3 Michigan artists speak about 3 musical cultures and genre loyalty

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Music streaming services are the future and they’re redefining what people listen to, yet genre loyalty remains.

In 2016, Nielsen, a company that studies consumer habits worldwide, found a 76 percent increase in on-demand audio streams. These services, like Spotify and Apple Music, have algorithms designed to help listeners instantly customize their musical preferences. And the rigid boundary lines that once delineated genres seem to be less strict – more people are listening to varied music.

Broadcasting platforms like radio are also taking notice.

“I’m always looking to some degree. My top 40 and country stations are famous, (because) I have been the first to play (new releases),” said Tim Roberts, vice president of music programming for CBS Radio Detroit. “The reality is that people have diverse tastes.”

This makes it difficult to classify exactly what people like, but once people find something they’re loyal to, they hold on tight.

For instance, despite the medium being decades old, Nielson found Vinyl LP sales grew 11 percent in 2016. Spotify also reported that globally by genre, the most loyal listeners belonged to the metal, pop and folk categories. This is despite Nielsen’s findings that the most music sales were in rock and that streaming was dominated by hip-hop.

Roberts said that this loyalty exists because of music’s cultural and social impacts, which affects how he chooses music to play on his stations.

“I think most people like a lot of music from a lot of different genres, but at the end of the day it’s about who is going to get me more listeners,” Roberts said. “It’s an unusual bridge of man, woman and child.”

We asked three Michigan artists who live and breathe their genres – hip-hop, folk and punk rock – to discuss why they chose their medium.

Kenny Plont – Punk Rock

Plont has been writing music for 15 years, but in 2014 the Clarkson-native helped found the five-piece punk/ska band called The Vulnerable. The Group consists of Dummer and Vocalist Daisy Mosher, Guitarist and Vocalist Gracie Pryor, Guitarist Lauren Fisher, Bassist Nick Furlo and Plont on vocals.

Photo courtesy of Kenny Plont.

Plont has been writing music for 15 years, but in 2014 the Clarkson-native helped found the five-piece punk/ska band called The Vulnerable. The Group consists of Dummer and Vocalist Daisy Mosher, Guitarist and Vocalist Gracie Pryor, Guitarist Lauren Fisher, Bassist Nick Furlo and Plont on vocals.

What does the term “music culture” mean to you?
I think broadly defined, it means people connecting with other people who share similar affinities or strong interests in a type of music. To me personally, it’s about connecting with like-minded people in punk rock, who see punk as a way of expressing individuality, and also questioning authority throughout your life. Connection is the key word here, I think.

Do you think music culture is important?
Yes, it allows you to emphasize and connect with others who share similar affinities and artistic aspirations.

How would you classify your genre of music?
Punk, to me, has always been about an intellectual pursuit and developing a coherent worldview. The politics of a lot of punk communities or groups I’ve frequented exposed me to LGBT stuff, veganism, feminism and in general, just being a decent human to people who are oftentimes thrown under the bus by the dominant culture in society. Obviously, there’s plenty of jerks and dummies, as with any subculture or form of rebellion, but overall, that’s what I think punk is mostly about. How it is perceived though, is a much different thing.

Could you describe the perceived punk community?
I don’t know how most people perceive it, but I would assume it would be something along the lines of question or despising authority, aggressive music that challenges the status quo and seeks to dismantle or give the finger to existing power structures.

How do you feel that your music is different from other types?
Punk is arguably just as aggressive as say, metal or hardcore, but once you start trying to compare them in terms of levels of aggression and straightforwardness in confronting power and authority, the lines get real blurry. Punk, if anything, is more accessible to more people, because you don’t have to be super great to play an instrument. It inspires people who lack access to music education or lessons to just pick up, play a few chords, or sing along to the bands that inspire them, and that’s pretty darn cool!

Kenny Plont Music Sample:

 

Michael “Mikeyy” Austin – hip-hop

Lansing-based rapper Mikeyy Austin didn't start taking music seriously until a year ago, with the release of his debut mix tape T I N T E D. Since then, he has involved himiself in community engagement and work on his new album L I F T E D which will debut May 19.

Photo by Eve Kucharski.

