’ve literally had patrons in a screaming, fear-like panic because they didn’t recognize the song I was playing. The general consensus is “We want to follow. We want to hear what we have been force-fed. How dare you try to educate us and steer us in another direction.” On average, crowds in the Midwest don’t really listen to a song, but instead search for familiarity in a track. If I play a little known intro to a Pop song, people will frown until they hear the part they recognize from the radio edit. Am I over generalizing? Absolutely. There are many really cool, music-loving people in the Midwest. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many.