Have you ever wondered what makes music authentic?

You may love listening to different kinds of music. You can listen to an electronic track played by a DJ and move your legs to the beats. You have fun and feel happy, but there is something you don’t like. Or, you can listen to your favorite beer commercial, but while you may like things about it, you will still feel something that is superficial about it.

Maybe the track is too common, or there is something else that doesn’t just seem right. It’s not that inauthentic music isn’t great; it can still be enjoyable. Most commercial music, for instance, is orchestrated to sell to the audience. However, they might not be what you call authentic music. Let’s consider it this way – a computer program can make new music on its own, by analyzing thousands of songs. However, while the relevant output of music can be great, it’s not what you expect to call to be ‘original’.

In the end, you will feel that the track is not really authentic. Now that you come to think of it, what’s authentic music all about?

All About Authentic Music that You Need to Know

You can listen to songs that speak about a teenager’s frustration about modern life and the loneliness that surrounds today’s young generation. The teenagers are not very skilled and missed the tempo or beat at a few places. Even the recording is done with poor equipment.

Here, even if the quality of the artists and music is not great, there is something about the music that you will like. You can connect to the lyrics and feel there is something raw and genuine about the song. In other words, you may consider the music to be authentic, even if you don’t like the sound of it.

People are always making distinctions about the music they listen to. We call some music “unoriginal” while giving the title of “authentic” to others.

Have you ever thought about what makes music authentic?

If you have, then you must have been confused as hell! Who has the right to decide if a piece of music is authentic or not? Does authentic music have special characteristics? What makes authentic music differ from inauthentic or superficial music?

It’s natural to have questions. Whether you are a music lover or an artist, it’s necessary to know how music gets the tag of authenticity. Today, we will find out the factors that make music authentic. But before that, let’s make a clear distinction.

Authentic Music is Not the Same as Good Music

Music that is good may not always be called authentic. Conversely, being authentic doesn’t necessarily make music good or enjoyable. Remember the examples we discussed at the beginning of the article?

The track played by the DJ may be enjoyable, but not authentic. On the other hand, the rock song of the teenagers may sound bad but feels authentic to you. So a piece of authentic music is not necessarily the same as good music.

Good music has a few certain characteristics that make it a good song. A piece of music can be called good if it has some of these aspects-

  • Rhythmic accuracy
  • Instrumental competence
  • Tonal quality
  • Technical security
  • Musical understanding
  • Stylistic accuracy

A song can be authentic even if it excludes all the above qualities.

Now that we have differentiated good music and authentic music, let’s try to define inauthentic music.

What is Inauthentic Music

There are no hard and fast rules that exist to qualify the music as authentic or inauthentic. Most of the time, the judgment is personal or made by a culture collectively. As a result, you can never have any fixed definition of authentic and inauthentic music. We will try to provide our take to clear the air around things.

So inauthentic music would be something that is superficial or not genuine. The music is not really made for expressing a thought or emotion. But it is made for reasons like earning money or publicity. In that sense, you may consider jingles and music in advertisements to be inauthentic.

Now that you are able to differentiate between authentic and inauthentic music, let’s move on to the most important part of our discussion.

What Makes Music Authentic?

As we already said, there are no hard and fast rules to determine the authenticity of music. So we will explore all the possible angles and opinions.

Authenticity of the Genre

Some people define authenticity according to the music genre. For instance, the classic characteristics of country music include simple instruments and untrained vocals. Themes of country music invoke the images of a rural life – from the country roads to the ponds and wildlife. So, a country song that incorporates the above elements might be called authentic country music.

However, if the song doesn’t contain most of the elements, it can be termed as an inauthentic country song.

In the same way, when you are talking about original rock music is equated with the alternative, eliminating all commercial and superficial aspects of modern life. For instance, if we are talking about authentic punk music, it has characteristics like a rebellion against norms and establishments, signs of anarchy, and uprising.

Any music that doesn’t match the characteristics of a genre can be called inauthentic, according to some opinions.

Lack of Commercialization

Many kinds of music are created just for selling. They are produced just like any other commercially distributed product for sale to customers. So the financial gain is the underlying motivation of the artists behind creating the music.

For instance, you can copy the work of famous musicians and expect to sell many copies. Or, you can pick up on the popular trends in music and create something combining them for monetary success. Many songs or tracks are made only to be sold as a commodity.

