In response to Ater (bear in mind that I rarely ever post responses. I chose to use my earned bullshit for this.)
Popularity is only an attestment to the lowest-common-denominator property of music - Pop music is music that every member of the populace can understand, hence it can never reach too high a level of complexity (or degree of displayed skill.)
By saying that "If more people like something, it is essentially superior overall" you assume that every person is a viable judge of musical talent/skill... therefore it would follow that 3 Doors Down has more musical merit than Richard D. James (Aphex twin). Allow me to draw on this tangent for a bit:
3 Doors Down, founded in 1997 is a stereotypical late 1990s college-rock band. Their single Kryptonite made the band a household name, and the followup "Loser" stayed number one in the billboard charts for 21 weeks.
While their music is very melodic and listenable, it lacks in variation what it carries in blandness. Certainly they are not a band anyone would dislike, but this is mainly because of the fact that there is very little to form an opinion about. Looking past the mastered vocals (which sound half as impressive live, IMHO) the song structure varies little from song to song. The drum work is repetitive, the lack of variation in guitar riffs allow for the songs to play out as quickly as they catch on and the lack of any 'unusual' tracks on the album leave little doubt what the next one will sound like.
Aphex Twin, on the other hand, built his first synthesizer when he was twelve. Producing music practically all of his life, he has worked with artists such as Beck (Devil's haircut (Richard's hairpiece)), Philip Glass (Icct Heddral) and Squarepusher (who is unarguably the best Drum'n'bass artist alive.) His music ranges from String arrangements (Icct Heddral, Polynomial - C) to bouncy/popsy beats (Flim) to nightmarish fast breaks (Come to Daddy / We are reasonable people). His latest release (Windowlicker) was a smashing underground success although no one could quite place the genre. This, however, did not stop Madonna from stealing samples and effects for her Music single.
On a technical level, Richard D. James has shown a mastery of arrangement in terms of integrating several layers of original breakbeats without clashing bass frequencies (We are reasonable people) - complex changing melodies (often interacting with other parts of the music) are common also (On). Today he writes his own software to aid him in music creation.
Regardless of his status as a Drum'n'bass icon, he doesn't take himself as serious as many of these new bands ("Milkman", "Hot buttered popcorn")
Undoubtledly Aphex Twin is the 'better' musician by nearly anyone's opinion. The reason he isn't (and probably doesn't care to be) as popular as today's number one bands is that joe sixpack and his tween daughter don't want no complex music. An army of them chosing Creed and Britney Spears (no offense, accipiter) over Aphex Twin or Gorecki does not make the previous musically superior...
"The simple fact is to the average person, music is just a form of entertainment, not a lifestyle."
To some of us, it is a lifestyle - and it's a pain to have to import our more complex music or spend hours on irc looking for obscure artists. Fuck the unsuspecting public.
People who think music has to be popular to be good automatically close themselves off from any raw and independent talent, any band or artists who makes music for the beauty of it and not to sell records. (I realize some artists are exceptions to this, but we're talking about the majority of label-composed bands.)
To those who are open to new and good music, check out the following and compare them to the listed artist. Which one is better?
H-blockx - Little Girl -> anything by creed
CIV - So far, so good... so what? -> any new 'punk' band
Nofx - The Cause -> any new melodic punk band
Oysetin Sevag - Cahuita (acoustic) -> New Santana
DJ Hell - Copa -> Jamiroquai
Pavement -> Pretty college-rock bands
Regurgitator - Modern life -> Pretty college-rock boybands.
YMMNV - Sources: www.billboard.com, 3 Doors down, personal knowledge, aphextwin.org