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10 August, 2006

Don't tell anyone - you'll ruin it

  • There's music I like, and music I dislike.
  • There's music that's popular with tens of thousands, and music that few have heard of.
The foregoing statements are not interdependent.

Frequenting online forums where 'prog' is discussed, I often find them dominated by those who dislike 'popular' music, seemingly on principle. The subtext (and it's not always a subtext) isn't just that tens of thousands of fans can be wrong, but that the music is inferior because it has tens of thousands of fans.

This strikes me as mere pettiness and false elitism, a desire to think of oneself as superior to the herd.

I suppose it's only human nature to want one's own discoveries to remain one's own, or to share only as far as to cultivate exclusive cliques of 'the enlightened'.
I like to think I've outgrown it, but I have experienced a twinge of irrational resentment when forums devoted to minority-interest bands have been invaded by brand new fans acting like baby elephants, throwing around the weight of their enthusiasm and partial knowledge without deference to time-served veterans (heh). It's childish of the long-termers to resist, but their discomfort is understandable.
Yet it's far more childish to blame the bands and their music. Would a genuine admirer wish a band's career to remain stunted by lack of mass-exposure? Isn't that unacceptably selfish?

The key point is that I don't see a causal link between mass popularity and lowest-common-denominator simplicity. Yes, some bands have 'sold-out', and consciously changed to become more 'accessible', to deliberately chase demographics and commercial success. That's their right, of course, though I do find it disappointing and I rapidly lose interest.
Yet if a band continues to do what they always had, and that becomes popular, surely that's to be applauded and encouraged. Popular doesn't have to mean populist.

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