I'm going to be a junior in high school next year, and whenever I walk through the halls after school I see people sitting there with cheap CD players and the included headphones listening to Top 40 music. All day long the only thing I hear about from people outside of my group of friends (who are only into cultured music and really good, often times older classic movies) is mainstream punk music. I haven't heard of any of this stuff. It's like no one knows what else is out there. And then it hit me that it is because most teenagers are ignorant, and I would say that over 50% of the mainstream radio listeners are people under 25. After that, most people start to listen to classical, jazz, blues, classic rock, etc.
In fact, my parents can't stand to listen to anything pop or rap. Just yesterday I was coming back from a 2 hour drive and my amp ran out of power. Now, I only had brought one 9V battery with me because the total drive time was only 4 hours and the battery in my experience had enough juice for at least five hours. For whatever reason, it went dead, and since I have a NJB3, I only had one CD with me. It was a recording of a Christian funk band, really quite good, that came in the mail that day. There was a small rap segment in one of the songs, and my mom had to skip to the next song after about 5 seconds. A few songs later, there was a guitar solo, and my mom had to turn it off and said it was too much for her. Does this happen to most middle-aged people?
Anyway, back to the matter at hand. It seems that most young people don't realize there is better music (and sound reproduction equipment) out there. I go to a private school with some big money there. It's not like these people can't afford better equipment. All you have to do is look out in the parking lot and you will see kids without jobs are driving much nicer cars than the teachers. Combine ignorance with peer pressure, and you have the recipe for "poor musical taste". I think a lot of you mistake poor musical taste for ignorance. And yes, most of the people I know are music downloading fiends, and even in downloading MP3s, they are ignorant. Most of us here know what bitrate is and what encoding algorithms are best if we are into downloading music, and most of us don't download all that much. My classmates download hundreds and even thousands of MP3s, but they know nothing of sound quality. They just aimlessly click around downloading whatever happens to be playing on the radio at that moment, and they do it on second rate peer-to-peer file sharing software. I can't tell you how many times I have heard my peers heralding their latest expedition on Kazaa. See, it's just ignorance. Personally, I don't download anything except to preview music, which is very rarely. All the music on my player in ripped directly from CDs that I own in uncompressed WAV format.
I think that the reason the Top 40 list sucks is that people only listen to the radio and buy what they hear. Not many of us get onto Amazon or what have you to browse and preview what cultured individuals would consider better artists and only the smallest minority of us come to message boards like Head-Fi to shed insight into the world of music. I believe that society is stuck in a little bubble dome and only a few people have managed to escape it. It all comes back to ignorance.