terça-feira, 29 de maio de 2012
sábado, 7 de abril de 2012
Como meus questionamentos sobre as relações musicais sempre foram muito impulsivos, tratei de TENTAR por isso em papel. Está em inglês somente e infelizmente, mas farei uma translation em português quando puder! Achei legal postar aqui, para quem se interessar.
The Mainstream and The Underground: Problematizing the notions of Hit and Fashion
Inside Communication area, music is an object that can be considered according to its power of advertisement. In other words, the point is that music is divided into two parts: the mainstream and the underground. The mainstream is the space where music is supported by the media, i.e., music from the mainstream has a big support and advertisement by the media, through resources like television, radio and other media resources. Besides that, mainstream music is generally considered to have a commercial musical structure. On the other hand, the underground is the space that has a different type of music that is known by not following the commercial musical structure that does the mainstream music. Actually, the underground was born as an ideology against commercial music, as an opposition to the mainstream. The underground music is unique on its musical structure, and musicians from the underground generally consider its music superior from the mainstream music. Once the underground music does not follow the commercial structure (a melody that is traditionally attractive to global public) on its melodies, the underground consequently does not have the same strong support and advertisement that media gives to the mainstream. So, the underground has its own alternative way of advertisement, being an independent space of musical production. But this opposition of the underground against the mainstream causes controversy, since music begun to be criticized according to its number of listeners. In other words, music that turned into a hit is music that “everybody is listening” for the underground. To them, this kind of music (mainstream music) does not have to be listened for being fashionable and widely sold for its commercial structure. But this approach is too much simple and insufficient to justify their point of view, once the appearance of hits can take place either inside the mainstream or inside the underground. Actually, the opposition between the underground and the mainstream is constructed of confused ideas, and there are other complex relationships with the media behind both musical spaces that are going to be considered from now on, to understand how this opposition between the underground and the mainstream is weakly based.
Key words: Mainstream, Underground, Media, Fashion, Hit.
The popularity of music has increased since appliances like radio, TV and other technological resources begun to cost cheaper, as technology has been evolving all long the generations, and latest appliances are turning technological resources that came first into cheaper products. For this reason, the majority of the population became able to afford appliances like TV and radio. More recently, other technological resources also turned into cheap products, as was the case of the DVD player.
With all those technological evolution, the ways of music reproduction also evolved. CDs replaced tapes, as DVDs also replaced cassette tapes. So, it can be said that music is not just a way of entertainment, but it can be also defined as mass music (JANOTTI JUNIOR. 2006). It can be explained because CDs, DVDs, tapes, etc. are devices to store music, for its distribution and commercialization. Such technological resources allow music to reach large audiences. That is why these music resources are related to mass media companies, as they are products that can generate profits to them through the advertisement of CDs and DVDs, for example.
As technology evolves, storage devices for music are becoming even more popular, as songs can now be downloaded on the internet without any cost. This is also a result of globalization. Communication between people all over the world is becoming more intense, and information can easily be shared on the internet. As a consequence, this global distribution of music has arisen some criticism, and music was divided into two parts: the mainstream and the underground.
The Mainstream and The Underground
The mainstream is the principal “flow” in the media where music listened by the majority of people take place. Therefore, mainstream music is common to almost everybody, reproduced widely by mass resources and generally linked with commercial interests. In other words, the mainstream carries the popular culture. It is commonly defined in a pejorative way for something that is fashionable. Mainstream music is very familiar to people, but it has very few experimentation. Besides this, a song is generally recognized as success, officially speaking, just if it was qualified like that by the mainstream, with its reputation.
The underground, in the opposite way, is not commercial. It is an independent product that does not follow the rules of commercial media. It is genuine on its own. Because of this, underground music has not the same support and advertisement as mainstream music has. Underground music has generally independent record companies, and its advertisement is alternative (CARDOSO FILHO; JANOTTI JUNIOR. 2006).
