Getting To The Bottom Of This (most people seem to dislike top 40’s music, yet it is the top 40)

Spending a lot of time alone in your single apartment gives you a lot of time to think and be mad at stuff. Maybe from time to time, I over analyze something and come to some profound conclusions – often based on nothing really. This time I think I’m am really on to something. This time even I can’t disprove myself.

People listen to ‘top 40’s’ music. In fact, so many people listen to it that it has adopted its own genre. Top 40’s is really an actual list by billboard who gauges how many people are buying what music and how often it is getting played. This creates somewhat of an endless loop of the same type of music going in and out, because once something is in the top 40 it’s getting played everywhere that plays top 40’s. The point is that people DO listen to it, they must to get this stuff onto these charts.


Many people I have talked to about this sort of thing almost always agree with me, the music that is getting into the top 40’s charts these days is derivative, uninspired, and engineered to make money instead of share the artists thoughts and feelings the way they intend to. If you are reading this, and have made it this far, you probably also agree. This is where I got confused.

Everyone listens to top 40’s

Everyone does not like top 40’s

These two statements are very broad generalizations, but in essence this is the problem. If everyone claims that they do not actually like the music they are being exposed to, why do they continue to expose themselves to it? Why is it that what I hear when I go to bars and night clubs, with people in my demographic, that this music is what is chosen to be played?

Well Mr. Malarkey, I know the answer to that dummy


This I have found to be true. In most situations, aside from live concerts, people who are in these situations where this music is being played are not there to listen to the music, they want to hang out and not be distracted by the music, yet have a rhythm to dictate the mood. In previous posts I have talked about the recurring theme of going out at night and having a good time in today’s top 40’s hits. It makes sense, but the fact remains that these people are being exposed to this music that they did not get to choose themselves. Someone else, a DJ, has selected what they get to listen to.

Now imagine yourself a DJ, selecting songs for these foolish mortals to have to listen to, you don’t want any complaints because your boss will get upset, so you have to try and play things most people will like. Well geez I don’t even know these people! I guess I’ll play top 40’s to be safe.

The decision the DJ has made is perfectly logical, play the most popular music to have the highest chance of pleasing the highest number of people. Those of you who don’t like it will have to deal with it because more people probably like this.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is a diagram of the music industry to help clarify this process.

Record label finds artist with good looks/good enough voice à Artist begins to record album

Album is mixed and mastered by record label à Record label distributes record

Record is bought or streamed by consumers  à Music distribution platforms count total sales

DJ sees who is selling the most à plays song in the venue you are in

Where is the American public involved in this process to make a change to what ends up in the top 40’s? only one part.

Record is bought or streamed by consumers  à Music distribution platforms count total sales

What the American consumers are buying is what is being played. Why did I go through all this to prove something that you already know? Because here is what you may not know, who is buying the music.

Think back to before you were in college, before high school, you are 10. You are beginning to learn how to use computers, but not enough so to seek information on the internet. How are you going to get exposed to music? Either what your parents play for you, older siblings, or the radio. From person to person, family members are different, so the only one that is the same from case to case is the radio. You hear a song on the radio, you like it because you are 10 and don’t have that many higher level thoughts and the derivative, uninspired, very simplified music on the radio is the best thing ever to you, because you haven’t heard anything else. Parents buy it for you, adding to the statistics kept by record companies.

Now back to today, you hear a song you like, how do you get it so you can listen to it whenever you want?

Download it or stream it.

I don’t know about you but I haven’t bought a cd for over 5 years. It’s ludicrous to go to the store and buy an album when you can get it on the same device you are reading this with in under a few minutes. If done legally these all factor into industry stats and still affect the top 40.

If done legally.

I’m not accusing anyone of anything, but nearly half of Americans ADMIT to having pirated something in the past ( The actual number is probably even higher because of the people who think the internet police will come find them lying. I would like to think half is a considerable percentage. The percentage goes up to 70% when looking at only the demographic that includes me, 18-29 year olds. Aren’t these the same people I was talking about earlier that go to bars and nightclubs where top 40’s is played? 70% of them don’t contribute (at least not completely) to music industry statistics which determine these songs. Maybe Mr. DJ did not make such a well informed decision after all.

So who is buying music then, who is causing the same type of songs to continually make the top charts?

I now offer a very bad source as my argument, only because it is the shortest to read and most likely to actually get viewed by you.
‘25% of all music sales are done by consumers who are over 45 years old, which is more than two times the share of any other age group’

This relates back to my anecdote about the 10 year old.

Obviously the 45+ demographic isn’t listening to anything released in the last 10 years, they grew up in a different generation with different music distribution methods. They are buying oldies for themselves, not the current top 40’s. Their 10 year old kid however, whom they must make all purchases for, really wants the new Justin Beiber song and won’t stop screaming until they buy it for them. Once you look at it that way, it’s no wonder all the 45+ year olds are buying all the music and controlling industry statistics.

So if you have been keeping up, the music we (the 19-29 demographic) are being exposed to is the music of people 10-20 years younger than us, the music of a people who are mostly only exposed to top 40’s in the first place.

TL;DR the top 40’s music of today is determined by children who don’t know any better.

This is the first half of an even longer post. Now that I have gotten to the bottom of the problem, in the next post I will figure out what our society needs to do to overcome this endless cycle and improve the quality of the music we are being exposed to against our will in public places.


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