Reasons to Steal Your 15-Year-Old Niece’s iPod

I’ve never done the experiment, but I wonder what would happen if you filled a room with theater professionals – writers, actors, designers, producers, etc., and asked them each to list songs currently in the Top 40. What would the median number of right answers would be? Ten? Five? Two? (If you want to try this yourself, you can check your answers here.)

For whatever reason, keeping up with popular music isn’t expected of professionals in our business, but pop music is a vital part of our culture and more closely related to our art form than almost anything else. I understand the impulse to listen to the familiar. Left to my own devices I’d listen to 90s emo, Brahms, and about 5 Broadway cast albums over and over.

Freebie: Lorde's Royals is currently #1. The other 39 are up to you.

Freebie: Lorde’s Royals is currently #1… 
The other 39 are up to you.

Knowing this about myself, I’ve come up with a little trick that helps (forces?) me to stay a little bit current: periodically when I encounter a smart late high school or early college student, be they cousins, family friends, or someone’s younger sibling, etc., I ask them to make me a youtube playlist of the 7 or 8 most played songs on their iTunes. There’s very little a 14 – 19 year old likes more than discussing his or her music, so most are happy to take the half hour or so it takes to introduce me to something new. I don’t always like the stuff, but I always learn something and steal, steal, steal. Believe it or not, pop music is really good right now, and it evolves and develops shockingly quickly. There is some kind of innovation every year that starts in the little indie records, filters its way up to the top 40, and embeds itself in our audience’s ears. The more we know, the more tools we have at our disposal.

So in conclusion, find your 15-year-old niece at Thanksgiving and ask her what she’s listening to. I’d be surprised if it didn’t, in some small way, make you a better artist!

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