Music is something we all have a unique relationship to, whether we know it or not. In fact, music is such an intrinsic part of our experience in society that many do not realize exactly how influential it is on our societies. Today, music distribution has changed the landscape of cultural understanding and awareness by creating libraries of music from all around the world accessible to anyone for a fairly affordable cost. While this has devalued the album as a product, it has also allowed for large audiences to experience music that they would never have been able to hear 50 to 100 years ago. All musicians need to do to get their music online is a quick search on how to upload music to spotify. When you think about it, that’s pretty incredible. Throughout history, we can observe music providing a pathway for activists, artists and marginalized communities to speak their truth and live in celebration of who they are, what they stand for and what change they call for their communities. In this article, we’ll talk about music’s role in impacting our society and why it’s important to understand in the modern age. Keep reading to learn more!

A Vehicle for Social Change

Music has always been a vehicle for social change, especially in America. There are tons of examples of this, but one that hits home in our country is the conception and rise of Hip Hop as a cultural institution. Hip hop began in the Bronx in the 1970’s, and began as a style of party music that was never really intended to be recorded or distributed. Hip hop was a way for communities to connect and for the youth of the area to have an outlet for expression, communication and community. At first, it was simply DJ’s finding instrumental breaks during songs and looping them, keeping the crowd dancing. It was part music after all. But soon it became a vehicle for poets and lyricists to reflect their experiences within their communities. The power of these words and energy soon became a cultural phenomenon, and today the hip hop industry is one of the largest in the music industry as a whole. Hip hop is famous for using its platform to call attention to community issues and social change, something that state and federal institutions found, and still find, quite threatening. For more information on this, explore the history of the group Run-D.M.C.

Fortifies Community Culture

In a more general sense, music helps fortify and strengthen communities by giving them something to do and experience together. Local shows are a great example of this, and a city’s vitality is often tied to the arts and nightlife culture in the city. Live shows give communities a place to come together, and an arts community to support and be proud of. Local music scenes were, for a long time, the way that artists and genres could build a spreadable reputation. Take the 90’s grunge boom out of Seattle as an example of that. So many groups achieved commercial success during that time including Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains just to name a few. This rock boom out of Seattle was so large in fact that for a while the city was thought to be more influential than Los Angeles, a city famous for its rock bands at the time. Today, Seattle still has a thriving music scene and local pride for the musicians and bands that play around town.

Wide Availability Builds Cultural Awareness

Today, music distribution services have allowed more independent artists to release music on their own. This is important because before streaming services, bands were still very much at the whim of landing a major distribution deal with a label. While it still helps a great deal to achieve commercial success, having a label isn’t necessary to expose yourself to audiences around the world. This global availability of music from different cultures can aid the development of empathy and understanding for other cultures and today, more people are educated about cultures and societies outside their own than ever before in history. There are drawbacks to this of course, and we know that there is plenty of prejudice still alive in the world, but music can still be a powerful tool in shifting those outlooks.

Why It Matters

The influence of music on society is important for our growth as a species. The more understanding we have of different cultures and societies around the world, the more effectively we can co exist with one another. Music has the power to evoke emotion and create communication without words, and this tool can be used to insight amazing change in perspective, something that the world desperately needs. The next step is to bring value back to music at the consumer level and beyond to get the attention it deserves.