The underground was born as an opposition to the mainstream, that is considered by the underground as a space where music is used through the media only for profit, with capitalist interests. To be more specific, music of the mainstream is considered to have a commercial structure and a system that does not allow liberty of creativity, according to the underground. It is also explained because mainstream music has to be a hit to the media, with strong aspects that can quickly become popular and success.
But music of the underground has been improving during the years, and its faithful public is increasing. This called the attention of the media, and the biggest record companies are now looking for new success inside the underground space. (LIMA, 2006). With this new interest of the media, independent musicians are now seeing the underground as the first step to get into the high position, the mainstream. So, the differences between these concepts are getting blurry. The underground is being modified, and a hierarchy is being constructed by the media, where the start is the underground, and the top is the mainstream. This is due to the fact that the mainstream has the biggest number of listeners for its bigger advertisement strength. Considering that, music is art to be listened, as painting is art to be seen, so it is predictable that any musician certainly wants his art to spread away the more it can be possible, and that chance is found on the mainstream.
The Sense of Hit and Fashion
With this new perception where the underground is seen as the door to the mainstream, some criticism begun to appear, and several musicians or songs from the mainstream were defined as commercial. In the same line, people from the underground was also called as commercialists when it was notable that their songs were being defined as hits. Explaining the definition, a hit is a song that became very popular. The term is used to refer to a song that sells and is played widely, or a song that stays for a long time in the top of official musical parades. Follow the quotation where Larry Star & Christopher Waterman talks about the appearance of hit in America:
“The 1890s saw the rise of the modern American music business, an industry that aimed to provide ‘hits’ for an expanding urban mass market. For the first time, a single song could sell more than a million copies.” (STAR; WATERMAN, 2007, p16)
But it has to be considered that the status of hit depends on geographical location too, owing to the fact that the musical taste of listeners varies according their regions. In other words, a song can become a hit in a place, for example, but can also be less reproduced in another region.
Inside the Information’s Technology field, hit is a unit that measures the number of files requested on a web server. Each hit corresponds to one file requested. Considering that, a relationship between the two definitions can be established. Inside the music business, a hit is a song that has the biggest number of reproductions around radio, TV, downloads, etc. So, in place of “file requests” on web servers, the number of reproductions of a hit single is measured. Besides this, a hit also has a very strong power of sale, as it is generally the top of official musical parades. Starting from this point, a hit is generally considered part of the mainstream as it not only has the big support and advertisement of the media, but it is commonly recognized as a hit only by official musical parades inside the media.
But the sense of hit goes beyond of just a single that has the biggest number of reproductions, the top of the popular songs or the most sold song around. A hit is what separate a song from the song. The attempt to create a hit is what makes a musician be perfectionist, instead of create any song just to show production, without a strong melody or lyrics that can be attractive and interesting. In other words, a hit can be a song universally perfectionist, being mannered or simply structured. Considering that, a hit is generally confused with fashion. Fashionable music is a point of view against music from the mainstream. When a song is fashionable, it is also part of what the majority of people are listening, usually the young people. The difference between a fashionable song and a hit is that fashionable music does not have musical merit and was created just to spread trend, and a hit carries the merit of a good song. Therefore, people from the underground have confused ideas about hits. Actually, they are against the creation of commercial trend, i.e., they are against fashionable music, and not against hits. So, the idea of establishing the difference between hit and a fashionable song could be relevant for Communication studies, to understand some contradictions like the one that comes in the following quotation:
“A cool, sophisticated style of Brazilian music called the bossa nova became popular in United States during the early 1960s, eventually spawning hit songs such as ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ (1964).” (STAR; WATERMAN, 2007, p. 11)
The Brazilian musical genre Bossa Nova was popular not only in Brazil, but also in another countries, and the song “The girl from Ipanema” was defined as a hit. But it does not mean that “The girl from Ipanema” is a song that has a commercial structure to spread trend, it is quite the contrary. This song is universally perfectionist and authentic, due to its genuine characteristics. In addition, the Bossa Nova does not follow commercial structures too, once it is an unique and exclusive music genre from Brazil.
