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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Column: The opening chords to Outside the Music

In this space, I hope to draw conclusions about the music industry that can be applied to our broader society.

Jack Flemming

Jan. 22, 2014

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

The colossal entity of music holds many purposes. William Shakespeare called it the food of love. Jimi Hendrix called it his religion. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called it the universal language. But what happens when we peel back the layers of this universally celebrated art form?

Over the years, music has consistently evolved, pushing its way into a permanent cornerstone of our modern society. Music is no longer exclusively an art form. It’s an industry. And because of that, there’s so much more to discuss.

Sites and publications like Pitchfork and Rolling Stone are huge players in the music journalism game, but because of the newfound vastness of the music industry, their services alone can no longer adequately survey and explore the problems and controversies of the music world.

While you’ll find me frequenting these sites daily, trying to stay up-to-date on the 50 hip- hop mixtapes that will drop today alone, there is a whole other side to music coverage beyond the reviews.

That’s where my column “Outside the Music” steps in. I aim to make this column cover the often-overlooked aspects of the music world, focusing on issues plaguing the industry rather than artist profiles or album reviews.

For example, thousands of artists will put out albums this year consisting of music they made solely on their computers. You’ll be able to read dozens of reviews about each album, many of them saying the same things and making the same points. Rather than write a review, however, this column will focus on the broader issue of artists making music on their computers, examining how it affects the industry as a whole.

For the longest time, music journalists have obsessed over whether or not a piece of music is good, but in that mad pursuit, they’re missing out on stories with higher ambitions, such as the trends and effects of music.

In order to make this column influential in the slightest, I have to first convince you the topics I cover are even important at all, and that’s one of my main goals. There are so many interesting, important and extraordinary stories beyond the scope of critiquing individual pieces of music, and I hope to bring those stories to light with this column.

Often, I’ll be making statements about our society based on trends I’ve seen, and these statements may affect you. For example, I may draw parallels between opposition to Kanye West and accidental racism, or claim that consumers are the ones driving misogyny in hip-hop. These claims are not meant to be an indictment to you as a reader, but I hope that, in the very least, I’m able to force you to analyze for yourself the complicated, interwoven web of music and culture in American society.

I also hope to not alienate any readers with my content, and I’ve approached it a certain way so as to avoid that. I won’t be focusing on a certain album or genre of music — the purpose of this column is to not make claims about any particular piece of music, but instead cover much broader, more important topics. In doing so, anyone can take interest in this column, not just readers whose musical tastes happen to align with my own.

As you can already probably tell, my passion lies in music, and I firmly believe we can use it to make statements about our society as a whole. Through this column, I hope to make you feel the same way.

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