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Thread: "Good music" and the shift from popularity to obscurity

  1. #26
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    I miss Rosemary Clooney.

  2. #27
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    There once was a time when a person, let's say between the ages of 15 and 30, was considered "cool" if they liked the most popular bands. The quality of a band was considered to be directly proportional to its popularity.

    Today, it's considered "cool" to be into the most obscure bands and scenes. The quality of a band is now considered to be inversely proportional to its popularity. The more obscure, the more "authentic" the band and music.

    At one time, if you wanted to listen to good music, all you had to do was turn on the radio to one of several FM rock stations. Now, common wisdom is that you have to seek it out, in small clubs, MySpace pages, obscure podcasts, and Austin, Texas. If it has airplay on any radio station that's not based at a college, they're sellouts that suck.

    When, roughly, did this shift take place? Why do you think the rock scene transitioned from something that was shared by a large part of the population to a fragmented, insular and elitist scene -- or, really, thousands of scenes?
    It's just snobbery applied to music. Popularity doesn't preclude greatness and obscurity doesn't embrace it. 99% of just about anything is junk.

    Shakespeare's plays are still performed because they are great, but they would been lost long ago if they hadn't been popular in their first run. We don't know how many junk plays Shakespeare wrote because those went in the trash bin nearly 500 years ago.

  3. #28
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    I am going to a benefit concert that Patti Smith, the Smithereens, and a group of veteran hometown performers under the name Slaves of New Brunswick are playing at on Friday! It's on behalf of the Court Tavern which is the last place to see live rock bands in town and is an institution.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  4. #29
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    When, roughly, did this shift take place? Why do you think the rock scene transitioned from something that was shared by a large part of the population to a fragmented, insular and elitist scene -- or, really, thousands of scenes?
    I believe the seeds were actually sown in the very early 1970's. The key to understanding this phenomenon lies in following the arc of counter-culture. During the 1960's the youth market and counter-culture were synonymous. A quantity of talent (plus a handful of controlled substances) equalled both air time and hit records; talented/original artists generally enjoyed commercial success. The artists were themselves by and large members of the counterculture movement. During the 1970's, however, the recording industry transitioned into a multi-billion dollar juggernaut. While talent continued to emerge organically, studio executives increasingly turned to "creating" talent through their marketing efforts. The 'gate' effectively narrowed as marketing executives decided who would or would not get the big contracts/major releases (think 'Frampton Comes Alive', becoming a sextuple platinum album in 1976). Trouble was, marketing executives acting as the gatekeepers did not base their decisions entirely on talent, but on whatever factors (appearances, chart trends, sales history, etc.) they felt would produce the greatest commercial success; a schism began to emerge as mainstream no longer represented the heart of counterculture. Talented artists in increasing numbers grew disenchanted with the music industry as they got 'shut out' from mainstream markets. This is best exemplified by the emergence of the 'punk' anti-establishment (think Sex Pistols) movement in the mid-late 1970's and college oriented proto-New Wave movement (Devo, B-52s). Talented artists increasingly turned to alternate or new sub-genres, and 'rock' effectively fractured with no one genre enjoying complete dominance, a trend which has continued until present.

    To be 'obscure' now hints at being countercultural or anti-establishment, and as we all know this makes one hip/cool (and who doesn't want to be cool?)....to its current point of absurdity.
    Last edited by Maister; 29 Apr 2010 at 10:47 AM.

  5. #30
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    The DAC or Deutsch Alternative Charts are a wonderful place to pick up on some of the up and coming bands that have a hard time breaking the top 40 as well as music not played on American stations except for college broadcasting.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  6. #31
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I believe the seeds were actually sown in the very early 1970's. The key to understanding this phenomenon lies in following the arc of counter-culture. During the 1960's the youth market and counter-culture were synonymous. A quantity of talent (plus a handful of controlled substances) equalled both air time and hit records; talented/original artists generally enjoyed commercial success. The artists were themselves by and large members of the counterculture movement. During the 1970's, however, the recording industry transitioned into a multi-billion dollar juggernaut. While talent continued to emerge organically, studio executives increasingly turned to "creating" talent through their marketing efforts. The 'gate' effectively narrowed as marketing executives decided who would or would not get the big contracts/major releases (think 'Frampton Comes Alive', becoming a sextuple platinum album in 1976). Trouble was, marketing executives acting as the gatekeepers did not base their decisions entirely on talent, but on whatever factors (appearances, chart trends, sales history, etc.) they felt would produce the greatest commercial success; a schism began to emerge as mainstream no longer represented the heart of counterculture. Talented artists in increasing numbers grew disenchanted with the music industry as they got 'shut out' from mainstream markets. This is best exemplified by the emergence of the 'punk' anti-establishment (think Sex Pistols) movement in the mid-late 1970's and college oriented proto-New Wave movement (Devo, B-52s). Talented artists increasingly turned to alternate or new sub-genres, and 'rock' effectively fractured with no one genre enjoying complete dominance, a trend which has continued until present.

    To be 'obscure' now hints at being countercultural or anti-establishment, and as we all know this makes one hip/cool (and who doesn't want to be cool?)....to its current point of absurdity.
    Interestingly, 'counter-culture' is older than that. Example, and I am not up on all of the dynamics of it, the 'Zoot Suiters' from a couple of generations earlier were also a counter-culture movement. There were also even earlier ones.

    Mike

  7. #32
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    ... A quantity of talent (plus a handful of controlled substances) equalled both air time and hit records; talented/original artists generally enjoyed commercial success. The artists were themselves by and large members of the counterculture movement. During the 1970's, however, the recording industry transitioned into a multi-billion dollar juggernaut. While talent continued to emerge organically, studio executives increasingly turned to "creating" talent through their marketing efforts. ... Talented artists in increasing numbers grew disenchanted with the music industry as they got 'shut out' from mainstream markets.
    Over time the defintion of "talent" in people's minds also became more split between those who define talent as "techinal proficiency" and those who define talent as "creativity."

