Does Pop Music All Sound the Same? And So What If It Does?

So, I watched this video this morning.

Pop all sounds alike.  Who knew?  In all seriousness, though, there are two things that pieces like this always forget:

It's not actually all pop.

There are always acts that for whatever reason find their way into the pop market without actually being pop music, like Metallica or Johnny Cash.  Top of the charts pop act Taylor Swift started off as country.  Hundreds of acts, from Weird Al Yankovic to Dexy's Midnight runners have gained sudden stardom (if only of the one-hit variety) specifically because they sounded like nothing else on the charts. Brian Setzer alone has done it twice, with rockabilly and of all things, big band swing- A music executive one said "[he] singlehandedly brought back two entire genres from the dead.  If he came to me and said he wanted to put out a polka album, I'd hand him a check."  

There have also always been those acts which bring some avant garde weirdness to the scene, like the Talking Heads, Bjork, or Lady Gaga.  From Warhol taking on the Velvet Underground the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo to Sia, the art world has always had a line into pop music.

There's a whole lot more than pop out there.

Really, this is the big point.  We talk about popula music as if it's the only music we have, but really, the light and bouncy blend of dance, rock, and hiphop that dominates the BIllboard 100 is nowhere near the only game in town.  The fact is, that never before have people been less dependent on what the market deems most popular.

There are now more musical genres than ever before, continuously being refined, split, and recombined into new musical forms. Ska.  New Age.  Prog.  Dubstep.  LoFi.  Not to mention classic forms like folk, bluegrass, and unprecedented access to ethnic styles from around the world.  Hell- Just among heavy metal we could list more than a dozen sub-genres: Speed metal, doom metal, black metal, stoner metal, nu metal, oi, hair metal, folk metal, gothic metal... the list goes on practically forever.

In fact, it even seems that the older forms that influenced this new paradigm are seeing a bit of a resurgence

A New World of Music

So even as pop continues to evolve, it also becomes less and less relevant. The internet gives consumers the ability not just to discover newly developed genres, but for those fans to form self-sustaining communities of their own, outside the pop market that once dominated the music industry.  Even a quick look at websites like Shite 'n Onions or Mead Muse shows the size and vibrancy of even the smallest musical cultures.

Add to this the way changing technology and distribution have put the power which once belonged to the major labels into the hand of small independent artists.  If your style only appeals to one person out of a million, you now have virtually free access to all 7000 of your potential worldwide fans.

So what if "pop" all sounds the same?  There's still never been a better time for music than right now.