What is the Underground
“Music is the universal language of mankind.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
There is an impression that the underground music scene is obscure and weird. I'm here to tell you that it is and you belong to it. I define "the underground" as anything other than "the mainstream." The mainstream is a general consensus of what is the most universally tasteful for the present time, whereas the underground caters to an individuals' unique taste.
We see the mainstream in every facet of life from entertainment to politics. In music, the mainstream is known as the "Top 40," and is constrained by things including money and media attention. It doesn't have much to do with artistry because it is art flipped on its head where the audience dictates what is created verses the artist leading with their vision. Artists and fans live in both the mainstream and the underground.
Why the Mainstream is Not for You
"'I just remember it was unique,' [Danny Krivit] recalls. 'Before that, my idea of a club was more dressy, the Saturday night out feeling. The Loft was the opposite of that: it was a professional house party. These were eccentric club people who were really into dancing. They knew music, not just the Top 10 hit parade, but they knew music you've never heard before. That impressed me. The type of music that was being played, it just had a lot more substance to it.'" - Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton, 148
The mainstream is for us, but not specifically for you. If we relate music to food, the mainstream is the loaf of bread that is placed in front of you at any sit-down restaurant. I could fill up on the bread, but it wasn't placed there for me. It's there for casual consumption because most people like bread before their meal. The food you came for is the meal you order and that is the underground.
We separate the underground into categories called genres. Some people prefer the hip-hop genre and some prefer rock genre and some people "like everything but country." Even within these genres we have both sub-genres and mainstream hits and classics. Researching any specific genre and even sub-genres is the career of a Disc Jockey AKA a DJ. You, as a music consumer, don't have to do the research of every genre or even the specific genre that you enjoy because a DJ will curate to your taste because you belong to that niche, that underground scene.
Follow the Underground
"The best discothèque DJs are underground stars, discovering previously ignored albums, foreign imports, album cuts and obscure singles with the power to make the crowd scream and playing them overlapped, nonstop, so you dance until you drop." Excerpt from "Discotheque Rock '72: Paaaaarty!" by Vince Aletti from Rolling Stone, September 13, 1973.
Mainstream music is just the tip of the iceberg. Today's Top 40 is reflecting what is the most universally popular in the vastness of the underground. Each niche has it's following and you should reflect on what genre you prescribe to in the underground. If you define what music you enjoy most, then you can join the community around that music. You can then connect with the people in that underground that may share a lot more with you than just a preference in music. This is what dictates the mainstream and creates new culture. No one only listens to Top 40, so being aware of the other music you turn on while you drive, workout, or party is important to adding more community to your life. One of the coolest things is that you can enjoy multiple genres and belong to multiple communities. Some people are "Beliebers", some are Dead Heads, but majority of people only scratch the surface of what they truly enjoy. The music you hear on the radio is just the bread and butter. Be sure to get to know yourself a little better by following your underground.
Play It Cool,