The Commodification of Black Music

By: Allison Carter

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The art of black music has been around for years. Since the times of slavery, white people have always had fixation with our culture and our people. Today, we see that white people benefit off of our music in several ways, but mainly economically. Through the late 1800s and following years white people have blocked out our music and artists. When they realized how popular our music became they figured they could make money from it. They would pay off black artists to steal the credit and use the music black people were making, and this still happens today.

We see the first efforts of commodification rise during slavery with Negro Spirituals. Thee songs were started to be heard in new places and in 1867, the Slave Songs of the United States was published. This release was veery successful and white men started to realize that too.

As Jubilee Quartets started to arise during the mid 1800s, they started to attract white audiences who were willing to put in more money towards black music. Record companies started to record the Jubilees and play the music across America. In 1891, Columbia Records recorded the first African American jubilee quartet group, The Golden Gate Quartet!

In the 1950s jazz and blues became the most popular genres of music. White producers working for record companies like Record Row and Chess Records started to pickup these popular new artists. Many white artists would remake black music and use it aster own and take the credit and money. The black artists during this time includes Muddy Waters, Little Wolf, and Calvin Carter.

The interest in black music from white people is what keeps the commodification of our music going today! They use our music, style, culture, and artists to fit in and for money. As new genres began to form white people began to take control and start managing the distribution of our music. Staxs Records is a perfect example. It was created and managed by white owners who signed popular artists to catch the attention of white audiences. Some examples of these artists include, Louis Armstrong and Scott Joplin.

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