You shouldn’t be embarrassed about not knowing underground music because the music industry is saturated.
Why is it saturated?
Accessibility has increased. As we are living in the digital age, the tools needed to create music have become available to almost anyone. After all, the only thing you technically need to make a song is your voice. Then, you simply add the accompanying background music—which could be organic; from an instrument you already know how to play, or from an existing library of loops and samples in any producing software. Also, it is important to note that just like how artists have more chances to make music, their fans also have more chances to listen to it. Long gone are the days of solely listening to music on the radio. With streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify, Soundcloud, and even YouTube, fans are being bombarded from every corner of the internet with music. Now, this isn’t an excuse to say: “well since you have so many ways to listen, you should know every song!” The real takeaway is that there are too many songs and too many streaming services—and while we don’t want conglomerates and monopolies; how can one possibly cover everything?
It is easier to make music and therefore, more people are making music. Fun fact; there are over 5,000 genres of music on Spotify. In my own Spotify wrapped for the year 2020, I apparently listened to 700-800 genres, which is insane—not even 20% of all Spotify genres! If there are that many genres, imagine the total amount of songs that exist! It’s also worthy to note that everyone listens to different genres, obviously, and in the age of streaming services suggesting music, those suggestions would be different for everyone based on their initial taste in music. If you have a different taste in music than your friend, than it’s not surprising that you don’t know all the same songs. This is what it means for an industry to be saturated. There are pros and cons to this of course. Some people feel as though, while there is a vast vault of music, it makes it harder for up-and-coming artists to stabilize their career. However, it is only right to question whether some of those artists would even have any career at all if the factors that make the industry so saturated (accessibility and promotion) did not exist. It’s a little bit controversial, but the TLDR is that there’s a ton of music out there and it’s physically impossible to listen and know everything.
At the same time that there is a lot of music that exists, viral/top 40 hits are usually the songs with the most exposure and so they are the most heard and successful. So of course if you hear an underground song, that’s lucky because it’s not likely to get much exposure. That’s why you shouldn’t be ashamed to not know it—of course you wouldn’t! The market is so saturated and the big labels are literally using power and money to make sure you only ever hear 40 songs on your drive home from work.
Everyone is a promoter
Do you know every type of insurance package that Progressive advertises? Probably not and they have a ton of commercials. With such a high amount of promotion for music, how could one ever know every song, let alone ones that are underground? As mentioned before, we are living in the digital age; therefore, compared to past decades, there is increased access to technology. This allows for any creatives (and their supporters) to advertise and promote their music easily. You don’t even need a label in order to form a fan base anymore. Advertising is as easy as reblogging a post to your Instagram story or creating and sharing a TikTok; just think about how many new songs you’ve come across on TikTok and how they’ve practically weaved their way into your daily life and frequented playlists!
So the next time you’re in the car and your friend plays a cool song that you’ve never heard before, don’t shamefully Shazam it! Instead, just ask them and be grateful that your friend has such a cool taste in music and that so much music exists in the world; you’ve yet to hear it all and have so much to explore!