Lazy Luddite Log

22.12.09

Poster Post

I went shopping for some photo frames recently and while I was at it browsed the selection of pop-culture posters in the same shop. It got me thinking on something I have been noticing for a while. If I wanted merchandise related to (say) The Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin then chances are I will find them in any shopping centre. If however I want something relating to (say) Aretha Franklin or Stevie Wonder then I will have a hunt on my hands. I name all these musicians because they are all of long-standing popularity and I am a fan. But if supply-and-demand are anything to go by then I am unusual in liking all of them.

So I got to wondering why this disparity of product availability exists. And my ‘political correctness chip’ sparked into life and told me that I was seeing evidence of racism – we in Australia prefer white over black artists it told me. Disquieting. But then I started asking if there were other distinctions between the artists named. Was genre the key factor here? The artists with all the posters and patches perform rock (and rock-derived music) while those of scant paraphernalia perform soul (and soul-derived music).

One test of this explanation was to consider a larger number of artists (while still confining things to ‘classics’). Lo-and-behold one can find consumer items relating to Jimi Hendrix (a black rocker) much moreso than Joe Cocker (a white soulter). I relaxed then – there is nothing the matter with preferring some genres over others. But then I started asking another question – why do we as a society show such a preference for some genres over others (particularly since they share a common musical heritage)? Possibly my original suspicions would play a part in the answer. I wonder…

Addendum

I may be indulging in gross generalizations here. The extended family of popular music is much more complex than I suggest here. And humanity cannot be understood in terms of the dichotomy I use except in some specific contexts. Still...

Cross-posted here.

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