Lansing-based rapper Mikeyy Austin didn’t start taking music seriously until a year ago, with the release of his debut mix tape T I N T E D. Since then, he has involved himiself in community engagement and work on his new album L I F T E D which will debut May 19.

What does the term “music culture” mean to you?
I think it’s more so not making the music itself, but kind of the things that go into making the music and why it’s important. For me, kind of taking things back to the history of hip-hop, kind of the birth of the culture of hip-hop, and more than just the genre that started because of what was going on in the communities. Stuff like the housing situations for people of color and the war on drugs and whatnot and kind of going against those people. The response was kind of an explosion of hip-hop, whether that was rapping, or DJing or break dancing and that kind of goes into what we see today.

Do you think music culture is important?
Yes. I think that it kind of came from self-research almost. I thought that in order to know what I’m doing fully, I kind of have to know where it started from. That’s where the song Erykah Badu came from – talking about getting back to my roots. From that desire to want to know where did I come from, how did we get as a culture to the place where we are now.

How would you classify your genre of music?
I feel like hip-hop was growing up way back in the Harlem Renaissance and the name was put on it and the other views. Because hip-hop is more than just the actual music. More so than the lifestyle, hip-hop is actually being able to do what we’re doing now, is being able to converse about real life issues and just being able to see how they put the name on it. Like, OK hip-hop makes sense now.

Could you describe the perceived hip-hop community?
Probably what I don’t enjoy the most is that just the view that outsiders looking in don’t understand hip-hop because they don’t understand the culture. I think that all kind of ties in. If you don’t understand the culture, you’re not going to understand the music and from the outside looking in you’ll say ‘these are just people making music about money and drugs and blah blah blah,’ not really understanding the culture that influences it and the song or the culture.

How do you feel that your music is different from other types?
A lot of things that are foundational in the hip-hop culture, a lot of people can’t identify with it. It’s not existing when you really get down to what makes hip-hop culture, hip-hop culture. It’s easy to enjoy the hip-hop culture without wanting the hip-hop culture if that makes sense. We enjoy being able to dress a certain way or watch TV but when it comes to actually interacting with the hip-hop culture and seeing what’s going on in the culture, whether that’s police brutality, whether that’s inequality in general.

Mikeyy Austin Music Sample:

 

Monte Pride – folk

Lansing-based musician Monte Pride has been touring around the mid-Michigan folk scene for the past four years. In that time, he has released two EP's and his first full-length album last November.

Photo by Eve Kucharski.

Lansing-based musician Monte Pride has been touring around the mid-Michigan folk scene for the past four years. In that time, he has released two EP’s and his first full-length album last November.

What does the term “music culture” mean to you?
It’s hard to describe in general. I feel like it’s just each city or each genre kind of has its own culture and I feel like it revolves around I guess the history of an area. I feel like it’s kind of a regional thing or by city. The culture in Lansing focused on like punk music. And within cities it varies, there is a folk scene here too. It’s a collection in some ways of different genres and groups of people. I feel like there are subcultures within the broader culture of the country or the world.

Do you think music culture is important?
I think it’s extremely important. I think it gives voice to issues and ideas and thoughts that really no one else can express. I feel like visual artists can too, but there’s something about actually speaking to an audience about it. And writers too obviously, but I think music can be really powerful in that, and I feel like that culture has been important and still is. It just keeps people sane in a way.

How would you classify your genre of music?
I just think personally the idea of being up on stage and just kind of playing with like minimal instrumentation and without a full band, just solo or duo. I feel like stripped-down performances can go underappreciated within other genres, not within the folk community, but I think within other genres it might be overlooked.

Could you describe the perceived folk community?
I think it’s always been – the first one that comes to mind – is the ability to communicate protest songs and stuff like that. You know Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger and everyone in the ‘60s. I think that’s kind of where the importance of it.

How do you feel that your music is different from other types?
I think it’s mainly the instrumentation the simplicity of it and just kind of how fragile it can be I guess. I feel like that’s something you can’t capture with a full band. With a beat or something like that. The simplicity lends to that and like songs being fragile and that in turn can inspire lyrics and stuff.

Monte Pride Music Sample:

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