My parents, the son of a factory worker and assistant baker and the daughter of domestic servants, were both the first in their families to go to university. As such, they wanted to ensure that their children, my sister and I, knew our way around ‘culture’.
Hence, for me, a childhood punctuated not only piano lessons and visits to National Trust properties but visits to the cheapest seats at the theatre to see ballets and plays. In their mind, at least back then, there was ‘Culture’ (with a capital ‘C’) to which we had to be introduced.
As Kojo Koram from the School of Law at Birkbeck, University of London, writes, however, culture is something that is continually remade by the people living it. These different conceptions mark the boundaries of the culture wars currently being played out in British politics and society.
In the 1960s and 70s, when [Stuart] Hall was writing, most British intellectuals dismissed the new mass culture taking hold in the country as a passing fad that did not deserve the attention given to Shakespeare, Elgar or Hogarth. But Hall recognised how it offered an increasingly multicultural British population the opportunity to interpret and experience life as it was lived on the ground. Rather than seeing culture as something fixed and unchanging that needed constant protection, Hall saw it as something that underwent “constant transformation” and was always being made and remade by the people living it, a moving force that perpetually created new identities.Source: Here’s what the right gets wrong about culture: it’s not a monument, but a living thing | The Guardian
It is no coincidence that so many of the primary battlegrounds where today’s culture wars are being staged are the elite institutions that represent a traditional British hierarchy: stately homes, Oxford university common rooms, the Last Night of the Proms. To culture warriors on the right, these institutions best represent Britain’s national culture as a whole. That they are exclusive is part of their appeal: when culture is defined as something that only a few people can access or control, its preservation is best entrusted to high-ranking authorities.
I think we’ve all felt a close affinity and, dare I say, relationship with people who wouldn’t know who we were if we met them in real life. In fact, I’ve kind of experienced the other side of this due to my TEDx Talk and the TIDE podcast. People at events would come and talk to me as if they knew me.
It’s nice, in a way, although it makes for very one-sided conversations until you get to know people. I think it’s likely to happen again with the Tao of WAO podcast…
Over the past decade, it has become increasingly common for people to develop intense one-sided relationships with famous people on the internet. What are called parasocial relationships (meaning almost social, or perversely social) have spread almost everywhere. For example, John Mulaney fans share concern over his recently messy personal life as much as they laugh at his jokes. Fans of K-pop groups like Blackpink (called Blinks) and Twice (called Onces) flood YouTube videos with millions of comments in support of their favorite performers. (“Rosé has worked so hard for this moment, let’s support her as much as we can!!”) Zoomers goof off in the chat for hours watching Twitch livestreamers play Minecraft or PUBG. Even Peloton trainers are marketed as supporting us on our fitness journeys rather than coaches who simply encourage us to sweat.Source: Why Can’t We Be Friends | Real Life
The hosts of podcasts in particular are the subject of these intense feelings of connection, as many observers, like Rachel Aroesti in this Guardian piece for instance, have pointed out. I have a few parasocial podcast obsessions myself, particularly the podcasting family the McElroy Brothers, who make the comedy advice show My Brother, My Brother and Me and the “actual play” Dungeons and Dragons podcast The Adventure Zone, among other things. I follow fan subreddits, chuckle at McElroy memes, and buy merch to support the good good boys (as they are called). I have become as much a fan of the McElroys “themselves” as I am a fan of their content. I know their childhood nicknames, their struggles with depression and social anxiety, and I know about the time Justin got fired from Blockbuster for stealing a Fight Club DVD.
I’m sitting listening to the new Kings of Convenience album while writing this. As this article points out, listening to albums is an increasingly unlikely thing to in the era of streaming music services.
This isn’t accidental: it’s easy to hop between services when the unit of currency is an ‘album’. But when it’s a regularly-updated playlist that’s only available on a particular platform (e.g. Spotify) that’s a different proposition altogether.
To help listeners find their way in the endless aisles of digital music, streaming providers created playlists — but this new way of listening has created unintended consequences for artists and songwriters. Today, three services make up two-thirds of the streaming economy: Spotify, which has an estimated 32 percent of the market, Apple Music (18 percent), and Amazon Music (14 percent). But Spotify dominates the conversation both because of its market power and its immensely popular playlists. In 2017, 68 percent of all listening on Spotify was from a company or user playlist, according to the company’s 2018 Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Its platform has more than 4 billion playlists, 3,000 of which are owned by Spotify, curated by a mix of algorithms and editors.Source: How streaming made hit songs more important than the pop stars who sing them | Vox
Its most prominent playlists have serious cultural power. RapCaviar shapes the sound of hip-hop, and can turn indie rappers into household names. The genre-agnostic, slightly quirky playlist Lorem curates the vibe for Spotify’s Gen Z listeners. In 2020, listeners ages 16 to 40 used playlists as their primary source for discovering new music on the platform, according to the company. So today, a placement atop one of its playlists can make or break a song.
Spotify isn’t shy about the marketing power of its playlists. In its SEC filing, the company wrote as much, crediting Lorde’s breakout global success to her placement on a single playlist: Sean Parker’s Hipster International. But her example may be an outlier. The challenge for most artists is that playlist listeners frequently don’t know who they’re listening to. A song with high completion rates on a playlist might end up on more playlists, accumulating millions of streams for an artist who remains effectively nameless. In the best-case scenario, these streams, which pay very low royalties compared to radio, could help land the song a coveted advertisement, or better yet, pique the attention of Top 40 radio programmers.