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.