Mill On the Music Industry
Mill argues (and I agree) that individuality is an element of well being, and that freedom is essential to human development. He concludes that in order to cultivate persons of genius, society must be allowed to thrive in an atmosphere liberated by ideas:
Persons of genius, it is true, are, and are likely to be, a small minority; but in order to have them, it is necessary to preserve the soil in which they grow. Genius can only breathe freely in a n atmosphere of freedom (Mill 625).
When I consider the soil that must be preserved in order to allow genius to grow, the music industry is one of the first things to come to mind. Highly influential as it is on modern day society, the music industry upholds a freedom of thought and opinion as well as the expression of various experiments of living – which are just the sort of thing Mill would agree could potentially open doorway to entirely new modes of thinking. It’s not likely that the next political genius will indulge in drinking ‘purple drank’ like Lil’ Wayne or sport daisy dukes with a bikini on top, much like Katy Perry. However, the experiments of living present in the music industry represent novel approaches to lifestyle choices, which could be just the environment needed in order to spawn the next revolutionary political theorist.
However, it is possible that freedom of thought within the music industry is actually detrimental to society as a whole, and working against the rise of genius:
Finally, if by his vices or follies a person does no direct harm to others, he is nevertheless (it may be said) injurious by his example; and ought to be compelled to control himself, for the sake of those whom the sight or knowledge of his conduct might corrupt or mislead (633).
A vast majority of music, although free, has lewd, suggestive lyrics that are potentially corrupting to the youth that is exposed to them. Sexually explicit material and mention of drug usage certainly does its part in creating a free atmosphere. However, lyrics that are inappropriate and even vulgar could actually be stifling the atmosphere needed to cultivate genius. If mainstream music is influential in such a way that it lessens or harms the chances of genius arising among youth in society, perhaps we need to seriously reconsider restrictions on lyrics that are so hot our popsicles will melt.