Are we in a post-genre era?

The erosion of attention spans as a consequence of the digital era is not a cutting-edge theory. The oceans of information at our fingertips can’t all be read, watched or listened to, so we skim and snack and that habit is going to affect the way we think.
Maggie Jackson’s claim to this idea is doing the media rounds as she promotes her book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. She’s interviewed on the Point of Inquiry podcast.
Those of us who were raised in households where the TV was dominant and where the radio was the rebellious medium can remember how the major youth tribes were influenced by the social conditions of the time. Punk was rooted in the disconnection with a polarised and extreme political landscape (when there was a real difference between the left and the right), and the subsequent movements – New Romantics, House etc. – underlined the attitudes towards sexual identity, drugs, violence, that the young did not share with their elders.
The recent Adbusters post about Hipsters was bang on target: they call the point we’ve reached “hipsterdom”, a point where all the countercultures and tribes come together. There’s no originality and the ability to shock is very diluted.
The culture we now have is one where the more people we know, the fewer we know really well. With music, the more genres we’re exposed to (in original or mashed-up form), the smaller or shorter-lived are their associated tribes. It’s got to the point where adults are now more likely to share the musical tastes of their teenage children than at any other time.
Music genres no longer matter because new media has taken their place. It’s handsets instead of hippies, PS3s instead of punks. Have their been any big, new musical tribes this century? No – certainly nothing new. Some of the new things were Playstation 2 (2000), the iPod (2001), Myspace (2004).
In the UK, mobile phone penetration amongst 16-24 year olds leapt from around 70% in 2000 to over 95% in 2007.
In fact, technology and the digital space now moves so fast that they spread and kill off these tribes. Youth will always find places to meet away from the adults, but it’ll take an unknown catalyst to cause them to do so in society-changing numbers.


7 Responses to “Are we in a post-genre era?”

  1. 1 dustin kahlil August 28, 2009 at 5:12 am

    I can’t believe no one’s posted yet. This is a really good point. We try to act like we’re complicated, but at the end of the day the human future is kind of predictable.I just hope we don’t go post post. Post grunge, post punk, post folk, post alt, post hardcore, post softcore, post emo, post extremo, post good? At this point I just hope I’m alive when post suck happens.

    • 2 Lewis Smart June 10, 2013 at 6:41 am

      “Post” represents not the attempt to create a new pigeonhole, but to gesture to patterns perceived in the continuum that is genre-transcendent music. A post- band may develop and play independently of a scene-genre in the old fashion, and yet exhibit inspirations and references to earlier and ongoing styles of music. Thus, post-metal, for example, is a useful signifier for any particular band that transcends genre expectations while having perceivable roots in metal music. Such bands do not need to be similar to one another to be described such.

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Self-important bit

I’m Victor Houghton, a, er... something or other in one of the UK’s largest advertising agencies. My job title has a comma in it, which is embarrassing. I’m the chief finder-things-outer with a splash of trends who is lucky to work with all the major functions of the agency, even though I am most closely associated with strategic planning. Everything in this blog has most probably been stolen from other, infinitely more talented people, although the opinions are most definitely my own and not those of the agency.



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