by Alex Cosper (1/16/13)
Does anyone want to argue that the new leaders of pop culture are no longer rock stars but tech platforms? While Elvis, Beatles and Michael Jackson were the superstars of the 20th century, the new century's superstars are clearly YouTube, Google, Facebook, iTunes and Wikipedia. A deeper list of these giants includes Yahoo, AOL, eBay, Amazon, Twitter, MSN and Craigslist. From these portals people can find a lot of what they are looking for whether it's news, friends, music, books, movies or other popular online products.
It's possible to spend an hour at Wikipedia and learn more than spending several hours at a library. Some people would rather learn from Wikipedia all night than watch TV or movies. People are also learning more about crafting and scheduling their own media. Everyone has become an online informant sharing information they learn from the internet about the world.
The new pop culture is driven more by tech than musical soundtracks. People seem to be more on top of the cutting edge of tech than the cutting edge of music. The nineties marked a turning point between an era of melodic messages and the post-melodic message era, whatever you want to call it. When music began to resemble products from an assembly line is when people's attention became more captivated by tech. This critical turning point was 1999, when mp3s started to become big.
Ask yourself if you were competing in the music industry would you resort to the same pattern that has led them through a decade of financial decline? In other words, has it really helped the music industry to put out so many soundalike artists? The fact that a refreshing authentic artist, Adele, whose voice isn't synthesized like a robot, turned out to have the top album for the second year in a row reassures us that it's not the public that has lost track of great music.
What has happened, as usual, is that social behavior has been transformed by technology. Instead of people running up high phone bills, people are communicating online at much lower costs. Media researchers are beginning to show that YouTube has become a more important part of daily life than a local or national radio show. YouTube has become the news and entertainment to many people who want to venture beyond the mainstream. The ease and excitement of internet exploration has caused some people to create their own video channels on YouTube or their own internet radio stations with services such as SamVibe.com.
The reason this shift in pop culture is significant is that it expands opportunities while diminishing barriers to entry. Even though the internet has become flooded with novice music, there is enough amazing talent to help turn indie channels into empires. While authentic indie artists continued to infiltrate the mainstream in 2012, it appears that indie keeps making a stronger impact every year. In 2012, according to music industry data reported by Billboard, roughly a third of all music sold was on independent labels.