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The Ongoing Tastemaker

Anthony Dean-Harris
Editor-In-Chief / @retronius

As the music industry continues to go through its bellyaching and permutations, it’s rather difficult to stay optimistic about it all. It’s even more difficult to try to predict the future. In this ever-changing landscape, folks are forming opinions about the industry coming from over hill and dale.

There were many observations about the future of the music industry throughout and immediately following Austin, Texas’ SXSW festival a few weeks ago. What [some] would consider the most poignant of these observations comes from the punk band Fucked Up (which reminds me, I’m seriously not up on my punk game). The band noted the importance of wisely navigating the choppy waters, currently designed not to keep the boats afloat but to toss the sailors into the sea for the oceanic creatures to prey upon them. The [post] was quite inspiring to many who read it (if you haven’t yet read it, open up a tab and read it immediately after you finish reading my post) and certainly says a lot about the current climate of the music industry.

The band essentially notes that the music industry is now evolving to the point that businesses on the periphery of those making music are capitalizing on the music-making process, all while not truly helping those involved. To a certain extent one could agree with this stance, but this is not completely so if one were to see these peripheral businesses as tastemakers.

As long as there is art, there will be tastemakers. We’re familiar with the concept even if they may have not been attributed this term. They started out as the word on the street before pieces, moved on to guys pushing songs in taverns. Radio was the biggest heyday of tastemakers, playing the hottest tracks and making sure the listeners were always craving more. With the internet taking its toll on print media (which was already heading into hospice care before that) and radio, the tastemakers of old have been trying to find new ways to survive.

Now as labels, musicians, promoters, and others of that ilk are [finally formulating new strategies], the internet continues to go strong (despite [forming new approaches] from ” [antiquated business models ]). The music blog is standing side by side with the radio station, if not completely surpassing it. As has been previously stated, Nextbop is steadily trying to be the [Pitchfork of Jazz] (although, the longer I’m work with it, the more I see it as jazz’s [Okayplayer]). The cadre of jazz blogs (which I’ve linked time and again) continue to thrust the genre into the 21st Century. Like any other type of music, journalism has traveled through various media and the need has always been filled.

Yes, the need for the tastemaker will always live onward, despite those who ballyhoo otherwise. While the independent record store is struggling, the record store experience will not ultimately die. While the straits seem dire, there must be faith that an equilibrium will be found and the digital and analog worlds can live harmoniously. As radio stations make the move online (even this humble writer has a show on the radio as a nice compliment to these Nextbop duties), they should do all they can to work in tandem with the internet as opposed to diametrically opposed to it.

There will always be a need for tastemakers because art cannot cease to exist, the public will never end its fervor to consume it, people will never stop ranting and raving about the next big thing, and innovation doesn’t stop because the tire treads are wearing thin on the old car. Music moves forward. The industry moves forward. We move forward.

Anthony Dean-Harris is a contributing writer for [African-American Reflections] and hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on [91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio]. More of his writing can be found at his blog, [In Retrospect] and you can also [follow him on Twitter].