In the Bay Area, folks largely realize the importance of consuming locally. We know that it’s good for the environment; we know that it sustains local jobs; and we know that it builds our local economy. That being said, most people do not extend this logic to music.
Every time I hear top-40 popular music playing out someone’s radio, I wonder if they realize that supporting and normalizing those artists pours money into the hands of a few corporations who are consolidating media to the point of monopoly. Six corporations own 90% of media – radio, news, television, and movies. Music shapes and reflects our culture, so why let corporate giants dictate and profit from this aspect of our lives when we’re often so conscious of the other facets of our consumption? In this light, music is also a form of constant advertising. Why advertise for the 1% when you’d rather help forward the revolution?
Since the hip hop industry shares overlapping ownership with privatized prisons around the country, it’s no wonder that mainstream promoted rappers often depict behaviors that 1) land people in prison, 2) erode community and respect for peers, and 3) do not represent the broader and more complex genre as a whole. People often speak lamentingly of the “golden era” of hip hop from the late 80s into the early 90s, characterized by its diversity of style, creativity, and quality of lyricism. The truth is there are huge assortments of this music, just looking for its audience, in cities all around the country. The music didn’t change or disappear, but all the money is poured into advertising and media for the industry. There are plenty of underground Bay Area artists performing near you with inspiring, honest, and intelligent messages that uplift, rather than degrade our community.
If you’re like me, and you care about your social agency and footprint, maybe it’s time to start thinking more intentionally about what we pump through the airwaves. Next time you turn on the radio to the same old station and hear the same old songs with their shallow lyrics – maybe even some classism, sexism, hetero-normativity, racism, violence, drug abuse, and vapid consumerism thrown in the mix – ask yourself why you’re still listening. If your answer becomes “because it’s what they play,” please remember who they are and what happens when we passively acquiesce to big corporate control.
The best thing about unplugging from top-40 music isn’t necessarily the much better selection, the improved artistic voice and deeper thought put into messaging, nor the knowledge that you aren’t perpetuating the process of making fat-cats richer. Those are all bonuses that make me really happy to support local music; but what I get most from this shift is the knowledge that I am listening to the voices of my peers. They talk about life as it exists for the diverse majority of us, rather than the imaginary marketing-dream of a few industry moguls. A realistic dialogue about our culture is not just a good sound, but a good feeling. Act locally, change the station.
Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. For guidelines, see:http://bit.ly/1aE2OLf