  8. #33
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop View post
    Over time the definition of "talent" in people's minds also became more split between those who define talent as "technical proficiency" and those who define talent as "creativity."
    Technical proficiency combined with creativity ultimately produces the lead elements of new musical genre's and major sub-genre's of music. This leaves the technically proficient OR those with creativity to fill out that new genre or sub-genre.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  9. #34
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    Interestingly, 'counter-culture' is older than that. Example, and I am not up on all of the dynamics of it, the 'Zoot Suiters' from a couple of generations earlier were also a counter-culture movement. There were also even earlier ones.

    Mike
    The prehistoric origins of 'culture' and 'counter-culture' were probably only weeks apart. There's always gotta be some malcontented minorities out there.

    Heck, I'll bet there's more than a few parallels between the fracturing of rock and the Protestant Reformation.

    Quote Originally posted by seabishop
    Over time the defintion of "talent" in people's minds also became more split between those who define talent as "techinal proficiency" and those who define talent as "creativity."
    I think if you look at the progression of any artistic style over time you find a relatively small nucleus of folks who create something original at inception, then during the 'flowering' stage a larger number of talents step in who emulate and often popularize a style/form, followed by others who create variants and flesh out those themes. Even later, others step in who specialize in fusion with other styles. At some point after the forms have more or less solidified come groups of either 'technicians' or 'virtuoso' who create almost nothing new but often achieve the pinnacles of performance. It occurs to me that Kal and ip's disagreement concerning bands like Aerosmith may in fact turn on this point. It appears to me that Aerosmith's sound is pretty derivative, in terms of musical forms (not just comin' up with riffs) I can't see that they've contributed much at all, but on the other hand, their loyal following enjoys their music immensely and a good argument can be made towards them being pretty technically proficient rockers.

    In terms of objective measures of aesthetic valuation, I've long wondered about the validity of context. Take someone like Pink. Nothing terribly original going on with her musical composition, right? What if you were to parachute her in time back to 1964?....all of a sudden she would be considered some sort of creative musical genius on par with J.S. Bach or the Beatles. Does that make her musical offerings any more good or enjoyable on their own merits if listened to without knowlege of their context?

  10. #35
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    There once was a time when a person, let's say between the ages of 15 and 30, was considered "cool" if they liked the most popular bands. The quality of a band was considered to be directly proportional to its popularity.

    Today, it's considered "cool" to be into the most obscure bands and scenes. The quality of a band is now considered to be inversely proportional to its popularity. The more obscure, the more "authentic" the band and music.

    At one time, if you wanted to listen to good music, all you had to do was turn on the radio to one of several FM rock stations. Now, common wisdom is that you have to seek it out, in small clubs, MySpace pages, obscure podcasts, and Austin, Texas. If it has airplay on any radio station that's not based at a college, they're sellouts that suck.

    When, roughly, did this shift take place? Why do you think the rock scene transitioned from something that was shared by a large part of the population to a fragmented, insular and elitist scene -- or, really, thousands of scenes?
    I think this shift has been coming for a while. Maister is going in the right direction with targeting counter-culture as the root of it. While I know that culture goes well back into the 1920s, I think it was the early punk of the late 60s/early 70s that got it going. But that really stuck to just the punk genre and didn't reach out into obscure bands from other music genres.

    Unlike some, I actually give some credit for this occuring to mainstream music. In the early 90s, you really started having music festivals take off. These festivals often had a couple of headliners that would bring the crowds, but they also had a ton of smaller bands that got exposed. I'm thinking of places like the Austin City Limits Festival, Austin's South by Southwest Festival, Bonnaroo, and similar festivals that often focused on jam bands.

    But that only gets it started--overall, we have technology to thank for exposing smaller local/regional bands to a wider audience without the cost of career entry seen before the glory of the Internets. The Internet knocked down a lot of walls and obstacles to getting music out... where musicians were once restricted to self-made CDs in the trunk of a car and trying to get a major label to pay attention, they could now market themselves to the entire world for a few dollars worth of bandwidth. MySpace allowed any body with a guitar and a dream to be discovered. The MP3 format opened a world of music sharing, making proliferation of a new band's music an exponential event. Then tack on a strong anti-establishment vibe from recording companies' and a few big-name artists' complete mishandling of the piracy issue and you had a recipe for folks to seek alternatives.

    Finally, it is generational to some extent. A lot of folks in their 20s and under are stereotyped as being self-centered, etc. While I don't necessarily agree with that, I think you see that stereotype playing out in the music world with folks expecting something that exactly matches their taste. Plus, you've got a generation that has been told they are unique and special their entire lives, to the point they value unique music in some cases only because it makes them 'more special.' In the last few years you've seen an explosion of sub-genres with subtle differences. Even in a seemingly simple genre like metal has about 15 active sub-genres now (Nifty flow chart of metal genealogy).

    To be perfectly honest, I think we are experiencing a bit of a music renaissance. There is so much variety and talent available today. While hitmakers like Michael Jackson, etc. are disappearing, I think we are seeing a net-gain in overall music talent.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  11. #36
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    Even in a seemingly simple genre like metal has about 15 active sub-genres now (Nifty flow chart of metal genealogy).
    Off-topic:
    Ahhh...this nice little chart includes much of the music I listen to and listened to growing up... 45 of the bands listed are in my mp3 player or are bands that I owned tapes and/or CD's of.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

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