Listening With Our Eyes (the importance of image in the music industry)

Capitalism, the economic system our country attempts to use, is based on competition. In theory, each consumer makes decisions based on what is the best value for them, so only the best value products succeed and therefore the companies who make them. This isn’t really what happens anymore, now people want things because of marketing. Take the example of Apple products; many people dislike this company because of their incredible ability to market their products, while not keeping up with current competing technologies. In theory, a person would go to the cell phones shop, determine which phone for a certain price point has the most features and most advanced hardware. What happens is a person sees an ad for an iPhone on TV, sees their friends with iPhones, and then wants an iPhone regardless of the quality of the competitors’ products. Marketing has the power to make people want things without them actually understanding what they are buying, because in ads they look cool. Both Samsung and Apple are responsible for this, but the point is people want things because of how they look. This causes capitalism to not be about making the best product, but instead to make the best looking product and then to market it more effectively than the competition.

But music is not something you can see, how do you effectively market music in a global market?

Just like the iPhone, you have got to have a killer image.

Katy Perry is a staple example of a girl who got eaten by the pop music industry. An example of a product that was good, but not marketed correctly.

She goes from Christian rock to “I Kissed A Girl,” which the according to the bible would be punishable by an eternity in hell. I’m not going to make this a religious argument, but Katy Hudson was willing to give up her Christianity themed music to sing about partying and being a sexy young white girl in America. Her music isn’t anywhere near the raunchiest in the pop industry, I think she has made it one of her points to stay relatively clean due to her faith, but it is a guise. It’s a costume. Katy Perry wanted to be successful her whole life she just didn’t know how until she met the right people. She was always talented, but she wasn’t famous until she was marketed in a sexual, fun-girl archetype.

It’s about the image. People don’t buy the iPhone because of the processing power or the customizability; they buy it because of the sleek design and easy to use interface. People don’t buy music because it has good use of cadences or the key changes and time signatures, they buy music because of the image of the artist on the front of it. Every adolescent girl wants to be a sexy empowered girl who just likes to have fun, and remember who it is that buys this music…

Unfortunately, many metal artists also front an image to sell their records. It isn’t exclusive to pop music, it’s just not as obvious elsewhere.

In my post titled ‘Putting It Djently’ I talked about bands trying to play in a certain style without actually liking it or being good at it. This builds on their image. Many aspiring fans look for bands similar to X, if they ever look at all. To get a record deal, you have got to have the image they want.

Maybe it is obvious now.
The more tattoos and peircings helps your case a lot, also having hair at least passed your shoulders and wearing only black shirts with other metal bands on them. Never smile either. Some of these bands make great music, but for a metal head to take them seriously they have to look like this, otherwise they are frauds and will never find a place in the music library.

I’m not making any accusations, I’m not saying artists only portray themselves a certain way to obtain money(ok some do), but this goes on in every genre. Indie artists have some weird haircut or style, EDM artists dress ordinary yet classy, rap artists dress in a way that totally enforces racial stereotypes, it’s almost as if these artists all have the exact same persona as every other artist they share a genre/label with. That’s the image they want. Artists, along with record labels, want to portray themselves the way they want their music to be heard. They are targeting a specific type of audience.

Can we stop please?

The technology available to us today allows mass distribution of media, and unfortunately as humans we are visual people.  It will always be easier to get someone’s attention with what they see. To get them to actually listen to something they have to click the play button, but why click play when before the thought to click on something ever enters your mind your eyes are flooded with images of artists. It takes milliseconds for our brain to interpret an image, but to get the idea of a song we would have to listen for at least a few seconds, probably longer. The music industry is capitalizing on the ease of getting content to someone’s brain with images, not with the actual music.

Can’t it be about the music again?

I get it, its capitalism. The best marketed product wins, and our eyes are the easiest entrance to our head. In theory, the most talented, creative, inspired, whatever artist should sell the most records. There’s too much music out there for us to ever know if what we are listening to is in fact the best thing for us, so capitalism will never truly work the way it is supposed to. The only thing we can do is try to listen to as much as possible before deciding what our music tastes truly are.

As they say, looks can be deceiving.


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