Starting from this point, the wrong concept of fashion can be, actually, prejudiced and related to ignorance, once a listener will not give a special attention to music that is part of what almost everybody like just because it is “what everybody is listening”. A listener from the underground, for example, can be able to listen to a hit, but his ideals gotten from the underground will certainly distort and alienate his opinion about that song, making he see that song as fashionable even if the song is just seen like that because it is a hit. In other words, some people from the underground may have a preconceived idea about what they call fashionable music, imposed by the underground’s ideology. Consequently, an underground listener can negatively criticize a hit because it is what the majority of the people are listening, with no capacity to realize that maybe there is nothing about fashion, but is simply a merit of the most perfectionist melody comparing to other melodies’ songs. With that position, musicians or listeners from the underground are also refusing their own capacity to create a hit, owing to the fact that they are against the popular situation, once it is bad for them when everybody is listening to a song. That means that their alienated point of view block its own musical evolution, due to the fact that with this, the underground stays the same and far from turning their music into hits, that as was said before, is confused by them as fashion.
A hit is the highest stage of musical creation, the biggest merit for a song, different from the alienated concept of fashion. In this line, both mainstream and underground can have merits, so both can have hits. The only difference is that the media just considers a hit the songs that are officially recognized by it, but on the underground space, a hit can be a song considered the most known by the underground’s faithful listeners, for its merit of more perfectionist and attractive melody to them.
Starting from this idea, the alienated concept of fashion begun with the misinterpretation of the monopoly of the concept of hit by the media, once the general idea is that a song is considered a hit only when recognized by the media. This fact was enough for the underground community concretize a wrong and confused perception about hits, classifying them prejudicially as fashionable songs and creating generalization. But the media is what makes music spread away around the world, and with that, the media generally creates fashion, as any song can be divulged by the media if it has its support and advertisement, without needing to be necessarily a hit. The appearance of hits as perfectionist singles inside the mainstream is a consequence to the media, because its hits can also be wrongly recognized like that just because they were widely sold. But that does not mean the song was a hit, but it had just an efficient support to sell widely, being just fashionable for being inside the trend of the moment. In other words, the mainstream can have hits or not, as does the underground. If all hits were considered fashion, the underground would obviously have fashion inside it too, once the underground also has its highlights that are the most known songs by the underground community, for their merits of best songs.
To understand better the difference between real hits and fashionable songs, there is the quotation of James J. Nott:
The making of ‘hit’ songs and the marketing of popular music was taken seriously by the popular music industry. To a large extent, the market for particular songs or artists was deliberately ‘created’ by the use of large ‘plugging’ campaigns, which sought to ‘push’ the products of music publishers, recording companies, singers, dance bands, etc. It is true that certain songs were ‘natural hits’, requiring little promotion and gaining success on their own merit. Some songs had that certain ‘something’, seeming to fit the public mood and tastes at any given time. (NOTT, 2002, p. 216)
With this approach, the road from the underground to the mainstream has to be reviewed. When a musical production of the underground reaches the mainstream, it is not because the ideology against commercial music was lost, and its music turned into fashion, but the song just got the high status of a hit, winning the trophy of success. Taking this into consideration, a quotation from the book Garage rock and its roots: music rebel and the drive for individuality is going to be related, from the author Eric James Abbey. The author defines independent bands from the underground with the term Garage Rock:
The underground of contemporary Garage Rock continually asserts notions of rebellion against capitalists constructions of conformity and success. By doing so alongside bands that have achieved what is considered mainstream capitalist success, they have championed the existence of mainstream ideals alongside underground notions of music. This seems contradictory, but in doing so, Garage Rock has continued its successful ascent into music society, and allowed underground networks and bands to remain and play within conceptions of success. Many bands have championed both mainstream and underground spheres of Garage Rock, and these bands have become successful based on their determination to communicate underground ideals within the mainstream sphere. (ABBEY, 2006, p. 134)
A single can turn on a hit as any other art expression can get its high excellence level, like a poem, for example. Shakespeare got a high excellence level in literature, but his writings were not considered fashion just because they were good enough for a wide repercussion. The same happens to music. The sense of hit is a status that a song is good enough to reach both underground and mainstream. In other words, it is universally excellent.
