Underground music, and the culture it supports…what is it all about?
Who is the underground? For instance, who are those people at Burning Man who set an example of a better world, who show us how to get rid of humanity’s problems? They are free souls, open-minded hedonists – and they have money. If you ever had the great pleasure of being out there in the desert of Nevada yourself, you know that you can’t pay for it in the currency of love and light. No, as a matter of fact it’s quite an expensive thing to do. Of course, some have to pinch pennies to make it, other pay for it with their generous income. However, the answer to my initial question is: The underground are those who can afford to be a part of it.
How can they afford to be a part of it? “You can’t make money in the underground” said scene veteran Antaro in an interview in 2004. One year later the organizer of VooV Experience shut down his legendary label Spirit Zone. If he’d only had the opportunity to talk with Android Jones back then. While I’m writing these lines the popular visual artist promotes his new online class with the slogan “Mainstream Money for Underground Artists”. Now I have to admit that I don’t know the details of his plan – in principle I think he’s a very smart and intelligent fellow. However, for me this slogan sounds like yet another version of that well-known story where someone sells his soul to the devil in order to gain a particular goal. And we all know how this story ends.
No doubt, there is a very close connection between art and underground. That’s why I think it’s legitimate to draw certain conclusions. There’s no money in art – in authentic art, that is. And there’s no money in underground. Underground is defined as the opposite of mainstream, and that is why it does not have the same ressources as mainstream. Underground culture has to survive on underground ressources. That means no international artists who are flown in from faraway places. That means to get along without the latest wonders of technology. That means very limited growth prospects. That means not to proclaim the underground from the rooftops – which of course conflicts with a zeitgeist that is characterized by Facebook-likes and Retweets. That means underground just for the sake of the experience, not as a smug label of coolness. That means underground which is not exactly popular but affordable for everyone.
No matter if underground or mainstream – just make the best of it, in the end it’s only the two sides of one coin, the currency we pay for our culture. But if you really mean it with the better world and all that – get rid of the double standards.
image credits: Brian Williams