In all the conversation about music, art, and artists, one idea that is not often examined is the relationship between performer and audience, and the reflection this has on society. Today, streaming services dominate the music landscape, and DIY production methods are making it incredibly easy for artists to distribute directly to fans.
Only a couple decades ago physical album sales were the driving force of the music industry, however these days plenty of artists don’t even bother to sell their music. To highlight the somewhat bizarre state of the music world today, James Sey over at The Conversation shared this anecdote:
Onto the stage bounds the evening’s entertainment, which everyone has come to see. But it’s not a band in absurdly tight trousers, brandishing top of the range and lovingly crafted guitars and drum kit. No, it’s a skinny young white bloke in shades and a rubbish hairdo, brandishing … a tiny USB stick!
So what do industry trends have to say about the state of music, and society as a whole? Jacques Attali’s book Noise: The Political Economy of Music attacks this question head on, theorizing that the social control and institutionalization of music can be used to track the mutations of capitalism, from feudal structures to “post-capitalist” societies. Ultimately, his conclusion was based on the idea that a society founded around mass-production and mass-consumption would produce a very commodifiable form of music, one that reflects the society and economic climate around it.
So it seems that for his revolutionary spirit, Diplo and our “skinny white DJ” are still not our post-capitalist heros, but they are leading the charge towards an industry that deals in entertainment experiences instead of MP3s. Diplo seems genuine when he says that he would rather have people hear his music for free than not buy the album and miss out entirely, and ironically this may be why so many people flock to festivals around the world to see him wave flags at them.
For more on DJs and post-capitalist society, click through to James Sey‘s article for The Conversation.