Purple Current: Streaming Popular Music in the Name of a Local Heritage

Maciej Smółka


The Current, a broadcasting service, which is a part of Minnesota Public Radio organization, has launched a special online radio stream called Purple Current in 2018. Based in Minneapolis, it focuses on the life and legacy of Prince, emphasizing his inspirations, influence, culture in which he grew up and recorded. While Purple Current can be seen as a reactive venture after musician’s death in 2016, the stream is much more complex cultural project, especially given very specific cultural environment of Twin Cities. The research aims to analyze Purple Current radio stream as a cultural text, using the perspective of music geography and American studies, and through studying the discourse it presents – its mission, programming, music, image-building via Twitter, and statements by its founders – to understand its purpose and deeper social functions. The study shows that Purple Current is much more complex venture to be considered simply an homage to an important cultural figure as Prince. It integrates local community, exposes listeners to historically neglected minority culture of Black Minneapolitans, while being involved in the processes of popularization, education, and image-building. This results in a project, which is relevant and valid culturally, socially, politically, or even historically.

Słowa kluczowe: popular music, public media, Minneapolis, Prince, HD radio

@MNHS (2022.06). Today is Prince’s birthday! For our Item of the Day we are sharing Prince’s personal travel bible. This is a… [Tweet]. Twitter. Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/mnhs/status/1534173390218711040 (accessed: 1.07.2022).

@PurpleCurrent (2022.02a). Every weekday in February we are celebrating a different Black artist. Today we are celebrating James Brown! We’ll air a tune… [Tweet]. Twitter. Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/PurpleCurrent/status/1498366138085953536 (accessed: 1.07.2022).

@PurpleCurrent (2022.02b). Every weekday in February we are celebrating a Prince track that touches on Black identity, history or culture. Today we’re… [Tweet]. Twitter. Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/PurpleCurrent/status/1491789484236501011 (accessed: 1.07.2022).

@PurpleCurrent (2022.05). Happening Wednesday, May 11: a Black Fashion Week Minnesota event hosted in the legendary Soundstage at @PaisleyPark! Find more info… [Tweet]. Twitter. Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/PurpleCurrent/status/1524358670494089216 (accessed: 1.07.2022).

@PurpleCurrent (2022.06). The Purple Block Party in Minneapolis marked the official unveiling of the 100-foot mural dedicated to hometown musician and icon #Prince. ♥ [Tweet]. Twitter. Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/PurpleCurrent/status/1532756291008995329 (accessed: 1.07.2022).

Barker M. (2008). Analysing Discourse. In: M. Pickering (ed.). Research Methods for Cultural Studies (pp. 150–172). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Barker Ch., Galasiński D. (2001). Cultural Studies and Discourse Analysis. London: SAGE.

Bennet A., Peterson R.A. (2004). Introducing Music Scenes. In: A. Bennet, R.A. Peterson (eds.). Music Scenes: Local, Translocal, and Virtual (pp. 1–15). Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.

Carlos I (2021). MPR’s The Current, KMOJ-FM Partnering on New Music Service for Young, Diverse Audience. Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. Retrieved from: https://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/news/2021/09/17/mprs-the-current-kmoj-launching-new-music-stream.html (accessed: 1.07.2022).

Connell J., Gibson Ch. (2006). Sound Tracks: Popular Music, Identity and Place. London: Routledge.

Covach J. (1999). Popular Music, Unpopular Musicology. In: N. Cook, M. Everist (eds.). Rethinking Music (pp. 452–470). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Delegard K., Lansing M.J. (2018). “Prince and the Making of the Minneapolis Mystique”. Middle West Review, 5(1), pp. 1–24.

Eler A. (2022). Larger Than Life: Prince Mural Nears Completion in Downtown Minneapolis.

Star Tribune. Retrieved from: https://www.startribune.com/larger-than-life-prince-mural-underway-in-downtown-minneapolis/600176983/ (accessed: 3.07.2022).

Gabler J. (2016). Paisley Park Announces Celebration 2017: Four-day Gathering to Mark Anniversary of Prince’s Death. The Current. Retrieved from: https://www.thecurrent.org/feature/2016/11/28/paisley-park-announces-celebration-2017-four-day-gathering-to-mark-anniversary-of-princes (accessed: 10.07.2022).

Gabler J. (2018). ‘Prince Shaped Minneapolis’: Symposium Panel Explores Prince’s Pivotal Impact.

