Category Archives: School

The current state of the music industry

This is a research paper I wrote last year. I think it is relevant to my blog, so here it is!

Is the Music Industry Corrupt?


What is the single most viewed video on YouTube? Is it a video of a talented dancer? Or perhaps one of a cute baby? None of these are the answer, for the current single most viewed video of all time is Justin Bieber’s music video of the song, “Baby”, followed closely by Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” (“Most Viewed Videos”). Of the top five most viewed videos of all time, four of them are music videos — this is a strong indication of how popular music is in our world today. But why these music videos are at the top may raise some questions: Talent? Appearances? Nudity? The answers to these questions trace back to the music industry itself. In today’s unstable music business, creating a song and distributing it to be listened to and liked by the public is a controversial task because there are temptations to use corrupted means to increase the chance of a song becoming popular.

The music industry is a complicated one. In most cases, an artist either looks for a personal manager or hires engineers to record the music him/herself (MacQuarrie, Gu, Guerra, Corredor, Hill). In the first instance, the personal managers will try to get the artists signed to a record label company. In the second case, the artist personally takes his/her recorded music to a producer and then to a publisher (MacQuarrie, Gu, Guerra, Corredor, Hill). From then on, the recordings go through the manufacturers and distributors until the recordings finally reach the public.

But there are even more stakeholders in the business: lawyers, business managers, and for some, songwriters. With all these stakeholders, how much does the actual artist/band get paid? The answer is approximately a startling 2.3% from every 1000 dollars a song makes (Jefferson). That means if a song makes a million dollars, the artist gets paid approximately 23,000 dollars.

Mainstream music, defined as “belonging to or characteristic of a principal, dominant, or widely accepted group, movement, style, etc.,” is the key component of the music industry. It is mostly listened to by the younger generations, and criticized by previous generations. Of the many similarities among mainstream music, one is the music videos. To attract viewers, many mainstream music videos incorporate drugs, parties, and most commonly, half-naked women who often have no relation to the song content whatsoever. These videos negatively influence viewers, especially the younger ones, and provide a horrible depiction of women.

Lyrics is another way mainstream music attracts listeners. “Out of the 279 most popular songs in 2005, only 9 percent of pop songs had lyrics relating to drugs or alcohol. The number jumped to… 77 percent for rap songs” (Parker-Pope).

So why is it that these songs are more popular than others?

One reason is that some songs are played more than others on the radio, mainly due to the record labels and radio stations. The role of the record label in the music industry is to manufacture, distribute, and promote a particular recording. As is the case with many corporations, corruption is present in almost all major record labels. The main form of corruption is payola, or pay-to-play — “the act of a record label or other interested party paying a radio station to play a certain artist (either in cash or in goods)” (McDonald).  This means the more money you give to the radio station, the more times they will play your song. “The public does not get to hear artists whose labels can’t afford to pay off the DJ” (McDonald). Obviously, for the extremely rich record labels, payola is a great strategy, but it unfairly harms others in the business. An artist not promoted through payola may experience sales failures especially if he/she releases an album at the same time as does an artist under a label that engages in payola. Though illegal, payola still happens every day: “In 2005, Sony BMG, one of the world’s largest record labels, was forced to pay out $10 million in fines after the state of New York found the company guilty of engaging in payola” (McDonald).

Unfortunately, most people — primarily teenagers — only look at the surface of what they are watching/listening to, and don’t see the corruption behind all of it. The entire audience is being dumbed-down: more and more mainstream music requires less and less talent but more random swearing and more half-naked men and women. Mainstream music is now a competition of which artist can wear the most ridiculous outfit and make the most ridiculous music video. There is corruption in the royalties, corruption in the music videos, corruption in the lyrics, corruption in the major record labels, corruption in the radio. In other words, the music industry is corrupt.

Sources

Boehlert, Eric. “Pay for play.” Salon.com. 14 Mar. 2001. Web. 6 Sept. 2010. <http://dir.salon.com/ent/feature/2001/03/14/payola/index.html>.

Jefferson, Cord. “The Music Industry’s Funny Money.” The Root. Washingtonpost Newsweek Interactive, 6 July 2010. Web. 7 Sept. 2010. <http://www.theroot.com/views/how-much-do-you-musicians-really-make?page=0,1>.

Lamb, Bill. “Major Pop Record Labels: The Big Four.” About.com Top 40-Pop – Songs, Charts, Top 40 Reviews, Pop Music. The New York Times Company, Web. 7 Sept. 2010. <http://top40.about.com/od/popmusic101/tp/majorlabels.htm>.

MacQuarrie, Rebecca, Yixin Gu, Elaine Guerra, Nathalie Corredor, and William HIll. “Music CD Company Supply Chain.” Music CD Industry. Duke University, 6 Apr. 2000. Web. 3 Sept. 2010. <http://www.soc.duke.edu/~s142tm01/chain2.html>.

McDonald, Heather. “Payola: Influencing the Charts.” Music Careers – Music Industry Careers – Finding Music Business Careers. The New York Times Company, Web. 7 Sept. 2010. <http://musicians.about.com/od/musicindustrybasics/i/Payola.htm>.

