With the too-early death of Malcolm McLaren it seems apt to ask if the creative underground is once again underground. It may seem silly to ask such a question, in an age of creative abundance when everything appears to be instantly public and “just one click away” and covered in depth by a multitude of online blogs and e-zines. The problem is that the online English-language audience for creative intelligent content has broadly plateaued. Yet the amount of quality content being produced grows exponentially every day. And the amount of e-smog clogging up search-engines is growing even faster. So there are ever-fewer eyeballs or ears to go around — for even the most high-quality content, even if people could find the stuff for themselves.

The thinking audience naturally gravitates towards making space in their busy lives for the very best content — guided by curators who can point out the best stuff (nerdy newsfeeds, we love you). Intelligent audiences also make space for the quirky, the niche, the local, and the highly-specialised. There’s even a place for uproariously silly no-brain-required jewels (e.g. 2012, Plants vs. Zombies, substitute your fave), since even quality gets tiring if consumed as a staple diet. Everything else flows past unheeded, unless it has a million dollar marketing budget. Mainstream journalism in the English-speaking world is largely senile, and is rarely capable of conveying the subtleties of new forms of cultural expression. Fan bases are inherently insular.

That’s why I’m thinking that the creative undergrounds are once again more-or-less “underground”, much as they were before about 1995 and the arrival of the mass Internet — in the sense of being unknown and largely unheeded, and the province of the cognoscenti. Which is ironic, since it’s all being done in the open. It’s just that almost no-one notices it. If that’s indeed the case, then in a way it’s probably a good thing for our new global culture, our open “diaspora of talent”. Since one of the attractions of underground creative scenes has always been their scope for wild experimentation, away from the cynical eye of the masses. Yet what’s different now is that there is always the chance that a product of a cultural underground scene can suddenly go viral and spread autonomously through multiple worldwide audiences in a matter of minutes.