Some things have to end. Poverty, war, the mistreatment of the poor and lonely... they all matter but I can't solve them in this blog. But seeing as you're already here, let's look at something that we can help to end once and for all. Music conversations happen all of the time around Supajam, we think they're great. But there are some things that always seem to pop up (in the wider world, not just Supajam) that, in my opinion, hugely hinder people's understanding and enjoyment of music. Or they're just pants ways of being a bore.
What do you wish people would stop saying about music? Is it something dumb, irrelevant, or ignorant? Perhaps it's just something that's long been accepted but you can't see why. Let us know in the comments below.
Some of these I simply took as fact for a while, they were told to me by older people who had been to more gigs than me and knew about bands that I only pretended to. Others have annoyed me from the start, and I will go to my grave trying to eradicate them from our wider cultural discourse. They need to stop. Let's start.
You should never wear the headline band's t-shirt at a gig
This 'rule' has been around for ages, often said by the most exciting people imaginable. I've searched long and hard for a good reason that this rule exists, they mostly revolve around a mantra of "don't be that guy".
Why the hell not? You've dropped £10-£50 on a ticket, but you're too cool to wear the band's merch? Get over yourself. "Yeah rockstars, I'm only here to meet a friend I'm like totally not bothered about you yah." Who is 'that guy' anyway? Some of the best crowds I've been in have been jammed full of people wearing the artist's shirts. Iron Maiden gigs are notorious for it, and their crowds always go wild. Even when I saw Katy Perry I was surrounded by total fangirls/boys covered in her merch, it's not really my bag but they looked like they were enjoying themselves far more than the chatty arms-folded crowds at more specialist events.
I honestly don't think about what to wear when heading to a concert (that's part of the appeal) but whenever I hear people say this I'm tempted to go to a gig with them, buy everything at the merch stand, wear it, and put my arm around them for the entire gig. Just to look ultra n00b I'll even forget to take the tags off, there's no way their credibility would survive being near me. On the downside, that would also mean going to the gig with them and they don't sound particularly fun to be around. They'll probably scoff at you for dancing and try to leave before the encore because they don't want to pretend to enjoy the well-known songs.
Music was better back then...
Here's the thing, there was terrible music in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. It reached the top of the chart, it sold millions, there were people who loved it and children were probably created in its honour. It dated badly. It never gets brought up when comparing today with another era, we look at Led Zeppelin, Tupac, The Beatles, James Brown, Oasis, Marvin Gaye, Queen, Blur, Nirvana etc. and unfairly compare them to some band who have only just released their second album. They don't have decades of reverence, Rolling Stone special issues, a perpetuated mystique, or countless documentaries propping them up.
I'm not saying you have to like anything made today, or even that you should like it as much as another era. Sometimes I think people don't give newer music a fair crack of the whip but ultimately that's their loss. All I want to point out is that this debate takes a totally different turn if we compared a decent modern day act to someone like Vanilla, who actually reached number 14 with this one back in 1997:
Don't get fresh with me <3
I used to like it but it got overplayed
Then stop listening to bland radio, there are other options out there. Next.
Nobody should be allowed to cover that song
Guilty. Many times over I am guilty of saying this and I take it all back. I'm not defending some of the woeful covers out there, I'm just saying that the artist should be allowed to do those covers if they choose. If it's really good, there's nothing to complain about. If it's really bad and is a flop, doesn't matter. If it's really bad and is a hit, at least some people might give the original a go. If they like it, yay, if they don't then it's not as if the original artist has lost a fan.
Back in 2002 DJ Sammy's cover of 'Boys of Summer' came out. I remember being incredulous at the time, stating that it was one of my Dad's favourite songs and he would be mortified if he heard what they'd done to it. Fast forward six years and I'm doing some marathon radio show for Comic Relief when one of the other presenters sticks the track on. Five minutes later my Dad texts me asking who that version was by as he was about to go and buy it. Looking at that version now it actually nailed the wistful feeling of the original pretty well and translated it into something more relevant for a young person at that time. I guess 2002 me didn't know my Dad, or the song, as well as he thought. Don't be like 2002 me.
