Art As Commodity

Commodification of art

Once, musical training was regarded as a mark of a good upbringing. In prior times (before printed and recorded music was available) people made music in the home in informal settings. The act of writing and reading Music (in the form of notation) was a pracice generally reserved for the professional--typically a Church musician.

As time passed (and especially with the development of early printing presses) more and more people were able to share Music in writte form, but it wasn't until the "music industy" as we know it began to form in the mid-1700s.

From that point forward, we move from printed sheet music and mass-market instruments, through the invention of recorded music, the dissemination of recordings and audio equipment, all the way to today's youtube culture. In that relatively brief time span, we've seen music become something that's almost entirely regarded in terms of its commercial value, a product to be bought and sold.

The Music Supply Chain

Music is now something we observe or watch (a spectacle) but not something we generally do. In most cases, when someone wants to hear Music, they'll be paying for it somehow. As a paid commodity, there's a "lowest common denominator" element at work--the purpose of creating the Music is to make sales. Contemporary Worship Music is, like it or not, a product developed, marketed, and sold, to a specific market segment. The marketing industry behind CWM is hostile or indifferent to the Theological questions surrounding such Music, so it's futile to ask too much in the way of Doctrinal substance.

Worse, it's difficult to encourage the consumers to ask for too much--we're trained (by the marketing machinery) to expect so little, to be distracted by the "new" element. The "fast food" analogy is used quite often: if we're satisfied with McDonald's for lunch, we should be satisfied with "Casting Crowns" on Sunday.

Which brings me to another question: is there such a thing as the "Commodification of Theology?"