The fact is that the media just monopolizes the concept of hit by official musical parades, creating fashion in order to profit, once the media has the mass power and that is why people are more attracted by music of the mainstream. So, fashion is part of the media system that cares about its capitalist interests, like “an organ of the media’s body”. This part of the media is what tries to take advantage of singles that can be hits or not, inside the mainstream. Besides that, the media is also looking for hits inside the underground as another profit source.
The Power of Advertisement inside The Mainstream
There is a big question that has to be considered: Does the media have influence in what people listen, or listeners influence the media according to their musical tastes?
Considering that, the specific concept of communication here established has to be detailed: the advertisement is what maintains the strength of the media, as it is a way of manipulation. The advertisement is also a mass resource that has the function of persuade people to have a specific action toward something presented by the ad (advertisement).
Follow the quotation of advertisement below, according to Francis Scott Fitzgerald and Michael Everett Nowlin:
The main economic base of […] media is advertising. For commercial radio and television stations, it is by far their most important source of revenue, whereas newspapers and magazines depend on a combination of newsstand sales, subscriptions, and advertising. […] In selecting media, advertisers consider whom they want to reach, what kind of message or information they want to communicate […] Advertisers try to reach the largest number of people in the target audience. […] Given all the advertising industry knows about you, your needs, your consumption patterns, your media behavior, and the forms of persuasion you are susceptible to[…] (STRAUBHAAR; LAROSE; DAVENPOR, 2008, p. 326-334).
The advertisement can be widely spread through Television, radio, internet, newspapers, magazines, etc. and it has to do with the creation of trend, once the advertisement has the intention of get an amount of people to obtain a product presented by it. To persuade people to get a product, an advertisement uses elements that create a dimension where that product is the best, and has to be bought. The elements can be exaggerated, magic, out of reality or whatever is wanted to create a perfect dimension of persuasion.
Children are often easier to be persuaded, due to the fact that they do not have capacity enough to distinguish what is and what is not real. A commercial structured in a way that a pair of shoes is from a hero, and anybody that uses those shoes will have the same power and strength from that hero is an example. This is a way of persuasion in which a kid will want their parents to buy that product, once the ad that the child saw was according to his “world”, full of magic, out of reality and colored.
Considering that, the media is able to persuade what the majority of people are going to listen through the ad. It is truth that the media has to create its fashionable music according to the listeners’ tastes. But it has to be said that the taste is imposed by the own media. In other words, the media starts fashion, then this fashion becomes the taste of the majority of listeners. This is justified by the fact that media has the biggest mass support of advertisement to its fashion in the mainstream, like television, radio, etc. Consequently, music from the underground cannot be inside the taste of the majority of listeners, once it does not have the same support as music from the mainstream.
Inside the book The great Gatsby, there is a relevant quotation from Francis Scott Fitzgerald and Michael Everett Nowlin about the Yiddish music manufacters that can support this approach:
But there’s no popularity. [...] These songs are so lacking in all that the term “popular” means as regards their acceptableness, that they died overnight, unregretted. Directly the Yiddish manufacters have another “hit” to make (it is always the public that is “hit”) a new song is crammed down the public gullet, and because it is the “latest”, and because the Yiddish advertisements say that it is a “hit”, and because the hired “pluggers” say that everybody is singing it, that song too becomes “popular” for its brief period, and so on through the year. It is the old game of changing the “changing the styles” to speed up business and make the people buy. (FITZGERALD; NOWLIN, 2007, p. 246.)
People who have a preference to music from the underground are usually those listeners that look for alternative options, as they have the perception to see that the mainstream does not have authentic and different material in almost all productions. This single perception is what guides these kinds of listeners to the underground, once it does not have a strong mass support of advertisement to get its music to all the people as does the mainstream.
