Losing music subculture

Written by: Lili Minato | Freelancer

Throughout the late 20th and the early 21st century, subcultures that existed around music genres were very prevalent and impactful to many, especially young adults. Those who were considered different or outcasted could easily find a community of like-minded individuals. These groups all involved fan culture and listening to a particular genre of music.

Punk subculture, which originated from punk rock, is the first and one of the most notable of its kind. Punks share common political views — such as anti-government and anti-corporation ideologies, as well as a similar fashion sense and music taste. 

Akin to all music-related cultures, punk has hundreds of branches of subcultures for a multitude of people to identify with. They may have different styles or worldviews, but they all share the same history and origin. 

Other music subcultures include, but are not limited to the following: goth, hip hop, punk, emo or heavy metal. 

While many people still participate and exist in these subcultures, there is a huge decline in engagement compared to the late 20th century. The culprit of the loss is none other than music streaming services such as Spotify. 

Thousands of new songs are uploaded to Spotify every day, with many of these falling under niche subgenres and categories that Spotify creates to keep said music organized. Spotify then pushes these subgenres onto users to make an individualized listening experience. 

Alex Michaels, a senior at Western and habitual Spotify user, expressed his distaste for Spotify subgenres and their classification system.“(Spotify’s classification system) is a mess,” Michaels stated. 

“A major difference between the Spotify subgenres and just the idea of subgenres in general is often subgenres are created by people in that community, who listen to that type of music or create that type of music and the subgenre is a reflection of that,” Michaels said.

Corporate-created subgenres lack the authenticity, community and history that real musical movements had. Spotify subgenres don’t have any real-life impact. 

“Genre is functional, it tells you what to expect from this type of music. Sometimes it can tell you how it was created or specific trademarks of that genre of music. There are characteristics of that genre and then that allows artists to play with those trademarks and characteristics and create something genre-defining or genre-defying,” said Michaels. 

In a final comparison between the new genres and the old, Michaels shared, “Spotify genres don’t have any functionality, their definitions are mostly vibe associations or specific artist examples, and there is no hard criteria.”

As Spotify and other streaming platforms continue to grow in popularity and users, as well as the daily increase of new genres, the survival rate of classic music subcultures comes into question. 

Will genre subcultures continue to survive or will they become lost to time? 

Contact the author at lminato22@mail.wou.edu