Not to channel Alan Cross, author of the highly entertaining column, A Journal of Musical Things, but today's blog post takes a breather from its usual “What's the deal with radio?” theme, and instead takes us on a tour of the music landscape, always fertile ground for great stories.
Music helped many of us get through COVID. People have told me that crafted music playlists were their soundtrack throughout the pandemic. Others enjoyed the music on their favorite radio stations, along with trusted personalities. And podcasts have enjoyed a good year, too. But music was a common thread for many – the mood changer, the calming influence, the motivator.
For many, a well-selected playlist or a craftily curated music set can be the soundtrack to our life experiences. Music matters, and reflects our emotional state and well-being.
Over the past week or so, I've been collecting music stories to amaze and perhaps even astound you. Let's start with the first one that comes ironically from the health field.
Fred Jacobs shows radio personalities how to take their game to the next level in this webinar recording.
1. Heavy Metal will lower your blood pressure
In what seems to be a musical and medical contradiction, it turns out Heavy Metal music may, in fact, have a calming influence on your system. In fact, a research study sponsored by Vera Clinic shows that listening to metallic-infused music can cut down on anxiety, lower blood pressure, and even decrease your heart rate.
Overall, more than 1,500 volunteers aged 18-65 were given non-verbal reasoning tests while various Spotify playlists played in the background. Each responded wore heart and blood pressure monitors throughout the completion of this task to track their health as the music played.
Of the eleven different genres of music, Heavy Metal finished second (just behind '80s Pop) in its apparent ability to lower anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure. On the other end of the stress spectrum, nearly eight of ten who listened to Techno experienced elevated blood pressure scores.
If you're questioning these findings, Loudwire's Philip Trapp reminds us this isn't the first time academia has reached this conclusion. Back in 2019, Ph.D. psychologist Nick Perham posited that metal fans “who were made angry and then listened to heavy metal music did not increase their anger but increased their positive emotions suggesting that listening to extreme music represents a healthy and functional way of processing anger.”
If this sounds counter-intuitive, this research suggests perhaps we don't know as much about the effects of music as we thought. Then again, a deeper look at who sponsored the research is revealing – sort of.
Vera Clinic is a Turkish company specializing in hair restoration and cosmetic surgery. Why they would commission a study of this kind is a mystery, as is whether the respondents were Turks or other nationalities.
Somewhere Ronnie James Dio is smiling.
Thanks to Erica Banas, Senior Editor/Rock Maven with Beasley for tipping me off to this story.
2. The 50 States of Music
Yes, they have an agenda, but a consortium of 10 high-profile music organizations, among them BMI, ASCAP, the RIAA, and SoundExchange, has put together a fascinating interactive map of the music business in America.
The 50 States of Music is a clever web application that allows users to check out a state-by-stage musical profile, including music revenues, artists, and featured venues. We're all interested in how our states stack up against their 49 peers, so this endeavor will undoubtedly prove to be popular – perhaps even morning show fodder.
In the U.S., the total footprint of the music business (ostensibly in a non-COVID year) is impressive. It comes to $170 billion, employs nearly 2.5 million people, and supports more than 230,00 music venues all over America. Not surprisingly, California leads the nation in overall revenue, roaring in at nearly $40 billion.
The state profiles are revealing and interesting, if not a bit incomplete. Some might say lacking or even accurate.
Here's my home, Michigan, a good illustration of one of these state profiles.
At first glance, it looks fine. And they even included the Upper Peninsula.
Madonna as the symbol of Michigan music? They might have gone with Bob Seger, who isn't just from the state, but exudes its blue collar, rock n' roll image. OK, that's me getting picky.
It's when “50 States” lists notable artists from around the state that things get a little wiggy. Michigan (as the descriptor above notes, produced “countless” artists with “outsize impact.” And here's the roster of artists around they state they chose to highlight:
I understand that it's hard not to leave some stars out. But while Motown is represented by Smokey, Marvin, Martha and the Vandellas, Diana Ross (without the Supremes?), somehow the Temptations and the Four Tops aren't on the list. It gets weirder. Somehow, the Temps are credited to Alabama.
And then there are other omissions, including Jack White, Ted Nugent, Grand Funk, not to mention the Romantics and the Knack. Or Iggy Popp, George Clinton, and Mitch Ryder. And wait, there's Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and Al Green. And I'm just getting going.
So, the weird part is that the Commodores made the graphic – a Motown label artist but not from here (they are also listed accurately in Alabama's notable musicians list). And similarly, Gladys Knight & the Pips, another great ensemble – but from Georgia (where they're also double-listed). Remember where that “Midnight Train” was headed? No, they're not from Michigan either.
I don't want to get all Sean Ross on you, but when respected, august music organizations don't get some of these basics right, it detracts from their overall effort.
3. I'm actually agreeing with Gene Simmons
You may remember last week's blog, “Why Does New Music Suck?” made some waves, generating lots of comments, here and on social media. As I concluded at the time, “current” conditions are being impacted by any number of things, including the death of albums, digital fragmentation, the strength and popularity of older music, and of course, the debilitating effects of COVID.
In short, no smoking gun. Like most things, it's complicated.
But now, someone in a position of authority, well beyond my pay grade, is weighing in. KISS front man and Rock N' Roll Hall of Famer, Gene Simmons, is never at a loss for words. In a recent interview in Heavy Consequence, Simmons reiterated earlier claims he's made that “Rock is dead.”
In the interview, he goes off on the fleeting appeal of “boy bands” as well as the lack of musicianship in EDM. Simmons also avers that even though he's an admitted Foo Fighters fan, they're not in the same league with the Fab Four and other classic bands from the '60s and '70s.
Here are some of the pithier quotes from his interview:
“‘Rock is dead' – you bet your ass it is – not because the talent isn't there but because the business model just doesn't work.”
“The reason (rock is dead) is not because there's a lack of talent, but because young folks, that kid living in his mom's basement, decided one day that he didn't want to pay for music. He wanted to download and file share. And that's what killed the chances for the next generation of great bands. The fact that the music was for free. So nowadays, new bands don't have a chance.”
“Don't just go see Metallica and Taylor (Swift) or KISS. On the weekends, go to a place that's got live music.”
That's a good plan. Have a great weekend, and let's hope we'll be able to start frequenting blues bars, rock clubs, and other small venues.
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