How often have we complained in recent times that most songs in movies are all about drinking, dancing, clubbing and a juvenile, narcissistic version of living in the moment? From ‘Main Talli Ho Gayi’ and ‘Saturday Saturday’ to ‘Teri Sexy Hai Figure’ to the proliferation of the entirely mindless EDM, music today is made up of sex, booze and beats. When did we go from soulful, melodic music to this? Is it just the market and the times, or is it something else? Well, the journey toward this change began with CDs, MP3s and the internet! Read on!
1. The entry of free music
Sometime around the early 2000s, a revolution was happening in the music, sound recording and distribution industry. It was moving from analog to digital, from cassettes and LP to CDs, from hard written data to files that could ripped, downloaded and shared.
2. MP3 zindabad!
The most popular file type to come out of this was the MP3 that is still in use today. In fact, MP3 was already in use since 1993, but the proliferation of the internet gave it the needed boost. The greatest advantage of the MP3 was it could create really small file sizes for music. When CDs had a single music track upwards of 30-40 MB, MP3s of the same track would be 3-4 MB only.
3. Sharing is caring
We bond over a shared love of music like nothing else. It’s no wonder that people started sharing these files with each other via email and on CDs. Smartphones were not as popular yet, but people were listening to CDs; and cheap MP3 players sold on the roadside, were making an appearance.
4. Limewire or Napster
Then came the baap of all sharing. One of the mentors of the early Facebook team, Sean Parker, founded the then hugely popular Napster, the precursor to every form of Digital Piracy. Napster was how Piratebay and other torrent sites work today. You upload files to it and anybody could download files from it. Napster was used for music. For the first time, there was organized sharing of a, till now, money making venture – music.
5. Cool Toad or Cool Goose
While Napster needed an account to be part of, soon a whole host of sites appeared that simply allowed you to download, with nothing but an internet connection. One such highly popular site in India was Cool Toad. From old Hindi songs to new ones, English, pop, Bollywood, you had a veritable mine of songs! Try and understand the excitement of the generation that got not only access to songs that they had heard, but everything for free for the first time in history! For the first time also, music sales through cassettes and CDs dipped tremendously and the music industry took a huge hit.
6. Piracy goes mainstream
Not everyone had an internet connection in those days. Those who did, had a very slow, painful connection of the Dial-up variety. That did not stop everyone from enjoying free music, or at least, cheap music. You could find CDs (near stations, colleges, and bus stands) that were sold for a measly 25 to 50 bucks but which had at least a 100 songs on them! Piracy was becoming an industry by itself, much to the chagrin of the music producers. In only a few years, movies would start appearing on these pirate shelves too. But something bigger was coming to bulldoze the music industry further – smartphones and Bluetooth!
7. Death of the music industry
Nothing shriveled as quickly as the music industry, because of free digital music and piracy. While people used to buy entire Albums even if they liked just one song, and they used to go to shops and actively buy music, suddenly, nobody was doing that. At least an entire generation wasn’t. This might seem surprising today, but then, it had come as a bolt out of the blue.
8. Death of the pop industry
No other part of the music industry was affected as much as the Pop Music industry. While we had bands and music artistes who solely produced albums, (unlike Bollywood that made songs for films), now, although people were still enjoying their music, they weren’t getting paid because there was no sale of cassettes and CDs. A whole host of artistes/bands like Strings, Shaan, Fuzon, Ila Arun, Shubha Mudgal, Suniti Rao, Milind Ingale,Devang Patel, Agosh, Sonu Nigam, Alisha Chinoi, Band of Boys and a lot of really good and popular artistes either totally lost their livelihood or had to shift to Bollywood. No longer was there any music that was not Bollywood. Do check out our Pop Music Listicle here to know what all you have absolutely missed.
9. Revival through Bollywood
Bollywood allowed the music industry to stay alive, but it stripped it of its soul. A huge influx of pop music artistes, a part of the industry today’s generation doesn’t even know existed, made it to Bollywood, but they no longer had any creative freedom. Bollywood, being the money making factory it is, reduced music to the same old formula of romantic song, sad song, dance song and item song.
10. New customers – DJs
With the arrival of DJs, Bollywood hit the jackpot. While earlier, the customer of music was the individual listener, now the only people buying music were those who used it to earn money through it themselves – DJs. This wasn’t a new market, but it was the only market – and with the proliferation of bars and clubs, it was a growing market.
11. Repetitive lyrics and EDM
What songs do people appreciate a DJ playing? Simple answer – songs that people know. The music industry recognized this and made sure they bombarded people with their dance numbers on radio and TV. To make it easier for people to remember the lyrics and familiarize the songs, a lot of repetition was added in the songs – Aaj blue hai Paani Paani Paani Paani Paani Paani Paani Paani Tune Maari Entriyan to Dil mein baji Ghantiyan Tang Tang Tang Tang Tang Tang Tang Tang Lungi Dance Lungi Dance Lungi Dance Lungi Dance Lungi Dance Lungi Dance are all part of the same phenomenon. EDM as a music industry, also works on the same principle – simply reducing even the needed bit of familiarity with the songs to be able to sell them through DJs to the masses in clubs, pubs and discotheques.
12. DJs in bars
Where do DJs play the most? Bars and drinking places? It makes sense that the establishments that hire these DJs want them to play songs that will remind people of drinking and dancing? This incessant need to market alcohol ensured they kept making and playing songs about daaru, booze, peena, naachna, sexiness, and so on. So, if you hear anyone complaining about the quality of songs today, you can tell them all you know about it! Share this with your friends and let them know about it too. Maybe someone can think of a solution to all of this?