Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Null Object Pattern

So, read this. I partially agree. There are some huge limitations, and obvious biases in Gioia's arguments, not least of which is that, by using the metric of top 40 pop music, Billboard and American Idol on the one side and Jazz, Newspapers and The Saturday freakin' Review, on the other makes much more generational and idiosyncratic than it needs to be.
But, I am not trying to simply argue with him. He's wrong but that's less important than how he's right- I do think music as a cultural force is getting shorted, and it's partially the music press to blame. Here's a thought- maybe it's by design? Consider this- the music business hasn't gotten by on selling music in a long time. I could be wrong on this, but if so, not by much, but I believe since before the advent of Mp3's, music hasn't sold "enough" by the Wall Street standard. I would pin it somewhere in the mid-to-late 1980's. So, music becomes a loss leader, in an effort to sell us T shirts, Walkmen, IPods, or Coca Cola. So, maybe turning music appreciation into "lifestyle" reporting is less about dumbing down, and more about smoothing out- it's ways of making us feel less in control of our own culture, and accepting our Corporate Overlords. Does that sound kooky and conspiratorial? Well, first consider how many pop, rock, country and dance artists are actually in the business of selling T shirts, and other merchandise. Now add to that how many live venues are actually in the business of selling beer. Now add to that things like Jay Z and Rocafella/ Rocawear, or even Blink 182 and Macbeth. Starting to see? Think about why it is that bands on Bandcamp are doing "name your own price", or why it is that even a whore like Trent Reznor has been willing to give away whole albums. Ultimately, it's because, overwhelmingly, we have been conditioned by over a generation of mass culture to devalue music, in and of itself.
Again, though, I'm about solutions, not problems. I believe the solution is contained within the problem- by going away from "mass" or "niche" or "counter" culture, and into idiosyncrasies and individual tastes, we can redefine what culture is. By going beyond tribal identities- Punk, Stoner, Rave, Redneck, etc ad nauseum- and starting to identify by aggregates  - we can make new culture. For example- you know those ridiculously detailed Netflix categories? "Romantic, provocative stories with darkly comedic undertones and just the right amount of steamy" ( actual category from my Netflix) - what if that was a cultural descriptor? What if rather than saying "I'm into Punk", we said " I like angsty, uptempo minor key shoutalongs with loud guitars"- it would bring us back from being demographics, because it's hard to market to things so detailed and small. So, rather than pedantically talking about the pentatonic scale ( which would mean exactly what to a Thai teenager into gangsta rap, and EDM?) - maybe we should be talking about what we actually like?
But, what would I know, right?

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