I wonder if the tight connection between music and fashion/identity construction isn’t at least some guarantee of populism. I was just looking back over a post I wrote back in 2005 on reading Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad Is Good For You where I was trying to explain with the trend of increasing complexity he describes in narrative popular media hasn’t been paralleled in music: http://www.urbanhonking.com/ideasfordozens/2005/08/everything_bad_is_good_for_you.html

More than any of the other consumable pop media, we use music to distinguish ourselves from other social groups and to construct our own identities. I think this will mean that musical populism will be around for a long time, even without any music that’s actually very popular.