Article by Ananya Roy
16-year-old John Doe sits down to play "Wish You Were Here" at his school's talent night, as the John Mayer fans scoff at his basicness. The John Butler enthusiasts groan in unison at the lack of percussive guitar, and the John Coltrane freaks (if the school is fortunate enough to have them) viciously ridicule the college's collective music IQ, which probably rests comfortably in negative ratings.
John Doe doesn't care. He loves playing Pink Floyd, and that's exactly what he ends up doing.
Being a musician is hard enough as it is. You'd be dealing with an exhaustive list of non-cooperative clients, unfair compensation, restrictive managers, and unappreciative audiences that just want to listen to pop. It makes sense then, that many musicians tend to get cynical about their craft. Of late, however, the industry's hostility towards upcoming musicians is growing expeditiously. So much so that it has almost become a means of bonding between two musicians. It's seamless as to how quickly the conversation drifts from "Man, I can't get over the new album by Sithu Aye" to "Aye bro, look at this degenerate EDM shit they're passing off as music".
We are at a very exciting time in music, where everything from folk and jazz to djent and progressive metal is overlapping onto each other. While fusion has been around for a while, this new wave features a far more eclectic melting pot of elements that may have shaped the artists' musical ability.
It's high time these concoctions gain impetus and get recognized for the effort being poured into them. For that to happen, a few changes need to take place in our behaviour as self-proclaimed music elitists:
a) The next time Becky asks for the aux cord to play the new Taylor Swift album, oblige. That Dream Theater track can wait, it's not like you'll be able to listen to the whole song in your ten-minute drive to the grocery store anyway. If we continue to impose our music onto the generic population, we'd be no different from the world continually enforcing pop music onto us.
b) The next time Becky approaches you excitedly with a track she swears is straight-up fire, give it a shot. It may not exactly exceed your expectations, but it will make you appreciate the existence of Tool and Haken a lot more.
c) The next time Becky croons to "Can't Help Falling in Love" on the ukulele, offer to jam with her. Try out your innovations in the form of jazz interludes and harmonic progressions to override the same old lick that your ears can't bear the drudgery of any longer.
d) The next time Becky scrunches her nose at jazz music, try to explain to her that it's more than a series of random notes. We somehow descend into high school bullies and prefer to snigger at the rest of the world, believing we're better because our dad played Dire Straits and the Velvet Underground on repeat when we were younger. It's way easier to laugh at someone's vulnerability rather than expose them to a world of new music they may never have discovered on their own. Even that isn't so hard. Keep those funky music links ready to go!
Understand that there's nothing inherently wrong with liking pop music. It's popular because it's easy to listen to.
It isn't fair to degrade another for their apparent lack of skill, poor taste in music, proper tuition or other parameters widely regarded as the prerogative to qualify as a "music nerd". Umpteen musicians who couldn't read music have serenaded us in the past, the likes of which include Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Chris Martin, Eric Clapton, and more. At a time when it has never been easier to upload one's creative content online, calling someone out on their ability(or the lack of it) could crush them.
Amateur has become a dirty word. Amateur, meaning pursue something for the love of it. While it's justified to say the average amateur musician must take their feedback in the right spirit, sometimes these remarks can be downright derogatory and hurtful. As a result, many budding musicians grow reticent about their playing in fear of what other artists would say, or worse; stop playing altogether.
Several professional musicians love to taunt the ever-living daylights out of an obscure YouTube artist who suddenly got famous when he posted a Bollywood cover, only because he couldn't get the song out of his head for the longest time. Jazz fanatics need to ask themselves; how long did you have to listen to jazz until you were able to make sense of it? Thrash metal enthusiasts must consider the consequences of that Lit paper they'd studied for while blaring Black Sabbath through their earphones. More often than not, music is an acquired taste. When you deride "basic" musicians, consider for a moment where you'd be if the gods of improv had the same attitude towards you. Be it Mozart and Vivaldi, John Cage and Hans Zimmer, Guthrie Govan and Steve Vai- they all made it to the elite pantheon of the world's most distinguished musicians by working away at their genius-not scorning their contemporaries. However, entertaining the sledging can get sometimes (read: Ringo Starr).
Ultimately, the music industry boils down to artists and consumers. Unless the two roots for each other, neither are the record sales going to boost nor are the collective music tastes going to improve. We need to support each other to hone our abilities and get where we'd like to be.