They went poppy...
How dare a band want to feed themselves. This is usually said when an act has had a couple of successful singles, which have probably funded the next album or two after their more credible efforts left them starving. Biffy Clyro, Kings of Leon, Deaf Havana and plenty more have all had such accusations thrown their way after eschewing heavier origins to deliver more chart-friendly hits later in their career. But if you look at the singles in isolation they're often a long way from One Direction.
Nobody wants to hear a great artist make bland music, but I think we sometimes need to to put it into context. I remember hearing moody people accusing Slipknot of selling out when they released Iowa. All the school discos were playing this in 2001...
Another side to it is that they might not be angry teenagers any more. Some bands do go softer as they get older because they don't feel the same as they do when they started. Some just want to try a different sound to try and stay fresh. It's also worth pointing out that the 'Enter Sandman's of this world allow bands to write more challenging works once they've made their money, like Lulu... possibly not the best example.
Blah blah blah REAL instruments
At the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 Bob Dylan took to the stage and plugged in an electric guitar. It was seen as a cardinal sin by some, that he would abandon the acoustic guitar in favour of a less traditional popular orientated sound. Looking back at it now it all looks pretty innocent
Imagine getting worked up over that.
With the global explosion of certain dance genres over the last couple of years, I've heard a ton of traditionalists grumbling about "real music" with "real" instruments. They're probably the same people who trumpet Bob's forward-thinking embrace of the electric guitar in the above video. While major Rock festivals have had to either cancel or resort to the same headliners as decades ago, there are giant dance ones cropping up all over the globe with fresh and eclectic line-ups. Here's 180,000 people having fun at Belgium's Tomorrowland last year:
As a promoter, the first thing I thought when I saw one of these festivals was "this is what's possible when you don't need to pay rhythm guitarists." My second thought was wondering if they allowed any fat or ugly people through the gates, but that's a different matter. There were hardly any traditional instruments there, but it was clearly an experience that was focussed around music albeit with a ton of bells & whistles thrown in. If you're a purist I'm sure it's not your thing, but how blinded by your own stuffiness do you have to be to not appreciate why some people might find that more fun than listening to four blokes banging out verse-chorus-verse-chorus-middle-8-chorus on REAL instruments.
Why is someone working for ages to make the perfect beat on a laptop any less worthy than Hendrix or Tom Morello using a bucketload of effects or tricks to improve their sound? The old ways of making music aren't going to go away, nobody will stop kids in the future picking up guitars or drums and learning to play them. If people want to see them play, nothing is going to stop them from doing that. But there's new opportunities for more people to hear and make more sounds as technology and ideas develop. This is happening, and it's a good thing.
The role of musicians playing with more traditional instruments hasn't changed. If you're putting your work out there, the goal has always been to produce something that people want to enjoy more than whatever else is available at that moment in time. At its very core, that is what any artist needs to do if they want it to be more than a hobby. They didn't have a problem with this when there was nothing threatening them. You do it by making stuff that people actually want to hear. You don't do it by shaming, complaining, or making naff image macros. Nobody has ever changed their opinion on music they like because some snob complained about it, and they certainly haven't bought many tickets to concerts because of it.
I suppose it's like wrestling, to those that enjoy it no explanation is necessary and to those that don't no explanation is good enough. But hey, let's spin the whole idea on its head. If you don't like music made by one real person and a load of 'fake' instruments, how about we try some music made by one fake person with a lot of real instruments? Here's Japan's Hatsune Miku...
Disagree with us? Have anything you'd like to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.
Andy is a Supajam writer who has had music-based roles at numerous Commerical, BBC and Student radio stations over the last 6 years. He is also a music promoter in the South-East of the UK. He has a website where he interviews musicians with only one question, and he is currently typing in third-person. You can tweet abuse at him if you fancy letting off some steam.