Despite there being more music than ever at our listening disposal, the quantitative growth and unique stylization surrounding much of today's music is often undermined by the rigid schism designating it as either commercial or non-commercial. Originally devised by Toronto music blogger, Lonely Vagabond, a "No Pop," or "Not Popular," movement might be just the approach needed to change this ingrained impasse of the music industry.
Written during early 2014, Lonely outlines his "Not Popular" mentality in a manifesto representing the following:
"Anti-commercial, non-chart-friendly, also inferring there is no expiration date on music nor is it limited by geographic or regional boundaries."
Songwriters and artists alike -- while thinking outside the boxes of traditional composition -- don't always see their unorthodox projects, songs, albums, etc., make it off the sidelines and into the mainstream lane where most of the music listening populous would discover them without much digging or a need to be "in the know."
The wall often keeping mountains of today's composed material unseen on shelves and unheard in ears, is the confining set of sustained expectations presently cast over anything that approaches the mainstream market. Some ideas put forth by the corporate music minds are not to be wholly frowned upon -- namely the pursuit of monetary compensation to enable music making as a life sustaining career. All the same, other facets of participation in the commercially-driven camp of music could probably do with a bit of receding through a movement like "No Pop." As Lonely also states in his declaration,
"[W]e live in a media-fed culture where information is instantaneous and everyone wants instant gratification...music from the past has been forgotten."
The first of these salient points is rather undeniable, thanks to the existence of the Internet. Though the web has enabled more connection and ability to search, its speed of provision has taken a toll on public patience for that same interest in research and, where music is concerned, listeners are often jumping from one popular trend to the next with very little lag time in-between.
This leads into the second point, wherein the roots of nearly every founding musical genre have been distorted -- and whose value is now largely judged -- by the presence of digital manipulation for the purposes of ensuring perfection. Funnily enough, this current "prerequisite" of the mainstream corporate music is discerned in part by the public's present affinity for things like web-powered instant gratification. This desire then morphed into a need for perfection, just because it was found to be attainable through the cookie-cutting process commonly named dropped as...auto-tune.
One independent musician from New York, Nicholas Femister, who creates within the electronic genre (ironically, the poster style for digital tools) highlighted this collective loss of appeal for original sounds via trends in country music -- a style initially fraught with imperfections and improvisations prompted by abrupt emotion:
"Today's country music is more overly produced and pitch-corrected than even the most polished pop music. All of the singers' voices are made to be totally immaculate, as well as all of their lyrical content for that matter. Nobody producing country music today could 'kill a man in Reno.'"
The fascinating element that almost brings us full circle to the top point of Lonely Vagabond's "No Pop" movement and which lies at the heart of what Femister was implying, is that human hesitancy and non-replicability, amidst other things, have become character points that are now barriers to commercial acceptance.
Things like: A trumpet solo almost clipping on a vinyl recording; an out-of-tune vocal quiver during an emotional country ballad; non-instrumental noises arranged in a metal single; a one-take, tempo-messy punk track or, even a no frills, vocal standards record, tend to prompt doubt by music's corporate powers that be. This disparity between past and present feels even greater when considering these elements were previously permitted -- even encouraged -- as things that helped to diversify and differentiate artists.
This leaves so much of what could be appreciated by listeners, for any number of mental/emotional/spiritual reasons, unnoticed for no other reason than something makes a song or band fall outside the current definition of "what's popular and will sell." Meanwhile, "what sells" is what the powers that be deem to be marketable qualifiers. These conditions then become what the public expects. It's a vicious cycle.
"No Pop" is about changing this self-imposed, self-perpetuating wheel of regulation and can do so without condescension toward the pursuit of monetary success. All that would need to, and should, change, is the perception of what makes music "commercial." Clearly, there was a time in music's past when people saw beauty and found joy in less homogenous composition. Therefore, why not take a page from the history books and bring back some of our own open mindedness? After all, the worst that happens is more music can be more easily found and come to be loved.
Given that the web and the rise of globalized streaming models are currently fostering unification through worldwide discovery, now couldn't be a better time for "No Pop."
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