Hey music snobs – you’re doing it wrong. Stop being a dick.

There’s a marked and crucial distinction between not liking something and dismissing it as lesser art. Yet I’ve heard SO many musicians put down music they don’t like. That gets under my skin like a frickin’ chigger. It’s natural to be hypercritical of the thing we are most passionate about. (Ever been to a movie with an actor? Restaurant with a waiter?) Since I’m passionate about music, I’m going to be hypercritical about musician behavior here, thus proving my own point. *pats self on back…sort of*

If you’re passionate about music, YOU have been a dick about something you didn’t like at least once.

One of the things that’s so magical about music (and all art) is that there are as many styles, feels and approaches as there are people – there is literally something for everyone. Art is truly in the eye/ear/mind/heart/soul of the beholder. What a beautiful thing! But then the not so pretty side of human nature comes busting in with its bully-ish compulsion to validate itself by invalidating something else. Convinced someone else’s music is threatening to beat up our music on the playground, we throw rocks at it and call it a poopyhead. Come on, tribe – we can do better.

Here are some poopyhead examples I’ve experienced personally:

A world-renowned jazz musician and educator came to talk to a group of young music students, of which I was one. I’m sure he said plenty of amazing things, but the only thing I remember was him dissing another musician for playing with a pop artist (also world-renowned and highly respected, FWIW.) This “mentor” dropped the “lesser art” label on an entire genre in front of a bunch of eager young musicians looking for guidance and inspiration. Really, bro? Pop music is a poopyhead? I lost a lot of respect for that musician that day.

A few from the backhanded compliment category:  

It’s bullshit music, of course, but he’s amazing at it.
— famous musician, revered by many
They’re not educated musicians, but they’re still pretty good.
— good friend, talented musician

Flip side of the education coin: I was new to Nashville and a producer I was working with brought in a seasoned session player for a track and told him I’d gone to Berklee. His response: “Well, it didn’t seem to hurt her any.” While I appreciated the sentiment that “all that learnin’” hadn’t sucked the soul out of me, in hindsight it has the same feedlot aroma as the other examples.

Generic scenarios that have happened in some variation:

Too simple. No sophistication. This isn’t real music.
— Countless *prog-rock fans, listening to country songs
Too cerebral. No heart. This isn’t real music.
— Countless *country fans, listening to prog-rock songs

It’s not about *those genres, or even one genre pitting against another (plenty of poo-flinging within the ranks). I could easily swap out dozens of other genres for the ones above, they were just the first ones I grabbed. Hell – when I was a student at Berklee in the early 90’s the practice room walls were home to an all-out war of scribbled insults between the “jazzers” and the “rockers.” (Raise your hand if you remember that crazy shit.) Sure it was hilarious at times, but it was also slightly horrifying. Me: “Ummm…I just need a piano to work on this piece I have to write for my Trad Harm 2 class. Could you…like…stop shouting, walls??”

Lest you think I’m sitting here all Judgy McJudgeFace, I’ve caught myself yelling “poopyhead” on the playground too. It’s gross and I hate it but it’s true. I had a pretty profound “holy shit” moment about that not too long ago, though, that really flipped my head around.

An artist my husband really digs was playing in town and he got tickets for us.

Him: “You probably won’t like it.”

Me: “Well…I might not, but I know you love it so I want to share that. I’ll just watch you like it.”

So off I went, taking a whack at open-minded altruism. My reaction to the show was mostly “ok not my party at all, but whatever.” Hubby was over the moon. Fair enough. Then suddenly there was a comment from the stage about how lame a certain kind of music was. The audience laughed in agreement, like they were all in on the joke about how that other stuff “isn’t real music.” I silently but completely lost my shit. My hackles flew up and before I knew it the monkey in my head was flinging poo like it was gunning for a medal. “These pompous assholes are the ones who don’t know real music. All they do is look down on other music to make themselves feel superior. This is the wankingest, most self-indulgent bullshit I’ve ever heard. This is not real mu-…OHHHH MY GOD I’M DOING THE SAME FUCKING THING. I AM BEING A TOTAL DICK RIGHT NOW!”

I was writing that music off because the people playing it were writing some other music off. Blatantly engaging in the very behavior I was railing against. FUCK. Covered in poo, I hung my head in shame for the rest of the show and started writing this post in my head.

You guys - THERE IS ROOM FOR EVERYONE. We just have to stop being bullies and flinging poo.

So I challenge you – next time you hear the voice in your head say “this is not real music,” change one word: “this is not MY music.” There is a world of difference in that change, one that allows respect for ALL art to exist. Art deserves that, and so do the people who appreciate it. Which is ALL OF US. So let’s all agree to stop being dicks. I call no more bullies on the playground.

*drops mic, skips toward swing set*

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