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The Importance of Music for Social Change in 2015

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Questlove put up the challenge for artists to write more protest songs in the wake of the horrifying events that have been taking place.

This seems to be lacking in our current culture. More so than in the past. To some degree, a lot of the music that is accessible to the masses has become homogenized. Rarely are the issues plaguing our society discussed.

It’s as if we’re in a trance. This is surprising from an industry to which the individuals that make up the core structure are often the observers and commenters of disorder.

It seems if wealth and fame have become the ultimate drug for artists, engineers and producers. The chance of “making it” is more desirable than influencing social change.

The Man

The industry is no help either. They’re in a position of not rocking the boat. Their interests are in financial gain. And now, the industry is owned by financial tycoons rather than music lovers. Hardly the type of people that would be interested in influencing opposition.

With a suppressed musical environment like this, it makes you wonder if there will ever be another “A Change Is Gonna Come” or “People Get Ready”? Can there be another “Blowing In The Wind” or “Fortunate Son”?

The Pill

We’ve reached a point of being medicated by selfishness. It’s a drug we’re all fed. Music is becoming an audio selfie. A musical status update that evaporates after one listen.

We Are The Champions

We used to champion artists who stood up and made a statement. A statement with words or sound.

Can a statement like this be made with autotune and time alignment? Can it be made in a factory style of songwriting? Can it be made with a preset? Can it be made when money and fame is the biggest influence?

Cruise Control

One of the most obvious depletions is in performances. Emotional performances are disappearing.

We’ve become obsessed with perfection. Perfection that often strips artists of their individuality.


You know those little “imperfections” you hear in someone’s voice when they’re getting choked up? We like to call them mistakes now and we edit them out. We recycle a lot of the same sounds.

This creates an almost Stepford Wives effect in music. Gone are the jagged edges. Those jagged edges provoke thought. Thought that could lead to a change of opinion. Thought that could melt a cold heart.

Today, everything is perfectly mixed. Perfectly mastered. Perfectly edited. Perfectly subdued.

Power To The People

Artists have a great power. They have often been a major contributor to social change.

One great way to educate and evoke change is through feeling.

This is one of the reasons power has always tried to contain art.

Channel Lock

It’s a conflict of interest that the type of institutions that control art distribution and media are those to which gain from the suppression of free thinking.

The fox is guarding the henhouse. What’s interesting though, is instead of the fox eating the hens, the hens have been tricked into eating themselves. Self-cannibalism if you will.

It’s as if we’ve been tricked into not asking for change even though we see people suffering. A quick sigh and back to our insta-#hashtag world.


For artists that do wake up, there are plenty of outlets for distribution these days. Although those who want change may not get through the biggest outlets, we can still resonate loudly.

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The first step is realizing that things need to be said. Artists must let their freak flags fly! Speak through art. Call for change.

People are more likely to open up their thinking if they feel emotionally touched. It unlocks the door for conversation.


Art carries great power. Look at The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky. It caused a riot at its first performance!

I’m clearly not asking or influencing a riot in any way. A riot solves no problems.  I am simply encouraging the influence for change. I’m encouraging artists to acknowledge the need for it. To start the discussion.

With all of the turbulence within our society today, there are very few statements within music. There is no “Ohio.” Why?

We live in great conflict right now. There are many social issues that are crippling our great country.

Yet, the social commentators (artists) are silent. Some by distraction, some by the machine.

Moth To A Flame

With each advancement in technology, we’re going to have to work harder to stay aware of a bigger picture. With each advancement, we go further into our own cave.

If we lose our view of a greater public, we’ll eventually lose view of ourselves.

Bob Marley wrote, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery.”

Let’s make 2015 a year we wake up and start taking care of each other. Let’s play the music instead of being played.

Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC. More at