The Current. Retrieved from: https://www.thecurrent.org/feature/2018/04/17/prince-shaped-minneapolis-symposium-panel-explores-princes-pivotal-impact (accessed: 10.07.2022).

Giant Steps (2017, April 24). Ripple Effects of Prince in Minneapolis and Beyond [Video]. You-Tube. https://youtu.be/X5KEE06tRRk (accessed: 28.06.2022).

Gilman R.R. (2000). “The History and Peopling of Minnesota: Its Culture”. Daedalus, 129(3), pp. 1–29.

Hallman Ch. (2018). The Purple Current Honors Prince’s Diverse and Enduring Legacy. Minnesota Spokesman Recorder. Retrieved from: https://spokesman-recorder.com/2018/04/18/the-purple-current-honors-princes-diverse-and-enduring-legacy/ (accessed: 9.07.2022).

Kong L. (1995). “Popular Music in Geographical Analyses”. Progress in Human Geography, 19(2), pp. 183–198.

Matos M. (2018). What Was in Prince’s Record Collection? The Current. Retrieved from: https://www.thecurrent.org/feature/2018/04/24/what-was-in-princes-record-collection (accessed: 2.07.2022).

Mechling J., Merideth R., Wilson D. (1973). “American Culture Studies: The Discipline and the Curriculum”. American Quarterly, 25(4), pp. 363–389.

MN Compass (2020). Persons of Color as a Percent of Total Population: Twin Cities 7-county Region, MN, and U.S., 1960–2019 [Online data and graphs]. Retrieved from: https://www.mncompass.org/demographics/race#7-5081-g (accessed: 1.07.2022).

MPR News Staff (2022). The Current Launches New Carbon Sound Music Stream. MPR News. Retrieved from: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2022/06/16/the-current-launches-newcarbon-sound-music-stream (accessed: 2.07.2022).

Mullen M. (2019). The Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. MN House Research. Retrieved from: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/artculthf.pdf (accessed: 2.07.2022).

Ohmes J. (2009). “The Minneapolis Sound”. Pop Matters. Retrieved from: https://www.popmatters.com/94060-the-minneapolis-sound-2496026723.html (accessed: 7.06.2022).

Shabazz R. (2017). How Prince Introduced Us to the “Minneapolis Sound”. Zocalo Public Square. Retrieved from: www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/09/07/prince-introduced-us-minneapolis-sound/ideas/nexus/ (accessed: 6.07.2022).

Stegall T. (2021). How Minneapolis’ Punk Scene Foreshadowed Alt-Rock, Grunge and Pop Punk. Alternative Press. Retrieved from: https://www.altpress.com/best-minneapolis-punk-bands-husker-du-the-replacements/ (accessed: 12.07.2022).

Swensson A. (2017). Got to Be Something Here: The Rise of the Minneapolis Sound. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Tagg P. (1998). Popular Music Studies – Bridge or Barrier? Tagg.org. Retrieved from: https://www.tagg.org/articles/xpdfs/Bolz9811.pdf (accessed: 14.11.2022).

The Current Launches The Siren Stream for Women’s History Month (2022). The Current. Retrieved from: https://www.thecurrent.org/feature/2022/03/01/the-current-launches-thesiren-stream-for-womens-history-month (accessed: 2.07.2022).

The Current to Launch New Stream – Purple Current – on April 6 (2018). Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved from: https://www.mpr.org/stories/2018/04/03/the-current-to-launchnew-stream-purple-current-on-april-6 (accessed: 4.07.2022).

U.S. Census Bureau (2020a). Sex, General Nativity, and Color: Population by Sex, General Nativity, and Color, by States and Territories: 1900-Cont’d [Online data]. Retrieved from https://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/33405927v1ch09.pdf (accessed: 25.06.2022).

U.S. Census Bureau (2020b). State of Minnesota: Population by Color and Condition [Online data]. Retrieved from: https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1860/population/1860a-21.pdf (accessed: 25.06.2022).

World Radio History (2022). Broadcating Yearbook 1964: Directory of AM and FM Radio Stations in the U.S. [Online document]. Retrieved from: https://worldradiohistory.com/Archive-BC-YB/1964/Section%20B1%20A%20M%20Broadcasting%20Yearbook%201964.pdf (accessed: 21.06.2022).