Okey dokey. Grab a drink. I have some things to say.
As a music fan, a music student and a musician, I’m constantly surrounded my music. If I’m awake, I’m 80% sure to be listening to music. That given, I have a varied and broad taste that I enjoy, which generally allows me to talk to a whole range of people about their own tastes and interests.
That said, people can be rude as heck.
In general, yes. We definitely know this. But musicians and music fans can be some of the most obnoxious people I know, and that’s knowing I run the risk of coming off that way at times as well myself. I’m fine with people being very passionate and strong willed about their certain areas of interest or their favourite music genres. If you’re really aggressive about the music you love and just want to share it with other people, I’m all for that because that kinda embodies who I am as a person. But there are some things that drive me up the bloody wall.
Where did my frustrations stem from? Last year we had a speaker come into one of our university lectures to talk to us about her career and experience in the music industry. I’ve wanted to write this post since that lecture, but I’ve scrapped at least five different attempts because I am very nervous about what type of reception it will receive. But yeah, we had a guest speaker at university. I won’t her name because though I’ve grown to really dislike her I’m not a total bitch, but she’s a label mate, probably actual mate and fellow musician with one Courtney Barnett. Never got around that musician either but that’s besides the point.
So this speaker has an extensive history in the music industry here in Australia which I can respect. No-one can take that away from her. But her entire talk was incredibly negative and off-putting. She out-rightly said to a room of 60-70 teenagers who were passionate about creating music or working in the music industry, that we were destined to couch-surf, fall into debt and struggle through life miserably. Yeah, sure there are aspects to that, that were probably true in some sense, but it was a jarring thing to hear in my first year, and began the two week lecture experience one a really shitty note. It was also at that point that one of my friends literally just walked out of the lecture.
But it wasn’t until she started diving into her own music and her own beliefs that I started finding myself a little pissed off. It was very central to indie music and independent artists and labels. Fair enough, that’s her background. But she very easily could have made her points without bashing other genres and styles of music, especially pop, RnB and hip hop. One line that stuck with me is, “You have to put your mind towards creating real music, real shit other than the pop crap you hear on the radio.” I remember getting really visibly angry at that, and noticing that a few other people were as well. Because in my head, I couldn’t understand how she was so passionate about music as an art, but could simultaneously put down the art style of another musician, regardless of style or genre or interest. Her whole lecture was filled with this sense of superiority, over pop music especially. All I could think was, ‘Surely this woman understands there would be people in this room, who wouldn’t mind being played on mainstream radio? Who want to be explicitly pop artists?’ It boggled my mind, the brashness and crude nature to her lecture.
Which leads me the moment that reignited this anger in me and brought up this thought that I’ve had at the back of my head since those two lectures last year.
Yesterday it was announced that Kesha would not be performing at Blues Fest in Byron Bay, which my family are attending in March. Blues Fest made a post on FaceBook, sharing the news that the poor girl had torn her ACL, a major injury, and wouldn’t be able to perform. My sister was keen as a bean to see her, so I knew she would be upset. Clicking on the comments I had a read, and was really, really shocked and angered at the comments I was seeing.
And those were some of the nicer ones.
Like I get it, you’re hard-core music fans, you like your blues and Nirvana and Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl is your inspiration. But there were also people who were so crushed that she wasn’t going to be there, and to see the comments riddled with this stupid superiority complex irked a lot.
But the thing is, it happens so much. Whether it’s coming from hard rock fans, indie artists and listeners, jazz and blues fans or whatever; pop music cops so much unnecessary hate and ridicule. I can’t understand why though. Sure, it’s very saturated and in your face in the general media, especially radio, and there is a basic formula that a lot of pop artists follow, but at the end of the day, it’s still music, and it’s no different from any other genre. Yes, writing camps are a thing, and singers may not generally write all of their songs, but by giving them crap and bashing the song entirely, you’re crushing another person who’s real motivation and work is still behind the music and the song, no matter how mainstream it may be.
When it comes down to it, every single pop song you hear started the same way any other song came about; with an idea or a hook or a group of people who wanted to collaborate or someone spilling their guts, overwhelmed with emotion.
So I’m about to get a little feminist with you all, and bring up another point. Female fans, female buyers and listeners, fuel pop music. 16-21 is the target age, and it is mostly females, regardless of the artist. Apparently that’s enough to fuel hatred towards a musician. I’m not a fan, but Justin Bieber definitely received a ton of hate, a lot of it directed towards the fact that his main demographic are young pre-teen girls. (Getting a lil personal) but there are people who still believe One Direction’s main audience are 8 year old girls, and while there are 8 year old female fans, majority of that target audience have also grown up as the band has, and their fandom ranges from those young girls who were just old enough to jump on the train, to women literally in their 20’s who have grown up and continually supported One Direction. Taylor Swift is still known as the girl-next-door that writes love songs about her exes. And now Kesha’s music isn’t real enough, and her entire artistry is diminished, regardless of the trials and struggles she’s been through to create the music she has now. If you were to get picky, just for a second, imagine if Shawn Mendes was still on the radio, still walking the red carpet and creating the exact same music that he does, but instead the majority of his sales and fans were middle aged men. His respect level would rise incredibly.
This all links back to my main point, my main contention, the thing I just tried to get across through that whole essay.
The music industry has a huge superiority complex, especially towards popular music. If you’re played on the radio, you’re immediately lumped into mainstream music. You’re music isn’t real and you don’t share the same struggle or ethic as an indie musician or a rock band. It pisses me off, because there are young kids who literally dream of being played on the radio. Heck, I dream of being played on the radio. Yet there’s this constant bashing of radio music, mainstream artists, pop music, that makes it all seem less worthwhile.
In short, cool. You listen to indie artists? You support independent labels and attend intimate gigs with underground musicians and vague bands that no-one’s heard of yet. You only listen to vinyl and have’t listened to the radio in months? Great. You do you.
But you’re not better than anyone because of it.