The Culture Industry

Is a vast area of human culture about to just curl up and die?

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It had to end like this

Good riddance lmao

How exactly is this different from the past 50+years? 99% of people are uninterested in non pop music, including most record labels

Because the internet and streaming platforms allowed more alternative types of music to be distributed and popularized. In this decade, you probably have a thousand times more alternative artists than in the 80s. Crazy shit like In the Woods… or Das Ich stands out because they used to be one of the few bands that fell out of the pattern, whereas today you have hundreds of these, and they are drowning in the mass of it. That's why people romanticize underground bands in the 90s or 80s because they stood out. Spotify favoring mainstream stuff destroys that idea.

Also, the people who think noise and experimental music are the pinnacle of music culture should kill themselves.

Not an attack on culture at all. They just made music nobody wanted to listen to, and surprise surprise, no one wants to listen to their shitty music in Spotify either

Also Spotify hardly has a monopoly on music. People can still release their music on youtube, band camp, whatever. Artists don't even really make money from online music sales, it's always been about performing anyway

It already did.


Human culture proper dies, or rather is transformed, as soon as it is available as mass production. As soon as the medium carrying any form of our culture becomes sufficiently reproducible, it eats away at the dispersed, diverse and local organically arsing music, stories, plays, and so on, because people can meet their cultural needs more time-efficiently by consuming the newly commodified culture rather than engaging in its production. What's more, thanks to a superstar effect, people are left with superior cultural consumption in many ways - the Beatles record is simply better than everything your local brass band could ever achieve. But the space for new things to arise, for diversity, is radically curtailed. Thus we become immeasurable poorer at the same time as we experience ourselves becoming richer, trapped in the haunted house of our hyperreal cultural commodities.

very good post

You finally put into words how I feel about things like Facebook. People don't often know what makes them happy - there are just too many externalities that we just can't measure or predict

minecraft proves you wrong user
and jake paul litmas



Who can forget the great brass strike of 1980?

The battle of Wigan Town Hall still scares the Northern Mindset to this day.


It was made by one Swede shitposting on halfchan that no one gave a shit about except some faggots on a korean basketweaving forum, that became an international hit. Anyone can challenge the mainline order if there's actual criticism and a public forum to confront it.

Also Jake Paul is a "superstar" but everyone still sees him as a complete piece of shit except for children, who's attention is going to rapidly die once they wrong up.

Did you even read his post? He's saying that the ability to mass-distribute information leads to a consolidation of culture that we use to replace local culture

Are you some sort of particularist? Don't you believe in internationalism? If everyone's working together inevitably the exchange of culture will lead to a globalization, just the current wave is manufactured by profiteers. They won't last though because the harder you manufacture culture, the faster people get tired of it. Since local cultures can't be manufactured, the peculiar forms where dwell in the far off corners of the world will get their chance to shine.

See, I actually see minecraft as a good example of the opposite of what you claim. If you peruse youtube, you can find a large number of videos of people creating a plethora of things in minecraft, using its crude mechanics. But notice how there is no authentic creation going on, but rather only a mediated creation. They don't build a castle through actual physical labour in their lifeworld with other people in said world, no, they need their creative activity to be mediated by the commodity that is minecraft, for the benefit of only themselves and an amorphous audience that might well be illusory. It's the death of authentic experiences, replaced by a simulacrum.
Lego's are a good toy, they allow a child to be creative in a cost-effective way. But you have to grow out of that and move towards actual authentic creation at some point, otherwise you and your creative being are literally stuck in a universe of legos. But more and more, capital is cutting off that escape - it is more profitable to keep us all on the reservation. No wonder people are worried about manchildren and the like, it's just a logical outgrowth of capital seeking more avenues for commodities to enter our lives.

and that's exactly the problem. what you describe to me is exoticism or "flavor of the month from this obscure location" which you'll then proceed to consume and shit out and repeat the cycle for the next big local thing popularized globally. what you describe already happens today, why do you need socialism for that??

They're only playing Minecraft since they're children and idiotic copying what they see online, when they grow up they'll gain a sense of individualism and attempt to produce works of their own. The problem is that capital wants to keep people in that state forever feeding from the hands of porky, but if they manufacture a consumer base of placid sheep they will only ever produce material for placid sheep, never original, because to challenge would be to destroy themselves. If they get really good at marketing (Disney style) they can destroy everything that the sheep like and still have a following, however in the long run it will destroy themselves as well because the next generation being born won't be interested in the same things as the past generation and will hate being forced into it. I would say specifically young adults being in a state of not having capital or being allowed to use it end up finding things to enjoy for the sake of genuinely enjoying them, like a child playing with the box instead of the toy except with greater self-awareness, and that is why they have always been the harbingers of change.

