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This Is Why Most People Don't Listen to Great Music


A guy walks into a crowded Nashville bar. He asks, "Who in here plays guitar?" Every person's hand goes up.

He asks "Who also plays piano?" A few hands go down. "Who also plays drums?" A few more hands go down. "Who also sing well?" More hands go down. "Who also produces?" More hands go down still. "And who formally studied music?" Only a few hands are left up.

If you're a fantastic musician, those last few are the only people you're appealing to.

People typically refer to great music as music that has all or several of these characteristics. It has a great hook or motif; compositionally, all the parts fit together better than you could imagine; it's timeless; it transports you to another place, or allows you to get lost in the noise; the musicians have obvious technical skills; it's well produced; it evokes emotion; it generally leaves you going "Wow."

Finding all of this packaged in a pop sensation - or even a music legend - is rare. That's because the average, everyday person cannot appreciate some of the greatest music.

Great musicians who are the influence and inspiration of other good or great musicians often go unnoticed by the public. The public doesn't really understand what it is about these people that would make them so great. "I mean, they sound pretty good, but what's the big deal?"

Most of the music that comes out of major record labels is produced to sell. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and from a business mindset it's a best practice! But music that sells isn't necessarily of the highest musical quality. Music that sells is something a very large audience can bob their heads to.

Think of it like architecture. Anyone can look at a building and say "Wow, that's cool" or "That's a boring building." But it takes another architect to point out the details and understand what makes a building good or bad or amazing.

I'd like to say that I love great music and can identify great musicians. I don't know if that's necessarily the case. I have a background in music, studied it in school, and even I have a difficult time understanding just how good The Roots and Joe Bonamassa actually are.

Most people don't listen to great music because, like anything of expert quality, it takes another expert to really appreciate it. This doesn't mean you should put people down for listening to "crap" or something "anyone can do." It just means that music serves a purpose. That purpose happens to be different for everyone. Not everyone wants to listen to seven minutes of Freebird solo, but everyone loves a hook.