How does culture come about in real time?
Culture is often discussed as a pre-existing system, but it's often clear that it's being created in the everyday activities of people all the time, and that power can nudge nascent culture into a influencial position.
The music sub-basement (is it ever really an underground? Because if so how would anyone know?) in the US has its moments of producing some really superb and forward looking music, but the scenes that generate this music and any attendant, supportive culture never bubble up into the market to be sold as lifestyle culture en mass. No, in the model that gets music on high-listenership radio, certain bands are picked up, cleaned up and produced. Who is picked, how and how they are handled does affect general american music culture, which is very central to youth culture, which feeds the trends that echo in our expressive styles. For anyone who's experienced organic music scenes, there is that intense frustration over who gets picked and who gets ignored in the lottery for mass cultural influence. In the 90s, in just one scene, Nirvana gets picked to click, bands like the Melvins and Mudhoney and the Fastbacks do not, and this has a huge effect on that scene at the time, and there is a whole category of radio station format that exists now because of it. Since the Payola scandals of the mid-20th century, there has been a cloud over every playlist choice. Does the unscrupulous delivery of money always trump any actual interest in music that gets played?
Outside the US, other choke points of culture can have huge effects. A story on the killings of popular musicians in Mexico provides some glimpses of how musicians are launched there.
"It is common knowledge in Mexico's music industry, but not known to the general public, that drug cartels finance the careers of some budding musicians, then launder money through unregulated concert ticket sales, according to industry sources, musicians and law enforcement."
The connection might start early in a musician's career:
"The nexus between drug traffickers and musicians often forms in poor mountain villages. Young musicians have few sources of income to launch their careers. There is scant public funding for popular music genres, which ruling elites look down upon as "lower-class junk," according to Wald.
Drug traffickers are often the only wealthy people in the mountain villages of states such as Sinaloa."
And later, these musicians have a material advantage over others:
"Bands that make deals with drug traffickers get a crucial leg up on the competition. Tzin Tzun, the promoter, can spot them with ease.
'They come into town with the most expensive equipment, stuff from Germany, stuff that costs thousands of dollars,' he said. 'But nobody's ever heard of these guys. They were on the rancho yesterday, today they're on billboards.'"
I can't help wondering how this has distorted music production and reception in Mexico, and how the tastes and connections of the traffickers may have moved music in ways it might never have gone. Culture being molded in real time.