Classifying music by quality
Classifying art by quality is not easy, and some will claim that it’s not possible at all. But we’ll have to work with something like categories in order to understand the basic differences, and therefore we’ll use four categories in this manual:
Great, Good, Okay, and Crap.
"Great music" consists of the songs that are considered to be among the best songs of all time.
There are about 500 to 5000 songs in that category, depending on the people you ask, or on the lists you take into account. Many of those songs have been released by those who are considered to be the greatest artists of all time, so you’ll find Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, The Beach Boys, The Who, Sam Cooke, Nirvana, Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Johnny Cash, and Michael Jackson in that category for example. Not all of those artists’ songs are in that category, but some of them at least. Many (if not most) of those songs have become evergreens, which means that almost everyone knows them. Most of the songs in this category originate from the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and maybe even from the 1990s. Great music has become very rare nowadays, and only very few post-2000s songs ever made it into that category.
"Good music" is the music that’s still good, but not good enough to make it into the “great music” category.
You’ll usually find about the same artists in this category, plus a whole bunch of other artists who did a really great job. Many of those songs have become evergreens too, and some of them are still being played by radio stations, even if they have been released decades ago. There is still good music today, but it’s almost completely absent from the charts and most of it can only be found in the underground nowadays, with some minor exceptions of course (think of Coldplay for example).
"Okay music" is all the music that you may still listen to and that’s not too annoying.
It’s okay, but it’s not really relevant, and it certainly won’t change the world. Most of that music will be forgotten after some time, even if some of those songs may have made it into the charts at some point. The music most amateur artists are making is just okay, and chances are high that the music you are making on your own will belong into that category too. And that’s a big problem, as you will never reach fans outside of your own community and you will never sell a lot of records by making music that’s just okay, which means that you will absolutely need to reach a new level if you ever want to make it. The only ones that may have (quite limited) success with okay music are artists that are being pushed by their record companies and / or by the media, but you shouldn’t count on such a kind of support anyway.
"Crappy music" is everything that’s really, really bad, and in many cases it’s a mass-compatible product that has been created with pure profits and chart success in mind.
It’s music that has been made for the sole purpose of commercial success, mostly consisting of cheap beats and a really annoying chorus. Most of the music by boy bands, girl groups, and other puppets goes into that category. Quick money for the record company, the producer, and sometimes even for the artist. Usually that music has been created for teens and for the masses, and the really annoying part is that some of those songs have been highly successful and will never be forgotten. Most of today’s Top 40 music belongs into that category by the way. At this point it’s important to understand the following:
- All four categories of songs have always existed, even back in the 1950s and 1960s.
- There has always been good and bad music, and bad music always dominated the charts at least since the 1970s.
- Only a small part of the population is listening to good or even to great music.
- Since the 1970s, the masses have trended to mostly listen to “okay” music, and finally to crap (mostly since the late 1980s).