Commodifications of African American Music

Banjo
Book of Negro Spirituals
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Folk & Negro Spirituals

Music and songs that were produced began during the time of slavery. It was a way for the enslaved to stay connected to their roots and build a sense of community and family from music. Very soon after, white people began to recognize the music, words, and sounds that black people were producing and they took it and changed it. One of the first things recognized by white people was the banjo which is know for being a popular instrument in folk music. White people also took the negro spirituals that they heard and created many books that contained the words and the rhythms of the music created by African Americans. These books were then sold off to white people and became the first time money was made from any music that was produced.

Jubilee Quartets, Gospel, & Ragtime

Quartets were a group of four people, normally men, who sang together. Quartets made their money through entertainment. They were played on the radio for people to hear, used in movies, and very popular in minstrel shows. Quartets were also known to be placed in the genre of gospel and ragtime. Often times quartets could be found in the church where they Minstrel shows were popular among quartets because Black people got to showcase their talent, and one of the very few ways that they were allowed in entertainment. There were also white quartets who participated in blackface in the shows as well.

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Post-Jim Crow Commodification

Overtime it was very popular to make music simply to make money. Black music throughout history was taken and it was changed to benefit the European sound. Songs that were made by black people were then recorded by white people and made more money on it. This was done through radio and selling records. Record stores were a big thing during the late 1940s and on; and that is how most people got their music if not through the radio. All genres of music that were produced, such as R&B, soul, and blues were sold in these record stores as well. It continued like this for a while until the 1060s came. When the ’60s hit it was a huge time for the jazz music. It was a new sound that had come from different combinations of genres and traveling up North. It was very likely to hear jazz in clubs, coffee jobs, record strores, and just all over Harlem in the ’60s.

Current Day Commodification

Today’s most popular form of commodification is through technology. There are plenty of streaming services that allow music to play straight from a device that someone may have. Artists still use the radio and CDs (even though they aren’t really in demand anymore) as well as releasing it on different platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, or even YouTube. This method became the primal method around the 2000s and continues to be the most current way.

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