“Most viewed Videos.” Youtube. 3 Sept. 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/charts/videos_views?t=a>

Parker-Pope, Tara. “Under the Influence of…Music?” Health and Wellness. The New York Times, 5 Feb. 2008. Web. 3 Sept. 2010. <http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/05/under-the-influence-ofmusic/>.

“Top 100 Music Hits, Top 100 Music Charts, Top 100 Songs & The Hot 100.” Billboard. Web. 3 Sept. 2010. <http://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100#/charts/hot-100>.

Tyrangiel, Josh. “Auto-Tune: Why Pop Music Sounds Perfect.” TIME. 5 Feb. 2009. Web. 4 Sept. 2010. <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1877372,00.html>.

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Super-students: A Flawed Mindset

“Oh, you’re only taking TWO AP courses?!”

“Yeah, colleges like [insert extracurricular here] and [insert characteristic here]!”
“Uh oh, Collegeboard is not going to like that!”

These are only several of the many things I’ve heard students (my friends) say to each other. The high school I am attending is a private institution, and competition is extremely fierce. Every student works to make himself/herself stand out. To many of my friends, it is as if college is the final stage in life; get into a good college, and your life will unfold all by itself.

And here I see what I believe is a big problem: students force themselves, put themselves through rigorous, unnecessary studies and extracurriculars,  just so they will stand out to college admission officers.

They work towards becoming the super-student, who takes 13 AP courses, is President of eight different clubs,  volunteers at 21 different hospitals every week, goes on every single trip related to poverty, racism, or some contemporary world issue, etc. This, however, can actually go against you and your chances of admission. In fact, if you’ve never shown an interest for poverty in Africa, yet you go on trips to Sri Lanka to build houses, it looks pretty unconvincing (to the almighty and revered college admission officers).

So what’s so wrong  about being a super-student?

If you spread yourself out too thin, you will not have enough passion left to focus on the things that you truly love, and enjoy doing. There is so much more to life than college, so don’t torture yourself during high school. Rather than be average at 20 things, why not be great at two or three?

Imagine yourself as a super-student. Say that you are admitted into (insert prestige school here). You can now take off that deceitful coat that you have worn throughout your high school. No longer do you have to pretend you care for the impoverished children in Africa; no longer do you have to pretend you enjoy working in a hospital around old people. Now you may end your double life and resume your normal life as the person who you truly were (if you even remember).

What I’m saying is, do what you really enjoy. Don’t do something just for the sake of putting it on your resume. Don’t put yourself through the physical and mental torture required to take six APs, all the while playing in four varsity sports and managing five different clubs. Because, unless you really plan on pursuing a career involving some horrendous amalgamation of physics, economics, psychology, calculus, U.S. history, etc., let your high school experience be a more pleasurable one!

There’s always transferring colleges should you not get into the one you aimed for. Let’s not forget about Grad School, which is actually so much more important than your undergrad.

And of course, I am quite the unreliable author. I’m not the Harvard/Yale/Princeton-bound student. In fact, I write this speech in complete guilt, for I have enrolled in AP Biology this year, though I know I will NEVER pursue a science career (to be fair though, AP Biology was not my first choice).

Cue the angry mob!!

Review of Frank Portman’s “King Dork”

Rating: 4/5

For my summer reading assignment, rather than reading a deep, insightful book on world issues, I opted to read a more light and mindless book named King Dork by Frank Portman.

From the moment I skimmed the book list, I knew this was the book I was going to read. I looked it up and saw great things about the book, and so I dove into reading this book ready to be mesmerized.

I surfaced to the top after a good couple days, unsatisfied. The book has many startling problems – the portrayal of women and references to music of the late 20th century being the two biggest.

I feel that I was the perfect audience member for this book – which is the only reason why I gave this book four stars as opposed to two or three.

I am the same age as the narrator  (he is a high school sophomore), I listen to classic rock music almost exclusively (his inspirations are primarily The Who and The Sweets), I play guitar (he does too), and so on. My being able to relate to the narrator made this an enjoyable read for me.

However, many other readers may be offended or baffled by this book. Women will be offended by how they are portrayed, but I cannot go too into detail for spoiler reasons. Teenagers who are not into rock music of the 60s to 80s (which is a huge portion of the entire teenage population) will be confused by the music references.

The book is not all that bad though. There are some touching themes throughout the book; I consider the main one to be the developing relationship between the son and his stepfather. Development of social skills of an outcast is also a notable theme.

The readability of the book will completely depend on the age and gender of the reader. I myself enjoyed reading it, and recommend it to male teenagers primarily. Many females, I imagine, will throw away the book 50 pages in.

envisioning my future

There seems to be a huge gap between the amount of work you get in your high school  freshman year and sophomore year. Or is this felt just by me?

I was surprised last year at the small amount of work I had to do every day. I was hoping the rest of high school would be like this, but obviously it can’t.

Coming into my sophomore year, I can begin to understand what the upperclassmen are saying when they have so much work to do.

What worries me most is next year — if sophomore year is this bad, how bad is junior year going to be?! I’m sure I can find a way around it but reality has come down on me and it’s time to get serious.

ATTN: Iron Maiden coming to Korea on March 10th!
ATTN: Iron Maiden coming to Korea on March 10th!
ATTN: Iron Maiden coming to Korea on March 10th!

(From their most recent album)