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Under Capitalism, Supporting Independent Artists is Cultural Resistance

Looking outside of mainstream media for your music selections may diversify your taste and undermine the industry.


The perfect summer day: a moment of peace found in a rare shady sanctuary, a 2 PM nap. Warm winds move over undulating green grass, coupled by the distant sound of a harmonium, played by an unknown man for your seemingly perpetual enjoyment. 

When supplied with this vision, the melody appears natural, an accoutrement of the day. Yet we take for granted the man behind the music, and the years’ worth of work put into achieving that one song. However, many of the celebrities we know and love today started out as nothing more than a person with a dream. Their rise to fame is but a combination of luck and hard work, though a wealthy background never quite manages to hurt anyone either. Had those factors been a part of the vision man’s life, who knows? He might have a name we recognize, rather than an empty cup at his side, a stack of unsold CDs; just your average street artist.

Supporting independent artists is just as important as supporting small businesses. Typically, neither contribute to the major exploitation of underpaid workers, and perhaps, consequently, both are much more lacking in the economic department than their superstar counterparts. If anything, their minor interactions with the larger, capitalist industry is one of the main reasons it is essential to sustain them. 

Let’s get to the point. Being a part of the liberal Berkeley community loosely translates to what we like to believe is a heightened awareness of to whom and where we give our money. Many prefer to shop at smaller, independent stores, and boycott brands with questionable backgrounds. Yet no matter how hard we try, the idea of completely setting aside the central market, and therefore millionaire artists and our pop-culture idols, is practically unfathomable. Hence, to find an overall “good” balance in our consumerist lifestyle, it is imperative that we support independent artists, as they are not only important for variety in our music industry, but are also vital to economic and cultural diversity. 

We unfortunately live in a society where having dreams of a successful stage life is relatively equivalent to years of debt and failure. And quite frankly, that sucks.

We unfortunately live in a society where having dreams of a successful stage life is relatively equivalent to years of debt and failure. And quite frankly, that sucks. Talented writers, singers, and performers of all sorts of different backgrounds, experiences, and ideas are left to rot in the eternal black hole that has become the American music industry, all because they do not have “the right look,” or because their message “isn’t appropriate.” Of course, this is a slight generalization. Success in the music industry is heavily reliant on public approval; most of the time, fame doesn’t come out of nowhere. As many artists like to say, they would be nothing without their fans. 

Does this mean we should just give up? Forget the thousands of unheard voices just to pop open our airpod case and listen to Kanye West — who, might I point out, claims he voted for himself in this current election? We should be doing everything in our power to help; and don’t worry about the how. Here’s a few ways you can support your local independent artists. 

To start, you need to know who they are and how to find them. This may sound a little daunting, but an artist who is trying to be heard will typically use many platforms to get themselves out there. But if you’re still waiting to hear from one, apps such as SoundCloud can help you discover new voices. Additionally, many independent artists advertise themselves on social media, so it should come as no surprise if you see someone posting about their new song. The next step is to listen and support. The listening part is obvious, the supporting, not so much. Ask yourself, what do they need? You can reach out to them, but often, just listening and spreading the word is helpful. You can also donate, attend shows, and purchase albums. And in doing so, not only will you be playing your part in the vital diversification of our economy and our music industry, but you may be expanding your taste and sense of the world. Every artist has a story, so maybe it’s time we hear them.