Wednesday, May 20, 2009

influence vs popularity part 2

In 1967 the biggest selling (ie most popular) album of the year was More of the Monkees.

Extremely popular, but ultimately throwaway tat.

Also released in 1967 was The Velvet Underground's first album 'The Velvet Underground and Nico'.

The mighty Velvets never troubled the top 100 album chart with this, or any of their subsequent albums, but nigh on every one of the brave 10,000 or so souls who made that step and purchased went on to form their own bands or become painters, gimp gear clad whip dancers or artists of some description.

The 'influence' of the Velvets can be felt as it permeated right through much of the important non-mainstream white music from 1967 to this day. I don't need to list them here.

But the point is that the true measure of 'influence' is what happens next. How the idea propagates through networks. How people adopt an idea to go and do something with it.

But we can only identify this with hindsight.

In 1967 nobody knew that the Velvets were going to be influential. They were one of many New York groups that emerged as an antithesis to West Coast hippiedom. Their influence was only apparent later on.

...note: As a young art student in 1984 my Velvets album was a permanent 'under arm' fixture - as signal and, of course, as a 'social object'...

Influence can only measured by what people do as a result of exposure to said influence.
And it's usually only visible after-the-fact.

Case closed

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