By Robbie Clutton
I was intrigued by what discussions would take place on the music festival panels after being at the interactive conference this week and I picked one that both sounded interesting and in an area I knew nothing about and I was rewarded with possibly the best talk I’d seen all week. Dan Charnas led the panel and the audience through the concepts which run through his book ‘The Big Payback’, which examines the influences of how hip-hop changed American culture.
The first half of the talk was a compare and contrast exercise showing pictures and video from the past and breakthrough moments for cultural change. First up was the desegregation of the music business and how hip-hop became more mainstream. One video advert we were shown was a Houston radio station saying “what if you could throw away all the hip-hop and chatter and leave the good stuff like Phil Collins”. Just another day in paradise indeed.
The second point was ‘the browning of America’ and Charnas showed front covers of mainstream glossy magazines and how they had changed. Third was the birth of street teams and how one record label could propel an artist to success without radio play and how this has affected the advertising campaigns of today with the use of flyers and talking to people on the street.
This led nicely onto the ‘rise of the super-empowered artist mogul’ like Puff Daddy, who had managed to get better deals with record labels leading to the switch of an artist needing to become part of a label to a label wanting to be part of the artist.
The final points were starting to move away from the music business and more onto cultural change. The first is the breaking of the Hollywood colour barrier with Will Smith landing the lead role in Independence Day and the second was the election and inauguration of Barak Obama.
I’m really glad I took a chance of this session, it was enlightening to see this self-reflective view through the eyes of a subject I don’t have any in-depth knowledge of and a culture I’ve only seen from the outside.