There is a saying about media culture that always resonates with me: “authentic culture is being replaced by mass mediated culture.” This means that culture is not created by society; it is simply produced and distributed by the mass media.
This is a very broad statement that can be applied to many things in society, but I associate it with the music more than anything.
Younger generations are not changing the music that is being made and they are not creating newer, more nuanced sub-genres of rock, hip-hop, etc. The audience is being spoon-fed marketed, saturated, and redundant versions of music genres.
A quick example:
I love hip-hop more than any other music genre for the simple reason that it is authentic, or at least it used to be. You do not even have to go back that far. It was only 20 years ago that Tupac and Nas were talking about street realities, police brutality and the sorrowful effects of relocation to the projects.
Rappers used to rap about things the news was not reporting and things that history classes are now teaching. Hip-hop was the best representation of the African-American community and lower class Americans as a whole.
Hip-hop was hated and was drowned in reductive perceptions. NWA was wrongly vilified, Chuck D was this “anarchist,” who wanted to debunk the myth of American exceptionalism, and Tupac was wholly misunderstood.
All they were doing was telling the truth. Then hip-hop became mainstream and went under a drastic transformation. It became popular to the masses, equitable and clichéd. Now it is no different from pop and country music.
Hip-hop is just the most recent example of how music genres became saturated and unoriginal. If you want to find music, let alone an artist who has not been indoctrinated to the mainstream, you have to do the work yourself and not rely on the channels of media to inform you.
With that 300-word tangent out of the way, this is what I love about UpStge.com on a fundamental level. If you do not know what UpStge is, then you should read Part 1 and Part 2 of What is UpStge. Or just visit the site yourself.
Anyway, UpStge is essentially a warehouse for musicians who want to showcase their musical talents. Whether that is through covering popular songs or playing their own music.
If you regularly surf through YouTube looking for covers of your favorite song or are looking for a change of pace by listening to YouTube artists, then you will love UpStge.
It’s YouTube specifically for artist and listeners. Nothing is bogged down, the artists are uninhibited, and it’s free.
I am not going to spend the next 600 words or so telling you how UpStge is the best thing since sliced bread. I personally like the site, but I will try to set aside my biases to give a fair review.
I’ve spent the last two weeks interviewing people associated with the site, visiting it every day, and listening to as many of the artists as possible. For the review I focused on four things— Message and Presentation, Content and Accessibility.
Then I graded it on a letter grade scale of A to F–A being great, F being bad. Without further ado here it is.
Message and Presentation: B+
The message of the UpStge is probably the best thing about the site.
It might come off as super idealistic and cheesy, but it holds true (for now). Every artist who makes it to the main stage, which happens by people liking the video, earns the exposure.
There is no promotional angle to it, unlike YouTube or Spotify. The best music on the site will make it to the top. It does not get fairer than that.
The UpStge message alone grades out very high, but the presentation of the site lowers the grade.
The color scheme, simplicity and easy-to-use video player are all great, but there is nothing that truly pops out. It is not bland, but it is not aesthetically pleasing at the same time.
Whether a future goal is to spruce up the site or not, the simplicity could hurt the site. From my perspective, the layout and design of the site does not matter, if the music is good, which it is, then I am sold.
But the reality is that the site has an amateurish feel. Not at the hand of the creators/designers, but simply because of the people who are uploading their content.
UpStge is a video-streaming site, but it’s not really about the video, it’s about the music. Whereas video-streaming giants like YouTube and Vevo are all about video presentation, regardless of the quality of music that is being produced.
Do you think Miley Cyrus has 800-million views for “Wrecking Ball” because of it’s “heart wrenching” lyrics or the fact that she is half naked?
Therein lies the problem for grass roots sites like UpStge; they have to compete with the traditional powers that be. It’s hard to get someone to drink something else than Kool-Aid when they are addicted to sugar.
As much as I like some of the artists on the site such as Garrett Thompson, EDGE and Congress of Pigeons, there are not a lot of artists to choose from, let alone a wide selection of songs.
But this is a momentary problem, the bigger the site becomes, the more content to choose from.
Whether or not UpStge becomes this neverending iPod of music, you have to keep in mind that this is not mainstream music. Some of the cover songs might be well known, but the artists themselves are not seen on other music platforms like Spotify and Pandora for now.
The production level is not high, but you can still discern whether or not the artist is good.
UpStge is very easy to use. Going off of a template similar to YouTube, it is user friendly, the video player has all the necessary capabilities, and signing up is a breeze.
If you do not want to create an account you can sign in with Google Plus or Facebook. From there you can start following artists, like their music, so on and so forth.
Here’s a cheesy infomercial line: It’s so easy, old people can use it!
As far as the uploading capabilities go, I cannot personally speak to that, simply because I am not a musician. But from talking to the founder, lead site designer and a musician who uses the site, I cannot imagine it being much of a hassle.
Overall Grade: B+
Considering that it is still very raw and more changes are to come, UpStge is a pretty good music site. Once the site gains more popularity and traction, the content will become diversified and music lovers should have their endless pick.
With that being said, UpStge is probably not the site for you if:
You purely listen to the radio
Do not like listening to novice artists
Or do not like cover songs
UpStge is the site for you if:
You like discovering new artists
Like cover songs
Or are into underground music
Let me conclude by getting on my soapbox: Give UpStge a chance, the people who upload their music on to this site might not be the best in their respective genre, but they are not indoctrinated into the redundancy of mainstream music.
The music is easy to explore, the search engine is quick and the site is not saturated with pointless videos. It’s all about the music. And if you are a music lover, you could not ask for more.
Javier Cortez may be reached at [email protected]