Snobs must learn to let go when bands get bigger

Greg Mercer

Much as I hate to give her any credit whatsoever, Madonna got it right when she said “music makes the people come together.” Only, I mean, less in terms of euphemism.

A few years ago, a professor at Columbia University released a study revealing musical tastes are influenced, at least in part, by social factors. If your friends like a song, chances are much higher you’ll enjoy it as well.

It’s pretty obvious, but many people are surprised by this fact when I bring it up. “No, no,” they claim. “I like music on some sort of purely objective basis, taking every song I hear in a social vacuum separated from the world at large.” Which, if you’re some kind of musical analytics major, great! This column isn’t for you; check back in next week.

This method of musical preference explains a lot. If taste is socially determined, then it’s probably only four very influential guys on Mill Street who actually like that awful 3OH!3 song. As a matter of fact, the entire rise of Linkin Park and My Chemical Romance can be traced back to a single angry preteen who, no matter what, will not clean his room.

I decided to put this theory to the test. My roommate is a cool guy, and we have similar musical interests. However, the way we perceive music is vastly different.

I’ll go ahead and say it; we are both hipster jerks. We each own Apple products and ironic T-shirts. Although neither of us drink, you can be sure if we did there’d be some Pabst Blue Ribbon flowing copiously. And the musical tastes between us represent this. The Hold Steady, Mates of State and Bishop Allen all make frequent aural appearances. And, like, a hundred bands you aren’t cool enough to have heard of, loser.

Most music snobs won’t actually speak of their reasons for liking (and disliking) music, for fear of appearing to care about something, but my roommate actually admits a fact most won’t. “When a song goes mainstream, I won’t like it anymore, because I don’t like the people listening to it,” he claims.

This is especially evident when a true enemy picks up something you enjoy. I still remember the rage of hearing Owl City over and over on the radio, after following those guys (well, actually, just the one guy) for months. By now, all of us are super tired of hearing “Fireflies” repeatedly. For a long while, I considered it to be “my jam,” as the kids say.

There are two major ways of consuming music. You can personally experience the track, like falling asleep with headphones, or socially, like blowing out your speakers while road tripping with friends. Clearly my tastes are influenced by the kind of people I know and the image I project, but often a song does, in a sense, belong to me.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to define yourself through the creative works of others, but it happens. We must let go of personal attachments to bands when they grow beyond what we’re comfortable with.

The above column was originally published Oct. 18 by Ohio University’s The Post.