MUSIC MONDAYS 7: FAME AND POPULARITY, THE DOUBLE EDGED SWORD FOR UNDERGROUND MUSICIANS:

photo taken from Reshot.com

The idea of popularity and growth being somewhat of a double edged sword for musicians, particularly in more underground scenes, is a topic that I have frequently discussed to back up arguments made in previous Music Mondays articles, whether it be the appropriation of Jersey club by white TikTok stars or the drastic shift that came with the rise of US dubstep and the effect it had on the UK underground scene. To an outsider, it would appear obvious that one of the main aims of any musician is to acquire fame so that they can both make a liveable wage off their music and introduce it to more and more people. However as we all know fame can come at a cost, and not even to just the musicians but sometimes to the music itself.

One of these costs, that is particularly relevant in 2021 is the appropriation and transformation of music and culture that we see time and time again, particularly on the internet, when genres of music hit mainstream popularity. As noted previously this can be recently seen with the appropriation of Jersey club by TikTok stars. Of course the problematic aspect of this wasn’t the fact that Jersey club was becoming more popular or that more and more people of different backgrounds were listening to it but mainly that people on TikTok, as opposed to the actual artists, were getting all the credit for the music, thus progressively a lot of the culture behind it was being overlooked along with the creators themselves.

This issue becomes even more noticeable with genres such as ‘ghetto house’, a 90s underground Chicago house genre that has recently boomed in popularity partially due to the influence of white dj’s such as Partiboi69. Once again, while it is great that he is bringing the music to a larger audience, we are now seeing the problem that sometimes we see with white hip hop fans  where white and predominantly suburban fans of ghetto house now think its ok to use certain language because they are just ‘singing along’ to the music.

Of course this doesn’t represent a majority of the fans of the genre, and sadly there will always be people who are simply too ignorant to understand the offence they can cause, but it is an interesting example of what can happen when people become fans of music without understanding the culture behind it. Of course everyone should have a right to listen to whatever music they want, but sometimes it’s also important to understand the culture and history behind it, and if anything it enhances the listening experience.

photo taken from Reshot.com

On one hand fame is great for musicians. But a lot of the time I’m not really surprised when I hear my more musical friends tell me they would far rather have a loyal, local and small fanbase than an international one for a variety of reasons. Indeed a lot of people just aren’t really able to handle the lack of privacy and constant aspect of performance that fame brings to one’s life, especially in the internet age. The specific argument used in this article as to why fame can be negative for musicians and artists is only one out of hundreds and in many ways not really the most prevalent, noticeable or important. However it is definitely one that is important in the age we live in where we can easily stumble upon things on the internet and have no idea what the context is behind them.  Of course I have already argued this in my previous article on Jersey club, however I thought it was important to look at this issue in the wider context. I don’t think anyone is trying to argue that certain people shouldn’t listen to certain music, just that with everything we consume, whether it’s music, news art or television, we should always appreciate the context, culture and history behind it, if anything it makes the listening/watching experience all the more enriching. 

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