Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Fitting in with your music tastes

Television tends to be too populist to draw a specific picture of who the typical audience member is. Obviously the networks rely on the demographic data supplied by Nielsen to indicate who is watching, but with the ubiquity of TVs in homes it's not like one could make a general statement about all the audience members other than to say they're the people who put the show on (either live or later after having recorded it). There are exceptions to this rule, certainly, as certain shows have had a theme or sensibility that suggests their audience members find appealing. However, whether a show seems to appeal to eggheads or meatheads doesn't exclude it from appealing to people who may happen to enjoy eating Doritos chips. And that is what advertisers want to know; what you got on your SATs is less relevant than how much disposable income you are likely to have.

When it comes to music, which would seem to have the same general saturation as TV, it seems like by relative standards it's much more of a niche market for any given band or even genre. TV has diversity of content, of course, but the music industry has variety that TV could not hope to touch. With the online distribution methods it's also easier to get music out to even a modest fan base without the overhead that even relatively inexpensive TV programming requires. Thus, it can be more possible to suggest that the fans of a given artist do tend to share more traits than would a typical TV audience, simply because it's easier for that artist's audience to be a smaller, more relatively homogenous group. Even expanding it out to the analogous distribution method for music—radio stations—they tend to focus on a particular genre (hip hop, classic rock, country, jazz, classical, etc.) rather than having the diversity of programming that any TV network would have.

So, if the fans of a given artist tend to be people who exhibit attitudes or behaviors that you do not agree with, would you be less inclined to like the music of that artist, even if on its own merits you do find it appealing? Or at least would you be less likely to admit that you like it?

Ultimately the question is: If you find yourself humming along with a song on the radio, generally enjoying it, and then later you find out that the artist happens to be popular with a group who (for example) vote for a different political party than the one with which you align yourself—not that the artist espouses any political philosophy in the song that you can discern, nor in their personal philosophy (to the best of your research), it just works out that they happen to appeal to these others for no obvious reason, without any particular solicitation by the artist—would you find yourself perhaps subconsciously dismissing how much you had initially liked the song? Would that be the easier method of resolving how you could have something in common with these others when clearly you differ on other matters of personal importance to you?

And before you answer, stop and think about it. If you're saying, No, of course I wouldn't be influenced by the coincidental fact of who else happened to like it, is that merely another component of ego preservation, where you like to believe that's what you'd do?

Okay, if that's what you say…


The flip side of that scenario: If you like an artist and hear from other fans that artist about other bands that they also like (because these other bands share some similarities with the original artist), and upon initially hearing the songs of these other bands are somewhat ambivalent about them, would you slowly come to like them more (on an unconscious level) by virtue of liking them essentially making it easier to fit in with the fans of the original artist?


  1. Given that I'm an alien, my responses perhaps will be the polar opposite of the average person. But I would argue (a.) I like a song or an artist regardless of the demographic they appeal to, and (b.) if I don't like an artist, but I discover that they appeal to "my" demographic, it doesn't make me like that artist more.

    I like Erasure, but I'm not gay and I don't like gay politics. I like Gary Numan, but I'm not goth or industrial. I like early Rage Against The Machine, but I think communists need to be exterminated. And no matter how many of "my" demographic like Bon Jovi or Weezer or Green Day, I just can't make myself listen to those bands. ;-)

  2. Ah, Marvin, when eventually you realize you're gay, goth communist this is going to seem really funny. And it will explain your music tastes.

  3. "Yanking" your "chain"? Hey, man, I won't say that I'm not flattered, and maybe even a little curious, but I love my wife.


So, what do you think?