Perspectives with Michelle Haines Thomas: The mainstream has flooded

Macklemore - mainstream? Or not so much?
Macklemore - mainstream? Or not so much?

The other day a Facebook friend expressed surprise that Tony Abbott had heard of a rapper called Macklemore (yep, the one from the AFL grand final controversy).

He wasn’t only surprised because Tony Abbott is not known for his progressive musical tastes. My friend was surprised because he himself had never heard of Macklemore.

In turn, I was surprised. I would have considered Macklemore pretty mainstream.

Once upon a time, there were four television channels in Australia. Even if you didn’t watch a television program, you’d have at least heard of it.

News stories were limited to the number that would fit in the paper, and radio stations pumped out a narrow selection of songs, made by bands that had been given the rare opportunity of an industry-backed single.

This isn’t even the distant past, because I remember it, and I am totally not that old.

Now, of course, everything has changed and one of the consequences is this: there’s no such thing as the mainstream anymore.

We curate our own media influences in everything from pop music to our news streams. And we choose from an almost bottomless pit of variety.

So there’s no telling what the person next to us is watching on their smart phone: it could be anything from Korean pop to a Scandinavian noir crime series.

We’re no longer as subject to an editor or producer picking content for us. We only listen to and watch the things we have already selected, and even the advertisements on the websites we visit are tailored for us.

Consequently, we’re not as likely to stumble across an opinion or a lifestyle that conflicts with our own. Or much that is new to us, or from left field.

While I appreciate the fact that Spotify will supply an endless number of new music suggestions that resemble my current selection, maybe it would be good for me – now and then – to be forced to listen to something I know nothing about.

A common culture is dead, and that may not be a bad thing. But instead of the internet being a gateway to new ideas, it is mostly an echo chamber of our own minds.

This story The mainstream has flooded first appeared on The Courier.