In hip-hop the DJ has always been the tastemaker. The DJ was responsible for breaking records and exposing the audience to new music that may have not been available through urban radio. As hip-hop reached the height of its popularity in the last 5-7 years, urban radio soon became corporate. Nearly every program director in the country had an identical playlist of watered down R&B (masked as hip-hop). With the music market as saturated as it was, I guess it was only matter of time before blogs influenced our music consumption. With so many sub-genres in hip-hop (i.e. indie, fusion, jazz, experimental, etc), music blogs and the internet are a great marriage because popularity and traffic are heavily user-driven with less control through corporate interest with the exception of ad space.
I never thought I`d say it, but blogs are the new tastemakers. Just think about the premise for a second; all blogs (even ours) have a certain music type or clientele they cater to. There’s more than enough blogs out there that they can be less inclusive of all types of hip-hop, as much as I hate to say it. Seriously, If you visit a blog enough times you can trace the style. Nahright , 2dopeboyz and The Smoking Section all cater to popular or mainstream acts in hip-hop. Okayplayer focuses any music considered left field or underground. Blogs may not be discovering artists like A&R’s from record companies do, but they’re certainly creating the internet following. Can an artist even be relevant or survive in 2009 without an internet presence? I doubt it. Blogs push an artists music to the masses through downloads, mixtapes, interviews, album review and any other feature to get the name out there. If a site is reputable or popular enough it can create this cult like following for the artist; i.e. Asher Roth, Jay Electronica, Pac Division. etc. For artists who become internet sensations, blogs can be the co-sign to push them over the top. For unknown artists, blogs represent the unsigned hype column in the old Source magazines just with more exposure. However, in the case of a major blog when ad space revenue or marketing dollars are at stake; is it completely out of the question to think that certain artists get more publicity because corporates know they’ll be able to sell whatever they need through that blog?
I have mixed feelings on the issue of blogs being tastemakers because it is somewhat subjective if not more. I like what I like musically but to make an entire blog about just my tastes seems selfish on some level. Naturally some elements of me will be there, that’s a given. Also, just because someone has a blog, what exactly makes them the authority of all things dope? How do we even gauge their credibility? Does that even matter nowadays? My feeling is credibility is dictated by getting an artist co-sign, blog focus and the type of artists the said blog represents. With print media basically on it’s last legs, where do we draw the line between an actual journalist and a blogger reviewing music? I don’t need a blogger to have a journalism degree, but as long as they have good music knowledge and an objective view they won’t end up sounding like Pitchfork. All things considered, the internet has definitely made life easier and given us way more access, but in the case of music it is really up for debate. My thought is that substance will always last longer; so some blogs will have a longer shelf life than others. But like urban radio, corporate interest will always blur the lines of credibility so a blog with less substance that generates good traffic can also thrive and tell you to support their latest internet wonder. So in that sense, blogs are the tastemakers of today as far as music but ultimately consumers have to decide if the food is really edible.