Now That's Good Music!

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A while back I wrote an article stating the reasons that I thought playing Rock music to small children and babies was not healthy.

I got lots of replies with various opinions, most of them favorable. I think that my ultimate argument: “Loud, aggressive sounds are not good for babies,” was rock-solid. I haven’t changed my mind.

But, of course, a few people strongly disagreed with me and argued that there was no difference between Chuck Berry or Beethoven when it came to babies.

Like I wrote in that article, I am not a government-funded scientist with a degree in that sort of thing. And I don’t understand how you could quantify such a subjective thing in the first place. But I have worked as a “professional” in the music business since 1977. I am also in the midst of raising four children (regardless of how old they get, they are still your children and you worry about them). So I do, rightly or wrongly, feel that I do “know more about music” than most people.

I’d like to discuss, in this article, “what is good music?”

Just the entire notion of being able to decide what is “good music” seems absurd, I might agree. But, please, bear with me for a moment.

I have noticed many articles (on LRC and elsewhere) that were quite ungracious to Rock and Roll music. First off, let me state clearly that I like Rock and Roll Music — some. I also like some Classical, some Country and Western, some Jazz, Electronica, Underground, etc. I like all sorts of music.

Of course I like all sorts of music; it’s my job. I have well over 10,000 CDs at my home. Even so, I doubt if 2% of them are so-called “Popular-music.” I don’t own a single Brittany Spears, Michael Jackson, Beatles, or even, God forbid… I don’t own even one single Elvis Presley record or CD.

Why should I own this kind of stuff? The radio and TV stations I work at, they all have that kind of music. Why should I clutter my home up with that kind of junk?

Yes, that’s what I said, “junk!”

I have unusual tastes. But I also have to eat. So I have to walk a fine line at work between personal satisfaction and satisfying sponsors. And it is not easy.

Mozart ! Great Music? Perhaps…. But useful for my purposes is another question…

So what is “good music”? Well, if you think that all Rock music is bad; or all classical music is boring; or all Jazz is for old people; then I can tell you that you are closed minded and completely wrong. Sorry, but you are wrong.

Good music, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. If some kid likes Eminem then who are you or I to say that is wrong? Who are you or I to say what 17-year-olds should like? Heck, if you or I knew what 17-year-olds liked, then we should have been multi-billionaires long ago and I wouldn’t be writing this article and you wouldn’t be reading it!

If we knew what kids liked, we’d be on our own personal 282-foot yacht in the Bahamas right now. So let’s just throw out the ridiculous notion of “what is good music” in the sense that most people mean it: “Good music is music that I personally like!" This idea is wrong.

No one cares what you personally like, except you.

Once you understand this concept, then you can overcome your prejudices and use music to your advantage. Now, I’m not talking about what you listen to in your own free time. What you like, the same as some teenager, is your own personal preference.

What I am talking about is even more basic than that: The idea that music is a “tool.” A tool for helping to create an atmosphere for some pre-determined purpose.

Music is for creating a mood. Music is a tool to be used for your advantage. Whether that advantage is how to utilize your free time to its maximum effect or your work time to your benefit; you can be smart and use music effectively.

Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about: Say you and your partner were celebrating some special occasion and decided to go out to some fancy restaurant. Let’s say, Sushi. The place looks and smells great. It’s clean, and you heard from friends that it was tops.

You and yours walk into this expected fine dining experience and the lady in the Kimono greets you at the door. You sit down, pour tea. Wonderful. Then, Snoop Doggy Dogg’s newest Rap song comes crashing over the restaurant background music.

No! Right?

Perfect for Halloween ….
But not Sushi

Or how about, let’s say it’s Halloween, and you take the kids to some super-scary roller coaster ride at the amusement park? You stand in line for “The Screamer — The wildest ride this side of Texas!” But when you get on the ride, Vivaldi is playing.

No! That’s not right either. Sorry, but in this case, we need some very wild music — Probably Punk Rock or Heavy Metal would be suitable, wouldn’t you agree?

About a month and a half ago, I went into the corner liquor store. They all know my face there. As usual, I made some small talk. The owner of the store was there and I asked him how business was. He said, “So, so….”

I told him, half jokingly, that they should change the background music that they play inside the store. They always play loud Pop/Rock — Kids music. I guess kids might like that, but kids are not supposed to buy liquor, right? I guess it would be foolish to play music that targets teenagers when most of your customers are over 30. Agreed?

I just came back from there about an hour ago and they were playing some very traditional American Big-band music


I think it was Artie Shaw, but I’m not sure
(Artie Shaw is just a wee-bit before my time.)

The owner of the shop wasn’t there today, but one of the regular part-timers was. After I heard the Jazz music, I said to him:

“Wow! The music in this store has really gotten high-class.”

The employee looked at me and with excitement bubbling from his eyes, he said:

“Yes! The sales have really gone up when we play Jazz music! Really!” He continued, “Do you like Jazz music?”

His enthusiasm was quite refreshing. He is only about 24 or so, but it was like he just discovered the secret to life itself. I told him that I didn’t really like any music. And, as far as someone like him is concerned, I don’t. At least the music I like is someone he’s probably never heard of.

But think about this situation, of course sales would go up if you played Jazz music at a liquor store: Some man or woman walks into the liquor store with a purpose. That purpose is to buy alcohol. Perhaps just for themselves that evening, or to drink with a friend, or even to discuss some situation dealing with romance. Who knows?

They walk into the store, and if the music in that store makes them feel “high class,” then maybe they will, if even for a moment, think “I will buy something a little better this time.” And they do.

Come on, this is common sense. Even if you were drinking alone, you might “splurge” on a whim, due to something as simple as background music. I know I have. And I’ll bet if you really think about it, you’ll realize you have too.

If you are selling cheap booze as well as $200 a bottle wine and whiskey, generally speaking, you would have to be foolish to be playing Country or Hillbilly, or Heavy Metal, or Rap music in your shop.

If you were running a hamburger shop, or kids amusement park, or convenience store, you would have to be stupid to play Mahler or Johnny Mathis.

I am convinced that I am 100% correct about this. I know I am. After working in this silly music business for all these years and hearing how someone, in spite of their personal tastes, uses music to make themselves more money, then all I can say is:

“Now that’s good music!”

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the mass media for nearly 30 years.

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