July 29, 2021 | 5:31am
As a long-time member of the musical community, it seems that the latest dance craze sweeping across our world is called Content. Go. Faster. More. Content! It feels as if today’s musicians, songwriters and producers are trapped on an never ending merry go round always being told to reach out for the ever-elusive gold ring which awaits us. The challenge is, every time we get close to grabbing it, little by little, it somehow gets moved just out of our reach. For whom does the bell toll? In 2021 it tolls for content.
I was recently talking to an angst-ridden colleague about his pace of music production. He was anxious about achieving his goal of completing one song per month to upload to his Spotify page. He was following the model laid down by Spotify CEO Daniel Ek who, in 2020, said, “You can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough. The artists today that are making it realize that it’s about creating a continuous engagement with their fans.” This may be a clearly logical perspective of a billionaire CEO who drops crumb-sized pennies in the open, hungry mouths of awaiting musicians because, after all, it is business. This isn’t to serve as an indictment of streaming services but to shine a light on the impact of the Content Is King mindset and the ripple affect it has on what and how we create.
In Luke 16:13, the Bible says, “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” According to many biblical commentators, mammon represents material gain and the worry and anxiety typically associated with acquiring it. This is what I feel is going on in the musical community. We all need money to survive but the shape shifting method by which we acquire it continues to slip further and further away from our grasp. As such, from a basic survival perspective, in order to gain any morsel of an economic foothold, we often find ourselves living in anxiety.
Scene 46, Enter: the Content Wars. “Aaaaand, Action!” This is where we’re at now. Many of us feel trapped against the ropes between creating work that needs the necessary time for all the seasonings to marinate together while taking hits to the chin to increase our regularly targeted “fan engagement” uploads. From my viewpoint, the end result of the increase and frequency of uploads has produced a natural reduction in the quality of music being uploaded. In the NBA, the saying is, “You live by the 3, you die by the 3.” This means, the 3-point shot, when successful, can quickly put your team way ahead and lead you to victory. But those same, unsuccessful shot attempts can leave you way behind and eventually lead to a huge loss. That’s how I feel about following King Content. You live by the upload, but you can also die by the upload.
Music fans aren’t stupid and, with so much content out there, they can both hear and feel the difference between something that was thrown together for an upload click and something that was given the proper time to develop. I would submit that the true King Of The North is Quality not Content.
Speed, efficiency and fan engagement have their place but so does patience, time and space. There is an audience for all of us and, like any other relationship, there is someone for everyone. It simply may take some of us a bit longer to find that someone special. The wrong relationship, stepped into too quickly, can wreak havoc. But the right one, given time to grow and blossom, can take you to unimagined heights. If you find that someone with high-turnaround fan engagement and you’re happy, enjoy it! But, if that’s not the right fit for you and has you full of angst about your next upload, it may be in your best interest to lay back wait for that special someone that makes you say, “You wanna go grab a coffee and talk?” Find your peace and the fans will follow.
Scott Mayo is a 35-year, Grammy-nominated studio musician and record producer in Los Angeles.