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What is music’s role in society?

Some say music plays an important role in society; others think it is simply a form of entertainment for individuals.
Discuss both arguments and give your opinion.

For the average consumer of music the art form is individual entertainment, a matter of taste, mood and situation as they relate to the self. Yet take a macro-view of music as an industry, an expression of political and class attitudes, and a piece of social fabric, and one can find it holds wider cultural sway.

The music industry has long been a reflection and pioneer of capitalist practices. The idea of patronage shifting towards composers selling concert tickets is an early form of artistic financial independence which opened up marketing and revenue streams that continue to this day. Similarly, in modern times, record companies represent mass media and globalisation as they create superstars and platinum discs. Music also currently sits as one of the major areas in the free consumption vs. right-to-be-paid battle within the internet. How people consume music is often a barometer of the art industry as a whole.

As well as structuring and generating business models, music can take on potential political significance. The word ‘zeitgeist’ is often used in tandem with artists like Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, The Sex Pistols, NWA and Nirvana; whether their music resulted in actual change or merely an elevated voice to the cultural fringe is debatable, but authoritarian rulers and religions have known the value of imposing and influencing music for centuries – it is why hymns and national anthems exist.

Music is also a thread that can knit social bonds and experiences via shared appreciation. Rather than existing purely for personal pleasure, it can act as a platform for friendship, unity, or even division: similar to sport, film or fashion it acts as a non-threatening expression of preferences which allows others to gauge one’s personality. This is how most friendships are instigated.

Thus, in conclusion, if one takes a wider objective view of music then one sees that it is not only limited to one’s taste, but rather that one’s taste is part of a larger wheel. For the most part this does not matter in everyday life, yet it is a truth about which the consumer should be aware.

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