Some people consider all commercial music to be inauthentic. So any music produced for selling is not authentic, according to them.

On the other hand, music that is not intended for selling is considered authentic. In this sense, highly commercialized genres of popular music are not considered authentic music. Instead, music that is created to connect to others or express thoughts might be considered authentic.

Intent of the Artist

Some folks consider the intent of the artist to determine the authenticity of a song. Here too, there are several opinions on what can be considered authentic and inauthentic music.

For instance, following our above argument, a piece of music is inauthentic if the artist produced it for selling only. Conversely, if the music is derived from his unique cultural experiences, it can be considered authentic.

We will illustrate the point with the example of a ‘real scientist’ and ‘good scientist.’

A good scientist is one with all educational qualifications. He has a Ph.D. and can carry out research in the laboratory. Yet, he doesn’t have the intent of a real scientist, or the intent to discover. So he just publishes papers for the sake of it without any inherent purpose.

Now, let’s see what a real scientist does. He is like an investigator, trying to dig out the evidence. He has the zeal and drives to find the truth and solve questions that interest him. In this sense, someone without a science degree may also be called a real scientist based on his intent.

So, the music created by a true artist is authentic, while the one made by a good musician may be inauthentic. Here, you should remember that a good scientist can also be a real scientist if he has the intent.

Hence, music produced to achieve an end or to serve a purpose may be called authentic. Here, we would like to mention another thing. Some people think that a song inauthentic if the intent of the artist is solely selling it.

Expressive Authenticity

One thought suggests that music can be classified into authentic or inauthentic based on expressive authenticity. For instance, a song that expresses the artist’s cultural values and beliefs can be considered authentic because it expresses something valuable.

Here again, there are no hard and fast rules about what counts as a valuable expression. Something which seems valuable to one person may not be valuable to another one. So authenticating songs based on expressive authenticity is personal, and can vary from person to person.

For instance, some people may consider the songs of Justin Bieber to lack expressive authenticity. On the other hand, the songs of Bob Dylan can be considered authentic as they have so many genuine aspects to express.

Emotional Authenticity

Songs that have emotional appeal or capture the emotions of the artists can be considered authentic. Consider the following example.

The first song, made by a top musician, expresses superiority about purchasing a new car. The second song, made by an amateur musician, expresses his loneliness and depression.

Now, the first song is well-made, and you enjoy dancing to it. Yet you somehow cannot connect to the song.

An amateur makes the second song. He has a poor voice and did the recording on his phone. Apart from quality issues, there are also some mistakes and mix-ups. Yet, the artist has put all his heart out in the lyrics, capturing how dark and bleak his days are. It talks about the ills of modern life and the loneliness caused by running a rat race and isolation.

In this case, even if you don’t like the music, you feel attached. You can connect to the lyrics and relate to what the artist is singing.

What happened here?

The listener was able to feel the emotions expressed in the song!

This has been proved by science that people feel the emotions expressed in music. It helps people connect with the music and the artist. So music that contains emotions helps you connect with other people.

Think of having a heart-to-heart conversation with your friend about his deep sadness. The conversation could mean that you aren’t happy, but you can also feel a better connection. Music that contains emotions helps build intimacy with the listeners. In this sense, all expressive music genres that have elements of ‘self-revelation’ may qualify as authentic music.

Research has also shown that people connect better with songs that express emotions. Songs that portray sadness, vulnerability, guilt, or hurt genuinely can be called authentic.


Some people consider exclusive music to be authentic. They consider all mass-consumable music to be inauthentic as they lose their exclusivity. This approach of distinction is not very ideal as any genre can become mainstream and lose exclusivity.

For instance, blue started out as an exclusive genre to portray the life of the unprivileged people of the society, especially the blacks. But now hundreds and thousands of artists produce music in the blues genre- it is not exclusive anymore. Or in other words, they may be considered inauthentic.

Street musician playing authentic music.

Final Thoughts

Categorizing music as authentic or inauthentic is not based on any defined rules. The question to what is music authentic is often decided by the culture and the people belonging to it. People also have their personal opinions on the matter.

We have discussed the main ideas in our post so you can have some help if you decide to classify songs as authentic and inauthentic. But like other ideas and opinions, the factors for evaluating the authenticity of music may change with time. What do you look for when it comes to original music? Let us know your comments below.