Posts Tagged ‘pitchfork

24
Jun
09

On looking back–popularity, obscurity, and: a proposal for moving forward.

As far as music goes, it is a commonly repeated enough point that we tend to heap attention too enthusiastically, too readily at the feet of those who show any hint of promise. The internet and the blog have, among other things, made bands shockingly available, have busted open the doors on a culture that tended to separate taste into camps: the mainstream and the obscure. So, this is my question: what does it now mean to be mainstream or obscure, when it seems that everyone knows about everything and can download it instantly?

A caveat: I will admit that it is entirely possible that I exist in my own niche and as a result will consistently misjudge other niches, even if those niches happen to be large. I live on the internet, I don’t watch MTV (saying this might prove my lack of knowledge about a “mainstream”), I don’t own a radio. I don’t have a single idea what is at the top of the billboard chart right now. If I am to be faulted in any way, it is to assume that my experiences of popularity and obscurity are in any way indicative of a greater trend. I am open to arguments against my logic. I do not think I am alone in this experience, though. If it is not universal, there are at least a few others.

Before, the mainstream was generally defined by popularity, and, some would say conformity, though not necessarily always as a pair. Radiohead, or the Beatles, for instance, managed to achieve a great deal of mainstream success while remaining artistically curious. Conversely, we have all known a band or two that attempts to achieve popularity by aping more popular acts.

The obscure was the difficult to find, the difficult to appreciate, or the niche work. A talented but difficult band that released a single 7″ single at some point in the not-so-distant past of a show they recorded in their mother’s basement might have been legendary to a select group, popular for 15 people. EG- the first Vashti Bunyan record. If you had it, or knew someone who had it, or even knew about it, you were in the know.

I believe that the mainstream as we knew it is no longer, replaced by competing niches with varying degrees of popularity. There will be no mass-cultural events quite like those my parents experienced: walking down the street and hearing Sgt. Pepper’s blasting from every window. The mass-cultural event as such has been destroyed, or fragmented and sped up by the internet. In their place, we have niche cultural events, which are both more available and more mercurial. The blog band. The band on the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy. That rapper who sampled ______’s song. The micro-event is the event sped up and spread out.

Continue reading ‘On looking back–popularity, obscurity, and: a proposal for moving forward.’

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