The Commodification of African American Music by Quinci Nesbitt

Folk & Negro Spirituals

During times of slavery songs and music were different from how they are now. Music was a sort of escape for slaves to immerse themselves in and stay connected with their culture and have a community during these hard times. As time went on, just like everything else, White people started to recognize the sound and attempted to copy it. The banjo is a popular instrument that was used during slave times to produce music. This was a popular instrument used during folk music and songs. Negro spirituals were also stolen and later turned into other means for white people to make money. 

Jubilee Quartets, Gospel, and Ragtime 

Quartets were a music group of four people, almost always men, who performed together. They made a living by performing live shows. Sometimes they were played on the radio, heard in films, and also seen in minstrel shows. The types of music they usually performed was gospel and ragtime. In churches, where Minstrel show took place, Black people from all over came to showcase their talents. There wasn’t many safe spaces like this for black people during this time period, which is why the pastime became so popular. As you know white people also attempted to participate while wearing blackface. 

Post- Jim Cross Commodification 

Making music for profit became a very common thing overtime. Black music had changed so much over the course of time to accompany the white sound. Pretty soon songs traditionally sung and performed by black people were being stolen by white people are performed for more money. The radio and record selling became a big deal. This sort of changed the game in the sense that records were how most Americans were consuming their music at the time. All types of genres of music were sold as records, soul, blues, jazz, and so on. When the 60’s arrived it was a huge time for jazz music. It was a new sound that came from combining different genres and traveling up North. It was mostly heard in Harlem in the 60’s.

Current Day Commodification 

Today’s most popular form of commodification is through technology. There are hundreds of music streaming services the allow music to come straight from whatever device you’re using it on. The radio is still used but not as much emphasis is put on it as a way for people to hear new music. Social media also now plays a really big role in getting new information out about music. Artists will post about a new song or album coming out and gives dates on when to expect anything in the future. This began around the 2000’s and is still happening to this day. 

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