K-Pop & Kate Bush & Capital
Welcome back to regularly-irregular Money 4 Nothing Newsletter.
Sorry that it’s been a little more irregular than usual this month—Sam (who typically writes these things) is in the final stages of dissertation revisions, and…you know. turns out it’s a lot of work. Anyways, we hope that you are either successfully staying cool OR happily located in the southern hemisphere OR are one of those people who really likes humidity. Whatever gets you through the night, you know?
As always, we want to thank you for reading and listening—and to ask for some help! We know that there are literally a thousand podcasts screaming in your ears about rating and reviewing, but we’re pretty sure that we’re the only podcast of Music & Capitalism asking you to help push us further into the commodified panopticon of modern discourse. So, if you could take a minute and drop your personal take on the pod, we’d def appreciate it. It really helps us to spread the historically-nuanced ambivalence at the core of our vibe.
OK! On to the shows!
We started off by taking a look at the current financial situation (read: not great) and thinking through the (likely) end of the loooong era of easy money that’s defined the last decade+ of tech-driven social development. The resurgence of the music industry has very much occurred against a backdrop of unicorns & endless growth—what might it mean for the major labels, and more generally, for our sonic culture, if that’s over? Given how central these tech companies have become to our…well…entire sense of self, the political economy of this moment is crucial—and well worth interrogating.
Next, we were incredibly lucky to have the chance to talk to the one-and-only Chal Ravens about her fantastic podcast “Relevant Parties.” Every episode (if you haven’t had the chance to check it) features Chal talking through the history of a different independent electronic (or sometimes hip hop or reggae) label with its owner. Taken as a whole, the show is a remarkable composite history of the last 20-odd years of music business history. With Chal, we explored some of the overarching dynamics that unified these individual stories—how indys connect with communities, how they adjusted to the internet (and then again to streaming), and how these companies’ curatorial expertise functions in our #branded content ecosystem.
After that, we dropped a bonus episode exploring the remarkable success of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill ( A Deal With God)” in the wake of the digital-summer-blockbuster-t.v. show-goonies-reboot that is Netflix’s Stranger Things. Very much a continuation of the Old Music V. New Music convo that we’ve been having in recent months, we try to understand how the structures of streaming enabled the massive success of the song, what this new type of consumer temporality says about pop culture, and why old-head Kate Bush Fans (like Saxon) feel…weird about it? And what THAT says about consumer culture.
Finally we got a chance to explore the wild, influential, category-challenging world of K-pop with Kara, from the Idolcast. (If you haven’t checked out the Idolcast, we VERY much recommend it). Not quite a genre, not quite a music industry, K-pop is the product of a tightly-organized sector of the South Korean entertainment economy, aimed at a specific (and rapidly growing) global audience. To understand how the business achieved this position, we go back to the early ‘90s, exploring the rise of the Idol as a cultural phenomenon, the innovations of Japanese popular music, the power of a government backed cultural economy, and ways in which an immersive multi-media complex enabled a series of boy bands to offer an all-encompassing worlds to their millions of fans.
We’ve been wanting to do this episode for well over a year, and came away with it convinced that k-pop is a crucial glimpse into the future of entertainment. It won’t be identical, but those idols? They’ve figured out something. More a first pass than a last word, this episode is the one of several that will explore a series of global music economies over the next year or so.
Department of Actual Music:
Saxon: I’ve been dabbling a toe into the short lived movement of Danger Music from which I have become mildly obsessed with Yamantaka Eyes of Boredoms fame and his first noise duo Hamatarash that (among other things) once drove a bulldozer through a venue during their set.
Sam: I’ve been spending some time listening to a cache of soul 45’s that I trash-inherited and have lugged from place to place for roughly a decade. This track, from a late ‘60s Wilson Pickett album, has become a personal favorite. Great groove, fantastic guitar, and Wilson pushing his voice into the red like only he can.
Saxon & Sam