Can Manufactured Bands Ever be Classified as 'Good' Art? The Effect of the Market on the Construction of Music
Manufactured bands now make up a major percentage of chart music today, not least of them Take That, Boyzone, Bad Boys inc., East 17 and other all-boy pop bands. In this essay I would like to discuss how the standard of art has been lowered by the capitalistic system of the music industry, using a specific example - "Upside Down", which is maybe the latest addition to this genre of music.
By this genre of music, I mean the all-boy bands which have been specifically manufactured and targeted at the 'teenybopper' age class (and also the gay market?).
To argue that this form of art is 'bad' art, one must have a reference point - a set of values by which to judge. This is almost always a personal opinion, and I would first of all like to explain my personal opinion.
I believe that 'good' art has something to offer to the individual perceiver, be it painting, book, film, dance or music. These are all different forms of art, but one thing binds them all together - the fact that they are creations, created and crafted to the personal specifications of the artist. This makes the product original.
Two values by which I judge music are creativity and originality. I believe that good art provides 'food for thought' - that special something which, after the tape has finished, after leaving the cinema or closing a book, leaves an 'aftertaste' - something to think about, be it, 'how did he/she play that' or, 'what was he/she trying to say with that piece,' the list goes on.
Basic Market Analysis
For the purposes of this essay, I want to split marketing into two general strategies. The first of these is where the designers make a "product" to their own specifications and then look to see where and how they will be able to sell it in the overall market. The second strategy is the opposite of the first - the designers examine the general market, target a certain area and tailor make a product to fit this area exactly.
The latter of these strategies is the one employed when a band is going to be manufactured. The designers have studied the market and worked out what they think they can sell a certain group of consumers.
Hirschman's 'three market segments' model (see figure 1) can be used to explain which type of bands fall into which category. The first segment is titled "Self-orientated Creativity." The primary audience is the person who creates the piece and the primary objective is that person's self-expression. This is art for the sake of art and is sometimes called "selfish" art. The second segment is titled "Peer-orientated creativity"; the primary audience are peers and industry, the primary objective is recognition and acclaim. The third segment is "Commercialised Creativity "and focuses on the general public with the primary objective of money and profit.
The people who create art for the sake of art may not even approach a record label, as it is solely for themselves. This approach is focused on the product, made their way, not taking the commercial aspect into consideration.
The people who fall into the category of peer-orientated creativity do want to publish their work but do not tailor their product to increase its marketing potential. An example of this could be any band that has its own distinctive style, e.g. Led Zeppelin, which when it was first published, definitely did not fall into the category of pop music. Although they became a success and sold millions of records, they did not compromise their music to do so.
The third group are one hundred percent commercially based. Any music made by a band in this category is produced for a pre-specified area of the market with the sole intention to make money. The product is tailored according to what the mass audience wants, therefore any aspect of art is compromised.
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