It’s the alcohol in your beer, the salt in your Nandos: the stuff that only exists to make you go online and have your clicks monetised. So to hear musicians who I rate and respect use this term about what they create is a little heartbreaking. It’s like they’ve been harangued by their manager or PR or social media team so many times about “finishing off that content” they’ve somehow picked up the word themselves. Increasingly common, it now seems almost innocuous. It’s anything but.
Last year, one of Mixmag’s Stars Of The Year, LSB, released an album called ‘Content’. When I asked him about it, he explained that it was “partially ironic and provocative, but it does feel like music is now considered something to fill up websites or be used on TV ads and things. Its use seems to be prioritised over its reason” – the use being interaction, views, shares, likes, reads, reach, eyeballs, numbers, stats, data, sales. That’s content’s purpose. And there’s nothing wrong with that when the content is created for that one particular reason. That’s my job; I create content about the music that’s revolutionised and characterised my life (and your life) for websites and magazines to utilise commercially. It’s a massive privilege, and a deal I am fully complicit in. But when an artist emerges from the studio with a next-level track that full-nelsons your imagination and hurls you to places you’ve never even considered before, they surely haven’t made it to create engagement or impressions or hits or shares or likes; it’s pure creativity on their behalf. Sure, they’re subject to a contract with their label and manager and all the other processes the industry demands in order to be a commercial entity and so they can actually make a living. But never – even when the industry is as challenging and as fickle and as fast-paced as it’s become – should artists feel their music is generic and replaceable enough to start calling it ‘content’.
Music can still blow your fucking mind when it’s conjured in the right way. Goose bumps, emotions, a physical pull on the body: there’s no other art form like this. Music is a profound experience that stimulates billions of us mentally, physically and creatively. And the more we lose sight of the value of music, the more we’ll lose its magic.
This feature is from the December issue of Mixmag
Dave Jenkins is a freelance music journalist