Mainstream and underground music: what’s the difference?

December 3, 2010 — by Ashley Tang

Turn on the radio to Wild 94.9 and chances are that “Like a G6” by Far East Movement or “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love” by Usher will be blasting away. Although these songs may be catchy, some students delve deeper into the music world to download songs from underground artists who are not quite as well known.

“I think the major difference between mainstream and underground music is that mainstream music is overplayed,” senior Cid Diaz said. “It kind of gets annoying after a while. If the songs weren’t overplayed, they would be good, so I still listen to some occasionally.”

Of course, mainstream music comes up on the radio so much because listeners love the songs. However, sometimes the music is popular only because of the celebrity status of the artist. Although these songs have a memorable tune, they also tend to be more meaningless. For example, many students believe that lyrics of popular artists like Ke$ha and Lady Gaga lack a deeper meaning. On the other hand, underground music is often recognized for its quality and not necessarily for the person who sang the song.

“Usually, underground has lyrics that actually mean something,” junior Carolynn Choi said. “Beat plays a huge role too—a good beat mixed with good lyrics makes a perfect combo.”

Because students do not often hear underground music, it is much harder to find these songs. Many students rely on YouTube, music sharing sites or their friends to find and download this type of music.

“In freshman year I started C-walking and because many C-walking videos use underground music, I was exposed to a lot of new songs,” Diaz said. “Now, whenever people want music they say, ‘Hook me up, Cid.’”

Even though a surprisingly large number of students listen to underground, many of these artists lack the connections needed to obtain record deals. Because of this, they gain fans and popularity by attracting attention from the media and making their music available to everyone.

“Most of the time, underground artists give their music for free—not because they don’t need the money, but because doing so establishes a more personal connection with their small fan base,” Choi said.

As these artists become more popular with their fans, they also get more views on YouTube, which may catch the attention of a producer.

“In order to advertise their music, underground artists have to rely solely on talent,” junior Daniel Hsu said. “Popular music gets old because it all sounds the same. With underground, there is a variety of new artists with much more potential, so it’s actually worth listening to.”

2 views this week