Audience of Musicians

I spend a large amount of time with artists, musicians, speakers, and the like. I myself identified as more than one of these for a majority of life. I state this past tense since writing is my only “performance” outlet currently. Any time you are deeply embedded in a group or activity, objectivity and clarity are often clouded. This can be a boon giving you the one dimensional world to focus and hone your craft. Surrounding yourself with like minded people always solidifies preexisting notions, however it rarely expands and challenges your preconceptions. This seems to invariably lead to hubris and demeaning overconfidence.

As an artist your lens is a comparative one. The standard: Your work. This often causes unfair reviews of other artists, both overly kind and defaming alike. If you think some one is good but needs polishing you may over sell them to bolster show turn out. If someone is talented and hard working it can cause jealously. Things like, “They’re really popular, but I just don’t get what all the buzz is about. Sell-out.” are often proffered. Your own creation rightly consumes your mind but can make you useless for an objective opinion.

It is fascinating how a person will decide their value scale is ubiquitous and absolute in regard to art. Moreover it is normal and expected in many social groups to mock art perceived as bad, negative, or sell-out. People will applaud the folk singer pounding out a four cord song story, saying, “what a great story”, “so much heart”, and “so organic” and in the next breath decry the local hardcore act as “just noise” and “angry”. In point of fact most heavy rock musicians are extremely skilled at their instrument and have practiced hours to play in sync with a band. The fact heavy music is so often called “angry” shows the listener neither understands anger and taken no time to listen to the music and read the lyrics. In the same way heavy musicians couple all singing as “whining” and light music as sissified or weak. To bare your soul over a break up or loss in front of a group of strangers takes balls. Big folksy balls. Melody does not equate to weakness. Beethoven is the father of Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath. He lived in melody, so mock not your forefather.

This artistic myopia can be applied to spoken word poets, public debaters, DJ’s, rappers, and painters. There is no public forum exempt from cliquism. Cliques can be useful. They are the bones on which new comers sharpen their teeth.  It is the leaders of the artistic cliques doing themselves and those who look up to them a disservice. I find the deeper you get into a clique the less you base your opinion on what you like and more on what is “OK” or “cool” to like. Your public image guides your taste more than your taste does. We see this parodied in hipster memes all the time. How often have you heard a song on the radio and immediately dismissed it because of the station or artist playing it? There is some genuine crap out there not deserving of the time of day. Most of the art in the public sphere deserves at least the time of day. It is one thing to dislike something. It is entirely different to state it isn’t good, well executed, or deserving. Artists should understand this the best, and yet they are the quickest to say a person who went to Julliard has no talent or skill. Playing to audience of your peers can be the most encouraging or defeating show of your life.

I encourage artist and consumer a like to examine your standard for quality or enjoyment. I encourage people to have the confidence to publicly appreciate art outside their social wheelhouse. I encourage people to stay away from blanket descriptors and ego measuring while imbibing art. Please step back and see the forest for its many varied and wonderful trees. You never know who may inspire you.

Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.



One Comment on “Audience of Musicians”

  1. Aileen says:

    Good points — we do get stuck in a rut about what we think is “good music” and going outside our comfort zone is good for us…in music and generally in life too.

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