pop is fashion

Conversation about the rumored demise of casual fandom:

Piers Hollot: PBS programming is not intended for live performance, but they do go live for the purpose of fund-raising, and it is at this point that they flush out the “super-fans” with premiums.

Crosbie Fitch: [musical] populism is simply in a lull. As per Arnie, it’ll be back.

Victor: pining for the shared experience of U2 at the gym is just nostalgic old-people-talk.

gurdonark: how many bands and performers I like on a very casual basis [is] not going to change.


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.

My listening habits are a constant exploration. I find this and it leads me to that. Robert Johnson induces me to explore other bottleneck blues, bottleneck leads me to explore the influence of Hawaiian slide playing, Hawaiian music leads me to Sol Hoopi. What I find through friends and television is an influence, but I don’t have time to check in with anybody while I’m wandering the endless connections.

2 thoughts on “pop is fashion

  1. I think this wandering point is important. In another time, friends, rock magazines, and even album cover art were the gateways to new music.
    Now it’s links and sites, the endless surf. A great thing for the individual listener–but maybe the end of the old pre-viral ways of building community through music.

    Still, I love when I can look at a listener’s scrobbles on last.fm, and this
    person half my age in Brazil is listening to this or that, and look, there’s a full track to hear, and hey, this is pretty good.

  2. @gurdonark I love the story about Bowie and Eno recording “Heroes” in Berlin – recorded in a hall in which Eno set up a series of gated microphones at increasing distance. Each microphone filtered through its own effects, you can hear the way the song starts quietly, with very little distortion or echo, but by the end of the song, when Bowie is singing to the back of the hall, his voice is completely changed.

    I use this analogy to describe the process of discovery. The first step is when you hear someone mention something you haven’t heard, you see it in an audioscrobble; when the name or song comes up a third time, you download it, or find it on a mixtape (um torrent); you come across a live performance, or better yet, have an opportunity to see the performer live; by this point the mixtape has fallen apart, or your iPod has died. You download the artist’s back catalogue, and it costs you $20, and it’s worth it. It is at this point that you likely notice the artwork.

    Conceptually, this process has not changed, but I do miss going down to a record store and buying a record because I liked the album cover, or browsing through my older brother’s Dire Straits and Pink Floyd records for the same reason. Not sure if the times have changed or if I have in this respect, though.

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