In the end the further capital degrades the personal power of the individual in its quest to consume all for profit, the further the individual won't submit to capital simply because it will be too expensive to enjoy. The power of capital to manufacture fake exoticism will die and be replaced by genuine interest.

Your criticism is fair, and I now realize my above post went off on a tangential point. I'll try to refine my thinking a bit more, and to the point.

I'm not denying that change can still occur, and that people can initiate it. It's more a question of the scale on which everything happens. The trends we have identified, mass production and mass culture under capitalism, put a downward pressure on the raw per capita amount of truly creative artists (not engaged in pure reproduction or aping things a la the typical visual arts major who spruces up cooperate websites) that a society will see fit to maintain. Under capitalism, you can only be an artist if meet a market need (which can be of the novelty variety you sketched), or if you are bourgeoisie and don't have to earn your keep. At the same time, thanks to mass production of various media, any one cultural creation can cover a larger amount of human terrain that would before be covered by a variety of local cultural innovators. This cuts out the "craftsmen" of yore, so to speak, who were "good enough" to serve the local need but would not gain a wider reception and would likely indeed by pushed out under a condition of competition, but nonetheless impressed the people in their surroundings with typical and distinct cultural traits, which they themselves had come up under, that were so allowed to develop at that local scale.

Mass culture under capitalism is produced by comparatively few people who operate overwhelmingly under a variety of market pressures, and is scaled up to a universal reach, which exerts a unifying force on culture everywhere. I see it as similar to the evolution of languages after the printing press and the advent modern states, that saw a huge withering of diversity in languages, driven by the new technology coupled with a centralizing influence of nationalism.

As to the point of a new wave coming in and rebelling against an established order, this is certainly still possible, and can be perfectly expressed through the market. You can have cultural trends under capitalism - the fashion industry is a good example. Also note, however, how there is again a potential for cultural poverty. If everyone is consuming the same culture, all the various rebellions will be against that culture, in stead of a plethora of cultures and anti cultures existing simultaneously. Of course for the people in the culture it makes not that much difference, because before mass media we just didn't have access to the then existing diversity anyway. It's just an observation on the larger scale.

At least when it's bottom up, the people can change the whole global consumer culture instead of being imposed on them, though they might now choose to.


Except that these cultural insurrections will take the form of mass culture armies being mobilized by capital against other such established armies. Armies of vocal consumers, in the form of fanboys in the trenches of comment sections, imageboards, and the virtual store. I for one am burning my draft card.

Back in the day we had a thing called radio which catered to popular taste, if you made freaky music, it wouldn't be played and no one would hear it. Nowadays you have this thing called the internet where you can upload whatever you like for all to hear. This spotify ap acting like radio stations do will not make an end to this.

shut up emo

Clearly, the choice is we must destroy capital.

Am I the culture now

save it user. save it all.

bandcamp is doing a solid job of being a 21st century music distribution platfom done right. artist sets minimum price, including no minimum (making it a free album with artist donation), downloads are DRM free in tons of formats, artists can set up merch stores, in app streaming too if that's your thing.
they do take 15% comission though, but the popularity of bandcamp and wide variety of music shows promise for the future
alternative music is out there and thriving, even if it isn't on spotify

The problem isn't that people aren't creating challenging art; it's that the average person is less and less likely to be exposed to it due to the corporatization of online media.

They were never likely to be exposed to it, it has nothing to do with online media. The problem is that artists on Spotify are paid really badly, and they are incentivised to produce a specific style of music ("Muzak", background music) if they want to be successful on Spotify.

The entire music business is about profit not art.
This is a pretty good book that explores that

Dude. How old is everyone here? I have a weird situation. The first half of my life was the before times. Back when you had to have money, go to a record store, only was able to select the music they had in stock.
Then when i was in high school piracy, napster, it all changed. Human beings literally have the entiery of recorded music at their hands, any time they want, all genres, all countries, any time period.
Do you even know how amazing that is!?!!

I can wake up at 4 in the morning, in the middle of fucking nowhere america, and listen to Japanese city pop. or vaporwave, or classic rock, or krautrock, or shoe gaze, or trip hop. or classical, or folk, or madchester, or fucking Gregorian chants

Its just endless fucking music man.

Music already lost all meaning to me ages ago. I overdosed.

Record companies arent looking for talented musicians these days, they are looking for people who are walking meme's, have ten billion followers on twitter, have a viral video.

You need to be of the mindset that pop music isnt bad. Its called poptamism. Personally i think 99% of pop music is straight garbage. Actually the past decade has been hipsters embracing poptamism and i think its the worst fucking thing to have ever happen to music.

But pop music isnt bad. Not all the time.
Sometimes the beach boys happen.

