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Business vs. Culture

Friday, February 22, 2013 • Eric Gomez
While it's true that the business of music is primarily an exploitation of art or talent for financial profit; are the evils that we attribute to the decline of cultural Hip Hop solely a fault of its business minded counterparts, or is there more to our story than we like to admit?

Business is often known for its unrelenting pursuit of wealth, power and lack of empathy. The picture of the average business man is painted with evil horns, and an overwhelming sense of ego that pervades the purest of art and perverts it into a money-making empire. This is how the state of Hip Hop has been described through the years as its stock rises and inhibitions become a rarity in an ever decadent society. While it's true that the business of music is primarily an exploitation of art or talent for financial profit; are the evils that we attribute to the decline of cultural Hip Hop solely a fault of its business minded counterparts, or is there more to our story than we like to admit?

THE CULTURAL APPROACH

If there's one thing that cannot be negated, it is that Hip Hop Culture is an AMERICAN-BORN movement that was a direct response from a community of people who refused to give up on the arts while staring into the face of minimal resources. It caused the people to become creative with what they had available and create something new out of old records, cultural dances, brick wall canvases and poetry expressed in various rhythms and pitches. It became the flag under which urban America, soon after suburban America, and eventually a whole world touted as their way of life.

The cultural approach was significant in that it proposed not only community commitments; but also a driving force behind sociological growth and intellectual pursuit. While Zulus taught infinity lessons, and NGE encouraged us to study ferociously for ourselves; the Hip Hop community became the platform from which conscious groups would rise and spread their messages for the whole world to partake of it.

The problem with the cultural approach is that it unfortunately was like most non-profit organizations in that it had no financial planning in mind, no map for growth that could be easily replicated, nor a requirement of skillsets that would set the standards for which members could easily identify pain points and create solutions for continual expansion. The cultural world did NOT think like a business and unfortunately, for a lot of those teams and organizations that fell by the wayside; many others were not so naïve and began exploiting the gap as any business would be expected to do.

THE BUSINESS APPROACH

While the initial stages of Hip Hop Business were closely tied to its cultural roots; time has proved that the focus of corporate efforts behind its finances were more interested in cutting out as much middle men as they could to maximize a profit off of a replicable business model that would increase profits and grow new brands. The business of music has always been about quick profits and high risk, so it should have come as no surprise that this was going to be a viable source of revenue for anyone with the right budget.

The business approach was a significant part of why Hip Hop became so big as, both a culture, AND a business. The budgets behind corporate campaigns allowed the world to hear the resounding revolutionary anthems of what many call the "golden era" of Hip Hop. While most don't like to admit it; big business HELPED HIP HOP GROW. What it damaged in the process is what many purists and even former artists of major labels contend with.

The emphasis of independent business within music is a direct response to the greed and abusive nature of business that corporate America induced. While it's true that business is best practiced aside from emotions and focused on higher profit margins; it ignored the fundamental principles that the made Hip Hop Culture such a phenomenon to begin with. While movements tend to be harder to control and predict in regards to revenue; many blinded themselves to the possibility of joint strategies with existing and reputable organizations to fulfill agendas on both sides and increase followers through genuine loyalty to both a "cause" AND interest in the brands as a consumer.

STALEMATE STUNTIN'

As of today, both sides of the fence are distrusting of each other, and neither will hesitate to maintain their position with a justifiably reasonable argument. While the business side is running their day as usual, caring little about the issues as long as they are maintaining profits; the purist stands in the wake of extinction screaming for justice, but failing to recognize the resourcefulness of gaining profits and reinvesting into other efforts of equal importance. While both can gain much insight from each other and help spur even more growth combined, they stay in their proverbial corners seeing each other as the enemy rather than another approach to the same overall goal.

 

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