In the summer of 1981, in the month of August, on the first day of the month at 12:01 am something special aired on television for the first time. It was MTV. You might remember MTV; it was a channel dedicated to music and the music culture. Of course that MTV has been dead since the mid-‘90s but it was special before then. It was quite special to people like me who grew up with it. I was born during the same summer about one month and a half before.
You might be wondering why I am writing about MTV. I presume the majority, if not all of us, despise it. Well the reason I bring it up because I started to think about it in the light of the new music industry we are currently enthralled in. You might disagree with the points I’m going to bring up and that is okay. I want people to share their own opinions and openly debate. For a long time I couldn’t put my finger on what the problem is that I’ve been sensing with the new scenes. Today blogs seem to do two things. One is to share new music that the blog really enjoys and feels is worthy of sharing. The second deals with alienation and elitism. Today the blogs are intimidating. Actually new music media is incredibly intimidating. It is all about how “we know best and you know nothing.” It talks down to the listener or rather possible new listeners. The indie rock/alternative scene is anything but exempt from my accusation; it might actually be more elitist. If your band isn’t from Brooklyn then you’re not indie. At least it has that feeling. We are sitting at the cool kids table and we set up the feeling of people having to work their way in by acceptance. This is what I see in the underground music scene encompassing all the genres. This elitism is very problematic.
What this elitism does is negatively effects the growth of current bands/DJ’s/producers, because if they get too big then they’re “fakes.” No matter how hard they worked and for how many years they worked, they can only get so big before they are hated. And the mainstream is of course just another stream. A stream where individuality is not welcome and conformity is the name of the game. But I don’t see much difference in the indie/underground scene. Here if the new flavor of the day is “folk bass” then people feel they must conform to being folk bass producers to be accepted but are still faced with the “poser/bandwagon” aspect of that action. And the blogs just make it worse by making it appear intimidating to get into.
This is where my introduction about MTV comes into play. When I was growing up watching MTV, one of the big reasons why it was so great was because it invited EVERYONE in to feel like they belonged. The shows were trippy, the humor was crazy, censorship was the awful “C-word” and the news was on point. They had legend Kurt Loder as the main news anchor joining in his mid-30’s and leaving in his late 40’s. He gave it this unique credibility because he was older, he was the most prominent editor of the Rolling Stone magazine editorial staff and he was Circus magazine legend that wrote about the punk scene from the beginnings while being on location at CBGB’s. Anyone could tune in to MTV and feel like they were invited. Because they were. We learned about what was going on in the music industry, we saw interviews and special performances with some of our favorite artists. We learned a lot and never felt intimidated. Now why can’t this same vibe happen with us today?
Forget the mainstream, they are a whole mess and don’t even know what they’re doing. But in the underground why can’t we write passionately about what we love or at least what is happening in new music? And whatever happened to the joys of inspiration, as in inspiring people? Music history is full of artists we love who were inspired by others. The encountered their inspirations originally by witnessing them live, then FM radio helped by distributing inspiration around, which in turn inspired even more people. Also there was the written word by the once brilliant (and now again perhaps because in my opinion they’ve been having a good past few years but it’s all about politics) Rolling Stone magazine among the other magazines and press releases. Then came video and we could share, educate and inspire on an even grander scale. And now with the internet the sky is the limit. But recent years the internet has taken its turn for the worst. “If you are inspired then you are a poser and a fool for trying,” is the feeling I register.
I believe it is also psychological because it seems easier to offend and feel elite when you’re on your computer safe in your own home as opposed to in person. This is probably why there is so much negativity online. But we have this amazing special gift and we really should consider using it for good. Try not to hate on people attempting to produce music in the trendy new genre (or subgenre), but instead, inspire.
Now I’m not pointing fingers at anyone specifically. I am pointing fingers at all of us. I’m guilty too. I’d like to however address what has happened to me. I entered into digital cumbia because I was intrigued. When I took my first steps, people embraced me. They shared and showed me cumbia, they taught me and continue to do so. When I started producing cumbia I felt encouraged. So I must it isn’t entirely bad these days. I was lucky to be inspired by music with deep roots and friendly artists. Sure I encountered some resentment, but that is always expected. However over all my experience with cumbia has been pleasant and encouraging.
If you disagree with me that is okay. You are welcome to disagree with me. I would love to hear why though so I may learn. These are thoughts that have been racing through my mind the past week or so. Watching everyone go through the what is now, usual, routine of love and hate rants when a new genre hits the scene.
The questions I have for all of you are: Do I have a point? Am I wrong and can you explain to me how? Will you join me on the simple mission of returning respect, education, acceptance, inspiration, news, passion and in turn, power, to the music scene through blogging, sharing videos, liking bands/artists/DJ’s and sharing their music anyway else we can? I believe we can take the music industry to amazing new places if we want to.
A footnote: I don’t mean for us to always be positive with reviews because that is dishonest. I am only referring to the way we spread the music and educate those who want to understand and be a part of it.