This has absolutely nothing to with anything anyone is talking about in this thread.

But where does Spotify and digital distribution represent a step back from the old days of physical distribution? The person who wrote this complains that the Spotify algorithm might filter away music that isn't challenging and doesn't instantly make sense to people, but it's not like the physical stores could afford to just keep countless records that didn't sell and that also didn't, to a degree at least, attend the expectations of the market. And the store owners might not have used sophisticated algorithms, but they did have a strictly financial criteria of what they should and shouldn't sell.

Then she complains that Spotify is trying to destroy labels, and that independent labels will be the ones harmed the most, but Jesus, how many great independent labels of the past collapsed because they couldn't find chains of distributors that accepted that product because it wasn't successful enough, or because the stores had deals with major producers? Internet and Spotify came as a bliss to these people, and a system that allows those artists to upload their material directly doesn't seem unfair, it seems like they simply make some of the old functions of the indie labels superfluous.

I mean, just look at this passage:
If the best argument you can come with up in support of independent producers is that you can no longer say thanks when a shop finally accepts to buy and resell your product, then maybe you probably don't have a strong point to begin with, and I'll take the convenience of algorithmically-generated selection over the arbitrary, subjective selection of the shopkeeper or the indie zine editor any day.

I'm sorry but in what I read so far the article doesn't make any convincing argument against Spotify and so on, only a few observations about modern culture ("ever noticed how there are many Chill playlists out there?") weirdly tied together by a vague criticism of culture industry. Maybe I'm getting the wrong idea here, but it seems like she's criticizing consumer convenience and automation - two things I'm 100% for - in themselves, not because they serve as means to a negative end, and the reason for that is because it is not congenial to the sensibilities of the petit-bourgeois artistic subcultures that were supposedly authentic, and organic, and face-to-face, and communal and that were also always annoucing the death of like, real art, man.


Automation in whose service? Certainly not that of the listening public.
Convenient what?

The point I read the author as making, more than anything else, is that streaming services, for all of their potential, ultimately are just the culmination of several long running trends in the music industry. Certainly not anything as transformative as OP seemed to believe, but still not great.

Who even needs humanity more, amirite?

But who writes the algorithm? In Spotify's case, probably someone whose first concern isn't your enrichment through music.


go read adorno, we don't care about your life story




If the separate interests of producers and the public were strictly antithetical then capitalism would not be possible.

Convenient access, convenient purchase, convenience in the discovery of new material. All things I enjoy and appreciate, particularly after a lifetime of frustration with the slightly more folksy capitalism of the small venue and the independent companies.

The trends of the music industry are the same trends as any other business, and the innovation this leads to is a key feature of capitalism that can't be deemed as harmful per se.

I'm of the opinion that "Humanity" still exists if removed from a particular sphere of business

I mean, yeah, as far as I can know we're still living under capitalism and large businesses don't have much other than profit in mind. But since we can only discuss these things in relative other than absolute terms, I still prefer that to what we had before, and the "new" under capitalism can only exist if it follows the laws of capital.

From my perspective, what we had before was massive copyright infringement (of course, the artists aren't making much more off of digital distribution now) little in the way of algorithmic music discovery, unless you could stand to use pandora, much more decentralized and varied discussion of music online than there is now, and a whole lot of passion projects which, for all intents and purposes, existed outside of capitalism.



Watch out grandpa you'll stir up your arthritis and have a flare up from typing to hard.

Good posts.

The problem is commodification, not appropriation. Commodification of culture alienates us from cultural significance the same way that commodification of labor alienates us from the significance of our labor. Culture is represented by reductive symbolism in the same way that labor becomes represented by money.
Thus, the significance of that which itself is being represented is lost. Cultural appropriation should be seen as a positive thing, as long as it is done in a matter that does not include commodification. It is fine to appropriate a positive aspect of a culture, as adopting aspects of other cultures is one of the ways that cultures grow and develop.
Cultural exchange, one of the primary mechanisms of cultural development, necessitates appropriation. Cultural appropriation being problematic can only start to make sense when you overlay it on a foundational theory of identity politics and hierarchies of oppression.
However, these theories are themselves incoherent, as they reduce relationships to the means of production to a mere aspect of one’s identity. Therefore, cultural appropriation is real, but it is not a bad thing in and of itself.
The problem is cultural commodification, which is a coherent concept because it describes a contradiction in the cultural superstructure of society arising as a reflection of an analogous contradiction in the economic base of society.
It is not fine to appropriate one cultural artifact, use that artifact as a symbol for the culture as a whole, and then commodify that symbol. Culture is a set of practices influenced by material conditions.
Cultural boundaries are spooks, and certain aspects of culture such as morality and theology are spooks, but to discard all of culture as a spook is intellectually lazy.