Hey, my readers. Can I call you my readers now? Do I have readers or are you still just random people who found a random article written by a random guy? I’m going to call you my readers. Anyway, this article is going to be about music, so this might be a long one. You’ve been warned.
Music is what I am. Ever since I was kid music has been what I’ve pretty much lived and breathed. I’m pretty sure my brain is composed of 80% unnecessary music and band information, 17% nerdy stuff, and 3% Google. I’m not positive though, as I haven’t actually done the math. It’s not anything I ever consciously made an effort to know, it just kind of happened. Music is what I’ve always gravitated toward, and all aspects of it. I am constantly fascinated by everything from writing music, to composing it, to recording and producing it, to how the radio world works, to the behind the scenes stuff having to do with musicians touring and working deals with labels and so on.
This kind of brings me to the point of this article. The other day I was having a hard time coming up with an idea for my next article. I told this to my girlfriend (and fellow State-Lines writer) and she said, “Write about music.” Without even thinking about it I immediately responded with, “I want to write about something happy. I don’t want to be upset.” What I had just said took a moment to sink in. That was my natural response to the main thing in my life that I have always had an immense passion for. But the reason I feel that way is because of my passion for it. But I will be the first to lament that music has become static.
I’ve been in a weird state when it comes to music, and I think a lot of it has to do with our Internet culture. And no, this article has nothing to do with file sharing, iTunes or anything like that affecting music sales, artist income, and so on. That’s an entirely different issue. This article is more about the personal and creative affect the Internet has had on musicians. Now, I’m not saying the Internet is bad, just that it has severely hindered music. It hasn’t only hindered music, but all progression of art in general. For all of the advancements it has provided for art, it has also done a lot of damage. Specifically, the fact that anyone and everyone with access to a blog or a website’s comment section can post their criticisms of the art. Let’s face it, most internet comments are mostly horrible, negative statements with only a few positive notes. People love hating things more than they do enjoying things. We’ve become diluted as a society. An example of this comes in the form of the brilliant Nick Swardson’s stand-up comedy when he is talking about liking the Transformers movies. I know we all agree that, story-wise, Transformers is less than stellar, but just watch the first minute of this video to understand his point.
Makes sense, right? Just because you don’t personally like something doesn’t mean it isn’t at least entertaining or enjoyable to someone else. At the end of the day, what you’re judging is something that came from someone’s vision and that person had the balls to share that with the world, knowing that someone somewhere with a keyboard would inevitably scorn and criticize it. That takes courage, regardless of what you think.
Now, how does this constant barrage of negativity from fans or listeners of music and bands affect how those artists create music? Well I guess it depends on the conviction and mindset of the musician in question. Anything you make will be disliked. That’s a fact. No musician will ever please everyone. So it is up to musicians to decide how they want to go about making music. With the constant cloud of angry commenters looming overhead, a band can take the safe route of making music that is similar to what is currently popular. That will get them noticed, but it will also add to the overpopulation of identical, cookie-cutter bands and artists. I feel this is the decision that most musicians face in today’s music world. To be different means to be subjected to some YouTube commenter saying, “OMG dis band rally sux! Wut were they even thinking LMAO! Winky face!” As easy as it may seem to shrug a comment like that off, imagine putting so much time and energy and money into your art, crafting something different and exciting only to be met with countless comments similar to that. Imagine what that does to your motivation, not to mention to record label executives that read those types of things and second guess themselves for signing the artist. This is what leads to the state of music as it is today. Almost every musician sounds eerily similar to another musician within their genre. It’s getting stale and boring, and I believe it is largely due to how easy it is for people to be critical in today’s world.
The other option for a band or musician is to say “Screw it!” and just make the music they want, and if they’re lucky (and good, but mostly lucky), they will start to get noticed. But here comes the clincher: Once a band that sounds different and gets popular, everyone tires to cash in on what they’re doing. Bands try to be “different” by replicating what that band is doing. How does that even make sense? The example that comes to mind is Mumford & Sons. I still love Mumford & Sons, but since they’ve hit it huge a bunch of other bands have popped out of the woodwork doing almost the exact same thing. That leads back to the point I made in the previous paragraph about bands making similar music. It’s a weird and boring cycle. This is why some of my most favorite bands include those such as AFI, Thrice, Anberlin, Brand New, Underoath, etc. These are bands I began listening to in my formative teen years, but there’s more to it than that. Sometimes I feel like a cheerleader for those bands, but in fact I’m actually just a supporter of someone finding a musician who will impact them the same way those bands impacted me. Those bands are different, but what keeps them perpetually at the top of my list is the fact that they have always made a conscious effort to have a different sound on each album. They keep pushing themselves to progress and grow and change their sound. I believe a reason for this is to ensure that they will never fall into a scene of bands who will try to replicate the sound they already made. They stay ahead of the curve. But there is yet another double-edged sword a musician can encounter when deciding if they should change their sound or just duplicate themselves with each album. Fans will always either scorn musicians, regardless of if they change or if they stay the same. There is no winning. Here is a great illustration exemplifying that point that I saw in a wonderful Cracked article that you should read after this
All of this blatant negativity and criticism towards musicians is what makes music so boring lately and why the joy of discovering a new band doesn’t seem to last as long as it used to. If you decide you like something there will always be someone there to tell you why you’re wrong for doing so. There are still new and different bands out there, but they’re getting harder and harder to find. And I know how paradoxical it is of me to write an internet article harshly criticizing the Internet for harshly criticizing musicians, but I just want to go back to a time when people didn’t feel the need to constantly hate things. I’m not here saying, “When I was a kid I would go to my neighborhood record shop and look for hours for an interesting new band.” That’s not what it was like for me (mostly because the lame redneck town I grew up in didn’t have a record shop). When I was growing up, a friend would let you listen to a new band they were enjoying and you would listen to it and you would either like it or not like it. If you liked it, you listened to it. If you didn’t, you just kept moving along. It’s as simple as that. So many “fans” go out of their way to hate new musicians or hate the new music their favorite musicians have created. Why? What’s the point? Why would anyone even try to make fresh, exciting music anymore if that is the kind of discouragement they would be subjected to? You don’t go to an art show, dislike a particular piece, and then find the painter just to tell them that their work sucks. Well, not unless you’re a complete asshole. So why do people do that on the Internet, on Facebook or YouTube instead of at an art show? This type of constant naysaying is killing the progression of the art. Music is meant to be felt and made without any preconceived notion of what it should be, but it has mostly become forced and contrived due to fear of public perception.
There will always be music you enjoy that someone else doesn’t and vice versa. Just let people enjoy and create what they want and hopefully they will return the favor. What if I told you that you can like Green Day without actively hating on Justin Bieber? It’s actually possible. That reminds me, I’d like to point out the hilarious irony of Green Day bashing and claiming not to be Justin Bieber when the only difference between their music is a guitar.
All in all, I just want to ask people to not be so hatefully outspoken anymore. Find something you enjoy and focus your energy on loving that rather than hating on something you don’t enjoy quite as much. There’s no reason for it. Stop making me upset when I think about what we’ve done to music. Thanks.