Music 'n' images 'n' sex- how they've evolved together

by Jason Gross

6 March 2009


As part of her dissertation, Sorcha Lewis at The Arts Institute at Bournemouth interviewed me about “How important is Visual Image to consumption of music.”  Lewis seems like a nice person but the end result is usually that I never hear anything about the paper afterward or if anything I said was used there.  So, just in case I had some interesting to say and that my answers don’t get lost in the virtual ether, here’s what I had to say.

1. What are your views on the level of consumption of music in our modern day society?

There’s plenty of consumption going on.  The problem for artists and labels is that the consumer market is shrinking so that more and more people are accessing music for free.

2. In your experience, do you feel that the use of visual images in the music industry has little or a large effect on the consumption?

If you mean album covers, since the CD market is shrinking, it has less impact now.  In terms of videos, there’s definitely less influence since MTV’s heyday but it’s still there and will always be to some extent.

3. In terms of the purpose of music films when they first developed in the early 1960’s, do you feel that music video’s as they are now known; have less or more significance to the song that accompanies them?
Music films actually pre-date the early 1960’s.  Duke Ellington and Fats Waller used the form decades before that as did a number of other artists.  Again, because MTV is on the wane (and isn’t known for showing videos) and record labels have less budgets for videos, their influences has definitely declined in the last decade.

4. Do you think that the contemporary pop culture and modern day music industry use sex to sell music?

Yes, but this is a phenomenon that’s been part of the entertainment industry since the 19th century, before the recorded age when bawdy burlesque revues were in vogue (actually, it predates that too but that’s a longer discussion).  And this is something that’s going to be true for generation after generation, in new and different ways as social mores evolve.

5. Do you feel that over the past 40 years, that the different generations value music differently, being that it is less or more important?

Every generation values music in some way as they use it as a touchstone to identify who they are.  The main difference now is that there’s much more available and it’s more easily accessible.  But how are you going to say that teenagers today value music more than their parents or grandparents?  They all do to some degree unless you’re talking about financially, in which case, younger generations now think that ‘free’ is the right ‘price’ for music (which doesn’t mean that they still can’t value music in the aesthetic sense).

6. Lastly, do you feel that we are living in an age of vanity and image is everything? (In relation to the production of music and the images that are use to go with them).

Again, this isn’t a new concept.  You could make a case that the age of the image and obsession with it began when printing presses began and that it’s only proliferated more and more since then as the technology has flourished.

We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work. We are a wholly independent, women-owned, small company. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing, challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. PopMatters needs your help to keep publishing. Thank you.

//Mixed media

TIFF 2017: 'The Royal Hibiscus Hotel'

// Notes from the Road

"Though a typical rom-com, Ishaya Bako's film is never boring.

READ the article