As announced in The Michigan Daily, the Warner/Elektra/Atlantic Corporation sponsored an essay competition in which contestants were asked to answer the question: “What’s missing from today’s music scene?” LSA freshman Taylor Gast took home top honors, which included an autographed Paolo Nutini CD, a poster and free movie passes to “300.” Here’s his essay:

What’s missing from the music scene today? Is it that one revolutionary group that energizes everyone like the Beatles? Is it the upward trend of consumerism now missing with the ease of free music? Nope.

What’s missing in the music scene these days has little to do with musicians and producers and more to do with you and me: the fans. It’s an attitude, an urge to explore, to branch out and listen to something new, exciting and maybe even a little scary. True, it’s a bit frightening at first. I mean, who can forget the first time they stepped off the path of spoon-fed pop music and let a truly revolutionary sound fill their ears? It’s at once jarring, overwhelming and – dare I say – resurrecting to hear new, unconventional artists like Radiohead and TV on the Radio. We should be left jubilant and a little more fulfilled (though never totally satisfied) when innovative artists like Beck, Andrew Bird and The Shins release a new album.

True, some (most? all?) of these artists and bands are somewhat well-known now, but they’re known because of their talent, not because of their label’s marketing scheme. So many people are content with what’s called popular music that they hear on the radio. But I’m sorry, if a performer can’t give a great concert without lip-synching equipment and a French caterer then you have no place in my music collection.

What’s really missing from music today? Nothing. Those amazing, truly talented artists are no less present than ever. I bet there are at least a couple young Thom Yorkes sitting in a high school class right now, bored out of their minds as the choir teacher wonders how such a scatterbrained kid with a strange voice can really aspire to a career in music. What’s missing from music today is a sense to find these great talents, foster their ability and creativity and, well, let them do their thing.

Maybe some music critics will tell you that current music holds little value; that no album, these days, deserves a five-star rating; that it’s all been done. But I know they’re wrong, and none of that matters. I know that at least once a month I find myself in awe of what another new artist has done to my perception of music. Audiophiles of the world, great music is out there. Nothing’s missing at all.

The music scene is just that, a scene. In a play, plots progress, costumes changes, characters grow. And a scene is just one part of the ever changing whole. Music is no different, and it’s certainly evolving. So let’s take the time to watch – well, mostly listen to – the music scene and make that effort to encourage the talent we know is waiting for us to discover.

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