Music styles that, like hip-hop, are connected to some kind of grass roots, are fluid, with constant incremental changes building into epochal ones. When they move from their base audience, it’s often because a particular conjuncture of sounds resonates with a new crowd. But here is where a kind of misrecognition occurs: for the neophytes, the style is this one way, frozen in time. The give and take between music makers and their core followings, the push and pull, ebb and flow that built disco, hip-hop, house, reggaeton, and so on, is interrupted by listeners who in their enthusiasm don’t always understand the history or sociology of their genres. They don’t have to: when music becomes a commodity, it can travel worldwide, as all commodities do, severed from any knowledge of the conditions of its production. Genres cease to be grassroots social worlds, and instead become something more like brands: mere sonic surfaces rather than deep historical processes.
Toby Shorin, Diminishing Marginal Returns of Aesthetic Value:
Between the zone of normalcy and the zone of experimentation, there is a sweet spot. Just outside what is considered normal yet familiar enough to be comprehended, this is where good marketers work. When Weiden Kennedy says they want to capture “lightning in a bottle” this is what they mean: to take something just outside of mainstream culture, aestheticize it, and turn it into marketing for a consumer product. …
The crowdfunding and tiny brand revolutions indicate that the business entity can be a means of self-expression and an aesthetic medium of its own. Pop-up shops and one-off capsule collections are effective single-shot versions of this medium, but projects with greater ambitions are emerging as well. LOT2046 and Urbit are vehicles for a set of values for with distinct auteurial aesthetic visions.
What did you think of what you saw, asked Miss Stein. … that the Picassos were rather awful and the others were not. Sure, she said, as Pablo once remarked, when you make a thing, it is so complicated making it that it is bound to be ugly, but those that do it after you they don’t have to worry about making it and they can make it pretty and so everybody can like it when others make it.