How To Be a Better Music Enthusiast

“One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.” – Bob Marley

Music is an important part of our culture and zeitgeist for a plethora of reasons.  It relieves anxiety, serves as a deserved release from the stresses from everyday life and offers one an opportunity to express themselves through one’s relation to lyrics, singing along or dancing to a gyrating groove.  One may make many like-minded friends in the process and thus join a musical “family” when enlisting into the ranks of fans that share an affinity for a particular group or genre.  Music is a proven escape, an alluring and very addictive pastime, and an industry that brought in over $16.5 billion in 2012.

Having attended over 350 concerts and 22 festivals over the past 2 years, I have acquired some valuable lessons that I will share with you below – as an impetus for you to enjoy a more exemplary informed, euphoric and enlightened musical adventure.

1. Don’t Judge

People are often caught preaching to others, “Don’t judge”, yet are often the very same ones first in line to judge in terms of musical tastes.  Recently Justin Bieber revealed his love for the jam band, Phish.  They both share the same extraordinary lighting designer and Bieber even teased some Phish tunes during his tour.  However, whenever Bieber’s name when mentioned in a news blurb on a Phish related feed, the comment section was littered with immediate and direct hatred with “Bieber Sucks!” being the familiar battle cry.  One usually associates Phish fans as pseudo-hippie, “love your brother” types, but they are demonstrating a negative knee-jerk reaction without supporting the statement with any tangible reasoning.  Had they ever heard a Bieber song?  Had they read a lyric?  Had they watched a video?  Most are assuming something based on conjecture rather than reality.  C’mon, even an ardent jam fan can’t deny the fact that the kid can dance.  If one must hate something, one would come off much better if you actually supported your claim with opinions based on fact!  “Taste” is not a question of “objective fact”, but totally subjective.

2.      Keep an Open Mind

Not getting locked into a particular genre or scene or lifestyle is key to a vastly more fulfilling musical discourse.  Not only should one always aspire to be more well-rounded, but there is so much great music outside of one’s own familiar musical sphere.  Personally, I dislike rap with a passion, but I have listened to many albums knowing that I may be missing out on a rare gem of a song if I didn’t give new things a chance. I can’t imagine not having The Chronic in my collection and would never have heard of it if I hadn’t turned off my Grateful Dead bootlegs for 5 minutes to engage in a new experience.  One who is willing to investigate all genres of music in the spectrum will only allow one to appreciate all forms of music more and realize how much variety is available.  If one only listens to hip-hop, they may miss out on the amazing depth of sound that a banjo can bring.   The largest obstacle to face when trying to keep an open mind is the ever present perception perpetuated by the media.  I think John Mayer is a genius but so many of my friends refuse to listen to anything he does because they 1) think he is a douche bag and 2) every song must be like “Your Body is a Wonderland” fluff.  To buy into a perception rather than carve out your own reality only results in you missing out.  John Mayer is one of our greatest guitarists and songwriters but you may be missing out if you don’t have an open mind.

3.      Don’t Be Divisive

Getting into a verbal fight or otherwise by declaring your band is better than another band is one of the most juvenile and fruitless endeavors ever.  I hear Phish and Disco Biscuits fans fight endlessly as to which band is better.  Who is the final judge and jury?  Who mediates the fight and ultimately tallies the final points?  I respect those who defend and idealize their favorite musicians, but to argue one is better than the other is just pointless.  One would have to be pretty narcissistic to wantonly declare their team the winner.  Again, one can have a discussion and lay down facts (# of hit songs, # of units sold, # of concerts sold out) but eventually one must realize that opinions and appreciation of music, like all art, are subjective!  This means it is “in the eye of the beholder” and no one’s opinion carries more weight than another.  The beauty of music is that whatever you discover to be the best, is the best for YOU, and who else really matters?

4.      Be Honest with Yourself and Others

An important rule to follow as one grows older and becomes more mature is to be honest with yourself and everyone else.  When I was in 6th grade my friends all listened to Bob Marley and The Grateful Dead.  I did too.  However, I had more diverse tastes.  So, when friends came to my house to visit, I would hide my Michael Jackson and Culture Club cassettes under by bed in fear of criticism.   Now, most people continue this unhealthy pattern well into adulthood.  People consistently hide their guilty pleasures in fear of being mocked or thought less of.  I think the opposite way.  I respect those folks more who are so emphatic about the virtues and love of a particular artist, that they shout their loyalty from roof tops despite the fallout.  I cover hundreds of shows every year – mostly in the jam scene.  However, I have had no problem sharing my love of Taylor Swift to all that would listen.  Has it caused me hassle, ridicule, misunderstanding and maybe even affection from shallow girls?  Of course. I wouldn’t want to be friends with anyone who would judge me for something so personal and important to me – without knowing anything about why I feel so strongly about it.  My feeling is they are stuck in a time warp, a cocoon and missing out on the lyrical genius of our time.  You won’t find me hiding any Taylor Swift CD’s under my bed today.   I’ve had the good fortune to review the most popular entertainer in the world so I don’t think that I’m the one who is short-sighted.  I learned about a whole new genre of music.

