In On Popular Music, Theodore Adorno distinguishes what he calls "serious music" (classic pieces, including the likes of Beethoven) and "popular music", a standardized sphere of music that was made for recognition and a conditioned response to ensure success and profit. He analyzes the structural and psychological aspects "frozen" by industrial regulation of popular music. Adorno's concept of "pseudo-individualization", the "endowing cultural mass production with the halo of free choice or open market on the basis of standardization itself" (Adorno, 25), is similar to Daniel Boorstin's "self-fulling prophecy" as described in his book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America.
According to Boorstin, a celebrity's or an event's importance has been pre-determined by their own portrayal of importance with pseudo-awards, celebrations, and fame. Celebrities are "famous for being famous", known and recognized for essentially nothing. Adorno's tone in On Popular Music is equally disdainful toward popular music, successful hits that have been repeated for recognition and acceptance but containing musical component that is neither notable nor praise-worthy. He very clearly finds "serious music" higher in quality. The repetition and uniformity of popular music and its' standardization implies the lack of creativity and innovation and thus, a lack of value. Like Boorstin's pseudo-events (10 year anniversaries, award ceremonies, etc.) and celebrities that give the impression of importance, the number of songs and genres appear to offer many choices. Yet neither the importance (in terms of necessity or benefit to society) nor the difference between songs (which are identical in framework and musical components but can be substituted to create minor variation, according to Adorno) are really there.
I may have misunderstood what Adorno means by substitution of musical details in popular music but it made me think about covers and remixes of songs that the average person is easily able to learn to do. Amateur or unsigned aspiring musicians flood the Internet with covers and remixes of popular songs with the rise of sites like Youtube, SoundCloud, and BandCamp. These artists can just as easily place their songs up for sale on iTunes. Compared to the long and complex Chopin or Beethoven pieces that take years of musical education to learn to play, the ability to learn hit songs is much easy to come by. In this sense, the imitation and structural standardization of popular music that Adorno criticizes is very true and even more present today than when he wrote the article in the 50s. With the Internet and accessible music modification technologies, almost anyone can edit or create a popular song. But is this a good or bad thing?