Friday, 18 January 2013

Is Social Media Ruining Music?

A year ago, my favourite album was a mystery. A small white plastic case, filled with intriguing songs, and absolutely no clues as to who this person was. I think things may have been simpler that way.

I would listen to this album for hours on end, perfectly contented by the music I was hearing, until one day curiosity got the better of me. A Google search later, and I’d instantly found more information about the person singing on that album, than I probably should, or even wanted to know. Should it really matter where the music comes from? Is it really any of our business?

A year later, and that particular singer knows me by name, is in my Facebook profile picture, and in my email contacts. Social media is an incredible marketing tool, there’s no doubt about that. It’s vital for the publicity of established artists, and invaluable for those still trying to make it – but this increasing connection we have with musicians doesn’t impress me. It terrifies me.

Before the internet took over our lives, and before Twitter could be classed as a close personal friend, music was allowed to not be entirely understood. To me, it should be open to interpretation, rather than an overwhelming demand for the meaning of each individual song. I like the thought that a musician is a slightly distanced figure – open to individual interpretation just as much as their songs. I wouldn’t want to tell strangers about my life, so it only seems right that musiciansare entitled to the same kind of privacy. Of course, not all choose to succumb to the gossip grabbing wombles, but I can’t help but think there is an increasing demand for knowledge of others’ lives. At what point did we decide music was not just music anymore? When did we become so fixated with virtual strangers through a virtual medium?

Having spent an increasing time on websites like Twitter and Facebook, I’ve noticed (myself included, I’m certainly not free from the addictive grasp of social media), people demanding more and more contact with musicians, as though they were friends, rather than acquaintances or just plain strangers. I’ve cringed more times than I would in ‘real life’, at people asking bizarre or overly-personal questions via the Internet, that would never be uttered by a sane minded person to a virtual stranger in person. What seems inappropriate has suddenly come acceptable – when have boundaries become so transparent? The anonymity and vast gap between individuals the internet provides has seemed to have changed the rules completely.

It’s certainly rarer behaviour, fortunately, but I have seen people who are so incredibly caught up in social media related to music, the barrier between ‘musician’ and ‘consumer’ is incredibly blurred, almost to the point of unhealthy. It’s easy to forget, but the information given adds to an image the artist, and their PR and management team desperately want to create. It’s in their interest to appear to be friendly, approachable people - as unbelievably, a cocky, holier-than-thou attitude doesn’t help to sell records! 

I don’t wish to be overly cynical, as social media, and contact through the Internet certainly has its place. It would just be nice, for once, to listen to an album and not have anyone asking what colour socks they were wearing when they wrote it.


  1. haha! I love your last comment about socks! Made me laugh for ages! I think that if an artist doesn't want their person info broadcast to the world, they should have the ability to take it off the internet. So if they don't, we have the freedom to find out as much as we want about them.
    Nowadays, people like musicians for reasons other than just their music. We fall in love with the lives they are associated with and believe that through sites like Twitter, we may have a small chance of befriending them and entering their world.
    It's kind of sad, isn't it? I'm a total victim of this myself! I am a self-proclaiming hypocrite!
    M. x

    1. Haha, thanks! I guess once information is in the public domain, there's not really a lot that can be done to get rid of it completely. Very true...though isn't it party promoted? The rock 'n' roll lifestyle etc. I'm just the same, getting excited by Twittering and things - even through the Internet, it can make everyday life seem slightly more interesting!
      Al :)

    2. I guess people are attracted to these lifestyles that the musicians represent and we try to tap into it. I don't really agree with the whole "OMG this famous person talked to me on Twitter!". I would get excited if my fave musician talked to me, but not because he's famous or anything, but because I'd be having a convo with the most interesting guy ever! lol.

    3. Yes..or at least the lifestyles they want us to think they have! I wouldn't consider myself interested in someone because they're famous - celebrity culture doesn't impress me much. Though I have been overwhelmed by one or two encounters, simply because of how much I admired their work. Though that said, if you talk to people enough, they just become someone you're used to seeing, rather than anyone you'd be excited to meet! :) It took a while to realise, but people are just people.

    4. Yeah I see what you mean. People are people. But some people can get drunk from fame (Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga etc) and suddenly don't feel like people anymore!
      Thing is, we fall in love with their lifestyles but there are so many people around us who have that lifestyle and we just seem to forget them!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hey, I found this post really interesting (as you can probably tell from the comments above!
    I am trying to make an online literary/culture magazine on Tumblr (I may eventually create my own domain but it's rather expensive...)
    Anyway, I was wondering whether I could use this post as an interesting discussion, like an article in a newspaper. I'll then redirect the readers to this page :)
    You can follow me on Tumblr if you want to make sure I'm giving you the right amount of credit:

    There aren't any posts up yet because I am only now putting together my first edition :)

    Are you up for it?

    1. Yeah sure, as long as it's linked to this blog :)

    2. Yeah, of course! That's really great news, thanks! I think your posts are really interesting and well written, so I may ask to post more in future, if that's okay?
      It will be a while before the first article is published...I've only got 3 things so far! x