The advance of technology in our day, with the freedom of choice that comes with it, has perhaps made impossible another cultural and medial event such as that of the Beatles when they came to America.
Why? There are several reasons, and all involve the development of the mass media, due to modern media technology, since the days of the Beatles. I intend to summarize these reasons in the form of three related points, namely the diversification of the media, the decreased public availability to the media, and the gatekeepers of the media.
The mediums we have at our disposal to receive the world’s messages for us are much more varied now than they ever have been. Whereas before the most advanced media technologies were financially out of the common human’s reach or unnecessary for an individual to possess, now they are commonplace in the home. Smart phones; advanced computers; satellite, cable and Internet television; the Internet itself; all of these have come together to create an incredible variety of media sources to choose from, which variety far surpasses that of the Beatles’ day. Even the television and radio which spread the sound of their music and cut of their hair across the nation have become diversified, with hundreds of channels and stations to choose from. The programming is diversified as well; Lawrence Welk and Ed Sullivan, with their include-everything variety shows, have gone the way of all the earth, and instead we have niche programming taking their place.
This great variety of niche media which we now have available leads to the decreased public availability to modern media sources. The most popular television programming today only draws a very small percentage of the population’s viewership, compared to programs like the Andy Griffith Show or the aforementioned variety shows of the Sixties. This is in great part due to the enormous variety we now have as media consumers. We can watch our entertainment online, or be entertained by a variety of sources. We can choose other types of media that appeal more specifically, finding our niche in the options presented to us. This means we have less time to give to each media source, and are less likely to pay attention to “blanket” media sources that try to please everyone. This great variety of media sources also opens us up to an exponentially greater variety of artists and entertainers than the public had access to when the Beatles were beginning to tour the United States.
This brings us to the third point: the gatekeepers of the media. In the Sixties, how many providers of media content were there? Far fewer than today, surely. The number of individuals who decided what media went out and what did not was much smaller, and therefore much more exclusive in terms of what the public could have broadcast to them. With technologies like Youtube, Soundcloud, and other media technologies, the number of people who control what passes through the mass media’s gates has exploded into an number that is difficult to measure. This has had some momentous effects on how we receive our media content. First, there are many more gatekeepers, to the point that if one individual will not broadcast or publish someone else’s content, the content producer can simply go to another outlet. Second, producers can become their own gatekeepers through blogs, content-sharing sites, and a plethora of other methods too numerous to name here. Because there are so many gatekeepers to today’s media, the amount of content that can become available to the general public is much greater than in the Beatles’ day.
In summary, the reasons for which I believe another Beatles-esque event is unlikely are these: Any successful media is now niche media, the public prefers their niches, and their options to choose from are immensely more numerous now that anyone can put their content in the public’s reach.
Sorry, Imagine Dragons.
So, what do you think? Can somebody ever become a modern-day Beatles phenomenon? Why do you think so, or why is it impossible?