Where have all the protest songs gone?

This email from Dave arrived yesterday.

Alan,

What has happened today the art of the protest song?

In the 60’s and 70’s, music’s influence as the voice of change, counter-culture and a generation. Alternative rock in the 90’s had some bands the carried the torch but who now carries it.

In an era of Donald Trump, the 1% protests, Me Too movements etc, you would think that alternative music would be ripe to provide a soundtrack of bringing issues to light but that is not the case.   I can’t think of a mainstream protest song in recent years except for Pearl Jams latest release and also Gord Downie’s activism with aboriginal rights. Red carpet celebrities do speak on their platform, but I don’t see new alternative bands taking a stance in their music.

Is this a result of news outlets already taking sides, or society’s questioning of authority is now common. Is a protest song seen as the “low hanging fruit”?  Or has the business model for record labels changed so much that protest songs aren’t good for business?

I would love to hear your view on this,

Dave

Great question, one that a lot of people are asking. Here are some thoughts.

1. There is some good protest alt-rock protest music out there.

Pearl Jam just released a track called “Can’t Deny Me.” Gord Downie’s efforts to push reconciliation with First Nations has gained tremendous momentum. Meanwhile, Prophets of Rage have been, er, raging since they were formed. For example:

2. If you want more anger, turn to hip-hop

Hip-hop artists have never been shy about expressing their opinion. Want some anger? Turn to people like Eminem or YG and Nipsey Hustle.

3. The issue might not be the lack of protest music…

…but the nature of modern slacktivism. Social media has distorted what activism and protest mean. For many people, changing the avatar on their Twitter account or leaving an angry comment on Facebook counts as protesting against The Man.

4. People just don’t want to get involved

I know many people who think this way: “Nobody listening to what I have to say. And even if they did, nothing will happen.”

5. And you’re right, protest music just doesn’t sell like it used to

Back in the 60s, the counter-culture was driven by music. The hippy kids ate up this music because it was the galvanizing force of the generation. Today? Not so much. Protest music might be out there, but it just doesn’t have the same effect on the general population as it once did.

Anyon

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