The Increase of Fashion and Attitude through the Videoclip
Besides that, there are other ways that increase fashion inside the mainstream by the media: The videoclips. Not only a videoclip spread music, but also fashion related to stylish and attitude. And that is a big contribution to the media, that has the videoclip as its most powerful arm of trend in the mainstream. Explaining better, the videoclip has music, idol, fashionable stylish and attitude. And that creates a very big influence principally in the majority of young people.
The rock band from the sixties The Beatles is an example of influence. They had the strongest influence all around, enough to create the term Beatlemania, that was the period that lasted since 1963 until 1966 approximately. When the band reached the apex, they caused an absurd impact and influence principally on young people and on everyone else. Their influence was so intense that men begun to wear themselves like The Beatles, changing men’s trend (HECL, 2006). For a better comprehension, a quotation from Hunter Davies made by Rudolf Hecl will be detached below:
Manufactures all over the country were by [December 1963] competing to get a concession to use the word Beatle on their products. Beatles jackets – the collarless ones, usually in corduroy, first worn by Stu in Hamburg – were on sale everywhere as early as September 1963. Beatle wigs started appearing . […] Most teenage boys were growing their own Beatle-length hair. From November on there was a continuous stream of newspaper stories about schoolboys being sent home from school because of their long hair and of apprentices not being allowed into factories. (DAVIES apud HECL, 2006, p. 34)
The other influence of The Beatles that can be considered as a way of attitude is their image of rebels. But this attitude was a moderate “rebellion”. According to Rudolf Hecl, young guys wanted to show their rock’n’roll attitude, provoking and annoying their parents by wearing themselves and using hairstyles against the approval of their parents’ generation, playing and listening to loud and noisy rock music. (HECL, 2006) The appearance of The Beatles’ videoclips were effective to influence young people in their stylish, as the band had the television as a resource to spread their music, trend and attitude through their musical videoclips, besides their live presentations. Consequently, with that strength of Beatlemania, the profit of The Beatles’ record company increased because of its wide repercussion.
Considering that, the importance of videoclips was showed as relevant, once it shows beyond a single song. Young people look for expression and attitude, and the videoclip is able to join music, expression and attitude, creating trend. Taking that into consideration, a relationship can be established with the creation of the musical channel MTV – Music Television, as Tatiana Lima says on her article:
Created in 1981 in the United States, the cable television station MTV Networks appeared as an arm of the major of entertainment Warner Communications. According to Valéria Brandini, the release of this first TV channel with the primordial intention of convey mass popular music was possible because the north american music industry needed to find new niches of market, in view of the declining sales around the years of 1970. (LIMA, 2007, p. 90)
As it can be noticeable, MTV was created firstly to help a major record company, to benefit the mainstream. In other words, MTV would be since that day a “way of advertisement”, once it is an exclusive channel of music, where videoclips would be reproduced so on, spreading music of the mainstream even more.
MTV has a strong influence in young people because it is a channel not to just transmit exclusively music. It also wants to show expression and attitude, principally inside the expressions of rock and pop music. People find subjectivity inside MTV (LEWIS apud MARINO, 2001) by taking their idols as models of attitude. Marino says that there are not only studies about MTV on its own, but also analysis of artists and the influence of them as models of expression. Starting from this point, Paula Rodriguez Marino quote the study of Fiske, in what the author analyses the pop singer Madonna as “a media construction of a character”, and the female types that her videoclips propose. This can be related to the construction of a character by The Beatles mentioned before. It is notorious that the construction of trend and attitude since Beatlemania lasted until recent years as an important point to music industry.
MTV has also a unique way of attention, different from any other channel. The audience of MTV is composed of people that never have their wants and needs satisfied. In other words, MTV viewers appreciate their session of videoclips with a sensation of permanent dissatisfaction that is renewed every new videoclip (KAPLAN apud MARINO, 2001). That is what calls the attention of almost all viewers, the fact that each videoclip has an intrinsic audiovisual message. And these videoclips take part of long sessions, due to the fact that MTV has a series of videoclips as its principal program.