5. Save Money and Plan in Advance

It appears that the majority of the populace today are procrastinators.  One leads a busy life which includes the juggling of many responsibilities in a fast-paced bustling world.  However, a true music fan – one that sets music as a priority – will PLAN AHEAD in terms of concert and festival preparation.  When booking a festival, the savings are exponentially more when tickets are purchased during the early bird advance sales.  By purchasing tickets early one can use all the extra saved funds to save up for another festival!  When you know Phish is going to be playing Atlantic City over Halloween – why would you possibly want to scurry with panic and trepidation that rooms are all sold-out during the final week?  One should procure accommodations months in advance – one can always cancel if necessary later!  I plot out all concerts I want to see on an Excel Spreadsheet 3 months in advance and mark them on my master wall calendar.  You may not see as many shows as me, but by planning in advance for any show, one can alleviate the last minute stress of planning for a ride, who you are going with, who the extra tickets go to, how do you get tickets etc. etc.  When one is an amateur and waits until the last minute, one clogs up all of our Facebook feed with your frantic last minute, “who can give me a ride?”  “who has an extra ticket?”  I think those who wait should be the last to get any slack because a true fan would be prepared to see music at all times – not solely on a whim

6.      Keep Your Word

Like in all aspects of society, saying what you mean and meaning what you say are important parts of the music community.  It would appear that many of the young fans today did not get the memo that to be respected in the music community one must behave like an adult – this means treating others with respect.  If you are a girl and a man is nice enough to choose you to extend an invitation to a show with his hard earned money and tries to responsibly plan in advance the appropriate answer is not, “I think I might be down.”  That is a flaky non-response.  If you do say yes, you show up on time and without a friend and maybe even offer to buy a drink as a means of showing gratitude.  You don’t decide to not to attend for whatever reason at the last minute and simply don’t show up at all or cancel after giving your word and thus leaving your kind friend scrambling to find someone else so he won’t have to attend alone or eat a ticket!  If one accepts a ticket from a friend, they must spend the majority of the show with said friend.  A free ticket does not entitle someone to then run off and be a user – no matter who they are or what they look like!  One should always contact the one who invited them and thank them the following day.  The love of music is universal and sees no age or numbers, but clearly the last generation lacks the social graces and protocol of how to behave towards their fellow music lovers including garnering the respect and dignity that is deserved.  Treat others how you’d like to be treated.

 7.       Go to concerts alone

As the success of Facebook can attest, we are a society that loves to share.  It is addictive.  Thus, it only makes sense that one would want to invite a friend or be among a cohort of buddies to share libations and revelry at a concert.  However, I advocate that going alone makes one a much more learned and participatory music aficionado..  I go to half of the shows I attend by myself.  Now, if you have a significant other joining with you that is one thing.  However, one can do so many more things alone than with a companion.  You are on your own schedule obviously – with no need to be controlled or hassled or pestered by another’s needs.  You can arrive and leave when you want, eat or drink or go to the bathroom when required and most importantly, no talking or interruptions during the proceedings!  One will also make new friends who are also there for the music rather than attending for the socialization or drunken debauchery.  I have made so many new friends when attending a show alone – one simply must discard the lifelong need to have a planned outing with others.  The most serious relationship I ever had was when I met a girl who was also alone at a festival – the commonality in the love of music is a exquisite initial bond and to discover someone who is comfortable enough to be alone is a strong sign of independence too – a strong foundation for future friendship.

I have only shared my advice above because it has worked for me and allowed me appreciate music at a higher level.  Do whatever works best for you, of course.  However,  don’t knock something before you try it. 

‘People haven’t always been there for me, but music always has” – Taylor Swift

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5 Responses

  1. Leave your cell phone in the car.

    The “going it alone” is great advice. I catch more than 40 shows a year and go to more than half of those alone. I don’t want to be responsible for anyone’s enjoyment of the show except my own.

  2. If a singer has a naturally beautiful sounding voice then this means they have a nice tone. This is one of the nicest ways to compliment a singer because it is often something that can’t be trained as easily as something like technique or performance.

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