Does “Pop” == “Monoculture”? A Question for Internet Distribution

In a World of Cacophony, Experience for Sharing

The rock critic Robert Christgau gave an interview last month to the Web site popmatters.com. Mr. Christgau, who was recently dismissed from The Village Voice after 37 years, talked a little bit about recent history. But he also talked about an old obsession of his: the decline of truly popular music.

“When I grew up, there was a monoculture,” he said. “Everybody listened to the same music on the radio. I miss monoculture. I think it’s good for people to have a shared experience.”

[…] It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. Only a few years ago, the Internet threatened to blur boundaries of genre and culture making it easy for listeners to fill their iPods with whatever caught their fancy.

But listeners of all sorts like having what Mr. Christgau called a shared experience. That’s why the old monoculture flourished in the first place. And today’s indie-rock fans have something that’s smaller yet similar: a mini-monoculture. That is, a robust infrastructure of Web sites and blogs, along with a (necessarily vague) consensus about what indie-rock sounds like.