With all these attention given to MTV, the media can maintain its fashion inside the taste of almost all listeners all over the world by the mainstream. And new music channels are now working in the same line as MTV, once other channels of music were created after the creation of MTV, turning music into a wide and even more grandiose industry.
The Interest of Media in The Underground
Although the mainstream has the biggest support by the media, and consequently, the biggest number of listeners, the media got interested in the underground space owing to the fact that it has a continuous faithful amount of listeners. The media knows that the underground has less number of listeners, but it is a number that has being increasing. Besides that, the underground public will always exist, and the media sees that as a good alternative due to the fact that young people looks for several ways of expression, and inside this variety of expressions, there is the ideology against the mainstream (LIMA, 2007). This is what explains why the media are now looking for new opportunities of success inside the underground space, although it does not have the same support strength as the mainstream even though. For instance, it is known that MTV were created to be, in the beginning, the arm of a major record company. But it is also known that this channel had to transmit what young people were looking for, that was expression and attitude. And the opposition to the mainstream is an existent expression among people. Thus, MTV did not let the underground be the principal focus, but it gave the underground some part of attention. Considering the underground space in Brazil as an example, there is the band Chico Science & Nação Zumbi that was an underground group of samba-reggae:
The group got visibility after two years of activity, in a period that Rock was active in the Brazilian press due to the achievement of the Hollywood Rock. On March of 1993, MTV Brazil presented a Special with Chico Science & Nação Zumbi during the transmission’s interval of the mega-festival (TELES apud LIMA. 2007, p. 89). The visibility obtained by the band in the context of presentations of bands like Nirvana, L7, Alice In Chains and Simply Red had a positive impact in the audience […] (LIMA, 2007, p. 89).
As it can be seen, the underground group Chico Science & Nação Zumbi got a little part on the MTV program to present its music, inside an interval. As they got good audience, after some months the president of the major record company Sony music Brazil announced a contract with Chico Science & Nação Zumbi (LIMA, 2007). The major company saw an opportunity of success in Chico Science & Nação Zumbi, although they were not from the mainstream space.
This is an evidence that the underground also has an importance to the media, once the underground has faithful and regular public due to their authentic characteristics. For this reason, the media is now giving a space to the underground, but it does not have the same support as the mainstream anyway.
Despite the support that the mainstream or the underground has, the point is that it does not matter if a song was created inside the mainstream or inside the underground, but both musical spaces can have their hits, that are their musical trophies, as a poet or a painter has his best poems or best paintings, without being a fashionable poet or painter just for that reason. A hit has to be separated from the confused concept of fashionable music. Fashion is just an organ of the music industry system, that can also have hits hided on it, and that is why music from the mainstream or the underground has to be listened or criticized without prejudgement. Both musical spaces can have merits, and if the mainstream is judged with the preconceived and widespread ideia of fashionable music, with no exceptions, criticism is not being constructed, but just alienation.
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HECL, R.. The Beatles and Their Influence on Culture. 2001. 45p. B.A.Thesis – Faculty of arts, Masaryk University, Brno, 2006.
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FITZGERALD, Francis Scott; NOWLIN, Michael Everett. The great Gatsby. Canada: Broadview Press, 2007.
STRAUBHAAR, Joseph; LAROSE, Robert; DAVENPOR, Lucinda. Media Now: Understanding Media, Culture, and Technology. Boston, MA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2011.
STAR, Larry; WATERMAN, Christopher Alan. American Popular Music: From Minstrelsy to MP3. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
NOTT, James J.. Music for the people: popular music and dance in interwar Britain. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
ABBEY, Eric James. Garage rock and its roots: musical rebels and the drive for individuality. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Company, 2006.
quinta-feira, 16 de fevereiro de 2012
[E qual é o porquê de se questionar?]
O silêncio consente o que se quer negar
e responde plenamente o porquê.
Profundamente consciente, exteriormente inconsciente, confusamente ciente.
Por que Meu Deus?