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Response to "Reflections of Society within the Music Industry"

The author of the blog post "Reflections of Society Within the Music Industry" argued that "mainstream music has always reflected intrests of of the majority of it's audience..." He referenced protest song musicians such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young during the Vienam war era, arguing that since it was a time of large community activism, these musicians emerged. The author goes on to say that musicians now are only about appearance and sex, reflecting a shallow society that would not perform any acts that would not lead to instant personal gratification. I agree to a certain extent, however, I believe he missed certain major points.

First of all, one should not omit the fact that sixties protest artists such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young, were not mainstream musicians. They were in fact "long haired freaky people" that perhaps triggered a movement by inspiring alternative thinkers to realize their own power. The infamy of the sixties protest movements was not cause by the majority of general society, but instead a noisy minority that recognized its own power. Current musicians such as Jessica Simpson and Nelly fall into the norms of present society. And the norms of society are not the people who inspire change. I would argue that we do have musicians comparable to Bob Dylan and Neil Young (at least in comparable positions to inspire, not necessarily musical/lyrical talent.) A Perfect Circle put out an entire C.D. protesting the Iraqi war. Rasputina's The Mayor references Bush's inability to lead a country. Who hasn't at least heard of Ani Difranco. They may not be of the same popularity as Jessica Simpson...but they don't need to be, and perhaps shouldn't. be.
I think instead the problem may lie in the musicians' ability to inspire power within its listeners. Eliasoph's article argues that people's failure to get involved lies in their feelings of powerlessness, not in a simple selfish desire to do only things that produce instant selfish gratification. Musicians today are fighting an audience of cynical folks who grew up in the 80's and 90's, producing a generation that would rather escape from than change society. In otherwords, a generation of people who feel completely powerless. In order to change this, I believe current "long haired freaky people" musicians need not change the content of their music but rather their level of inspirational abilities.

Comments

I remember watching this really cheesy VH-1 or MTV thing on the "Top 25 Protest Songs" or whatever. Believe it or not, there was some interesting discussion about stuff like this - in particular, what's the role of music in protest? There's several different goals: 1) spreading awareness to people who don't care/aren't aware, and 2) reaching people who do care but feel alone or powerless, showing them others feel like they do. We could call these "Bridging" and "Bonding" functions of music for social change. :) Do you think this is harder to do today though? For example, think of something like the "Live 8" awhile back. On the one hand, you had a bunch of musicians trying to encourage social change, but at the same time, they got critiqued a lot for being "sell outs" and being a corporate parody of earlier generations of activist musicians.