Award Winning Musician James Kob on Music and Politics

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It’s been an interesting media ride recently, what with the politics of government AND the politics of music. Music award shows and the like inundate us wherever we go lately. Hard to get away from it really.

The fascinating thing about both subjects is that one thing is common to both: music.

Lots of hoopla comes at us from all news angles in this year of the big election and from every video news-source outlet known to man: CNN, FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC, HLN plus many other less-mainstream ones. The point here is that it’s unrelenting. The quest to gain our attention as the viewing and listening public with 24/7 coverage means all stops are pulled out to make us sit up and notice what they’re saying. How to do that? With music of course … what else would be as effective?

Nothing I know could possibly grab hold of us like a pulsating drum beat, bass notes throbbing, guitar on top with horns punching, bobbing and weaving … hitting us hard so that even if our eyes are not on the TV, our ears make us turn to watch and pay more attention.

In the political world, candidates’ advocates turn to us in the music world to help market their bosses more effectively … they know music sells ideas and their people need to be sold hard to the American people. Think about it: most if not all the candidates are pretty boring, pretty dull in their own right and would have a hard time selling anybody a jar of peanut butter let alone selling us on their ability to run this country as it’s CEO.

James Kob talks Music and Politics.
James Kob talks Music and Politics.

As a composer and not solely as a performing musician, I tend to look at things around me in a big picture sort of way in order to perhaps get a better sense of continuity and perspective prior to starting a writing project.

Whether it be a love song, a life-statement piece or a large orchestrated affair, examining the world around me before I begin composing sometimes makes me think others might through inference, be able to relate to my music better. What I see lately in the geo-political world these days … because it IS everywhere … is a bit worrisome.

EVERY candidate that ran to be their party’s candidate pick used music in some form because they knew this much: music moves people emotionally like nothing else can. And voting for someone is very often an emotional action. Dig the music … then dig the person using the music to reach you! As a political pawn, the music and often the artists that play it on behalf of the candidates they support are powerful tools used to reach a whole group of citizens that may only be reachable “second hand” … that is, through the artist they’re fans of. So, music has now become, in addition to being its own wonderful art form, a powerful weapon in the arsenal of politicians who prey on people’s emotions to make them “fans” … even if later these new fans tire of the tune their new-found idols are playing.

But the music business in the “popular music industry” as we know it today and even to a degree in the classical music circles, is a fickle mistress in some ways and a very consistent master in another: just follow the money. There it is. A LOT like politics. And like the common thread that music itself is to both it’s own industry and the political world, IT’S THE MONEY STUPID!

Ha! Yes, it IS the money … and there is a LOT of it, though mainly for a few at the top of the music industry heap I’m sorry to say. A recent statistic quoting music industry recording reports stated that something like 7% of the popular music industry artists make 90% of the money that’s spent on albums and individually sold recorded songs. A lot like the top politicians, huh? I mean … look around at many of the leading politicians, quite a few enriched by their popularity.

The music biz IS similar to politics in that regard most definitely … and yes, it’s ALSO a very political environment in it’s own right. Let’s consider the music “charts” for example. Measurement of success in the popular music biz is based on recorded music sales which is driven by airplay on radio, TV and streaming venues. And it’s a young world that is big on listening to aired and streamed music … younger fans for younger performers.

Maybe they can listen a lot because they aren’t busy working for a living. They have more time to be social. Makes sense. The big live venue tour successes though aren’t strictly “young” … a lot of re-purposed music acts have come together and gone on the road again for the older attendees of rock & roll concert venues. Old Man Bands still do it for that group of fans. Kind of like old politicians who just won’t retire: they keep doing the same things and the same old people keep voting for them. More similarities.

There are some anomalies happening however. Take Andrea Bocelli for one. He was one of the biggest dollar-grossing live venue performers world-wide in 2015 … and his recordings are RARELY played on radio or streamed. Yet he’s sold millions of albums and is beloved everywhere he goes. There are other musical performers like him: Bette Midler to name another.

It’s cool though right now to compare that phenomenon to what’s happening politically with two presidential candidates on both sides of “the aisle.” You know which ones I mean. They’re different from what we’re used to, for sure. One appeals to mostly young people even though he’s pretty old actually. The other appeals to a fairly diverse population across a varied age group. Sort of like an Old Man Rock & Roll Band versus an Easy Listening Standards Singer (with an edge) I guess.

What’s the point? Well, music has obviously become a huge component in this nation’s social world. And politics are a social study for certain. It just happens that popular politicians like having popular musicians around them … and vice-versa. What a crazy, entangled world we live in today where music helps drive politics.

I wonder if Abe Lincoln would have liked hip-hop … or jazz?

James Kob is a classically trained veteran composer and musician who writes and arranges music and lyrics in a variety of genres and languages.

James has performed in just about every venue there is: from nightclubs to open stadium-type festivals. Hes performed jazz, rock, R&B big-band, orchestra and unplugged guitar styles and continues to perfect his playing and composing skills.

Raised in the American Midwest and collegiately schooled in music composition, he currently resides in Southern California where he has most recently produced his album: “So Right. The James Kob Experience” … a somewhat smooth jazz collection of new original compositions in the Bossa Nova, Latin and Adult Contemporary styles.

The CD is available now at AMAZON, CDBaby, iTunes, Spotify and all other music outlets … or visit: http://www.jameskobexperience.com and link from there.