QUESTION OF THE WEEK: HAVE SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES ALTERED THE METAL SCENE FOR THE WORSE?
Welcome to “Question of the Week,” a (sometimes) weekly debate amongst the MetalSucks staff regarding a recent hot button issue.
Inspired this week by Vince’s response to Earache head honcho Digby Pearson’s assertion that the effects that social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook have been detrimental to metal, we decided to ask the rest of our writers:
HAVE SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES ALTERED THE METAL SCENE FOR THE WORSE?
The MS staff’s answers after the jump.
I have a lot of respect for Digby and everything he’s accomplished over the years, so I’m going to say this with my usual tact: this is the argument of a cranky old man. It hasn’t been my experience that the scene is more fractured, so, as Vince suggested, I’m guessing that’s a deathcore/scene-only phenomenon. Now it’s like everyone has their own private listening booth, available to him or her 24/7, which means exposure to more music, being able to find exactly the kind of stuff you dig, etc., which can only be a good thing. And the fact that kids don’t need record labels to get their music heard anymore is GREAT (and I suspect may be at the root of Pearson’s distress). This isn’t unique to the music biz — now more than ever before, artists who work in all mediums don’t need anyone’s permission to get out there and do their thing. How can anyone ever be upset about MORE ART? It’s not like the labels were running around signing exclusively wonderful bands. Kids can just decide that much faster now if they like something or not, and don’t need MTV to shove it down their throats.
The crux of Digby’s argument seems to be his statement of “Myspace/Facebook/YouTube have given instant power and information to anyones fingertips. Between them, they have actually changed the way millions of people go about their daily lives, and their cultural impact on the entire music scene is only just unfolding.” Except I think that sentiment is overwhelmingly positive. Though old-timers obviously revered tape trading — a great way to communicate with people across the globe by being exposed to and exposing others to new metal — the social networking universe that’s replaced it has been just as beneficial to metal on the whole, if not more beneficial than tape trading ever was. It’s democratized metal: suddenly you don’t necessarily have to know X, Y, or Z dude or live in X, Y, or Z city in order to be into X, Y, or Z band. Obviously, it’s made kids more cliquey in terms of microgenres and scenes, but… well, here’s the thing about kids: they’re shitty. That’s internet-wide and worldwide, and it’s never not been like that. Perhaps it has enabled some up-and-comers to be more passive about their fanhood, but if someone’s compelled to be that passive (i.e. just clicking a “like” button) about their devotion to a band, who’s to say they ever would have been that much more active to begin with? I find it a little ridiculous to think floppy-haired/flat-brimmed cap amateur-ninja scene kids would have gone on to be open-minded, respectable gents if MySpace, Facebook and YouTube hadn’t mucked up the works. If anything, it’s cutting to the chase. But I think the idea that the chase to which they’re cutting is detrimental to the metal scene on the whole is pretty hyperbolic. If shitty scene kids and fairweather fans didn’t exist, sadly, we’d have to invent them. Yes, things are different now because of social networking, but like Vince, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
I sure hope so.
It’s certainly made bands more accessible, which I think is pretty good, but it does get rid of the whole “mystery” behind them. It used to be that the only time you could find out about music was through shows and certain publications and actually meeting up with people, and for some, that made the music that much more meaningful. But it can’t be bad for the groups themselves to have easier ways of getting themselves heard. The downside is that every person and their mother has a MySpace page and a band and it’s pretty hard to avoid them… if you’re actively seeking them out. If you really don’t want to hear or see any of them, well, that’s as easy as clicking a button, too. I don’t see how a networking site can affect the music itself unless you’re listening to bands singing about Facebook, and if that’s the case then it might be time to find new music. Which the internet will help you with! Whatever, I like not sweating blood and tears to get my music, and finding like-minded people. The glorious part? The internet can be as anonymous as you want it to be, so if you don’t like it, fucking “disappear.” Or keep writing about it until someone reads it and validates your opinion.
There’s no question that social networking sites have altered the metal scene. It’s easier for fans to feel more closely connected to bands that have active web presences, and that connection — as marketing-driven as it may be — has become what drives a long-term love of a band, just as much as the music. But I wouldn’t say the changes are for the worse, and I also don’t think it’s different than how social networking has affected anything else.
The increasing ease of quality DIY recordings, combined with the rise of the Internet as a discovery tool, means that there’s more music out now than ever before. SInce there are but 24 hours in a day, and there’s only so much attention that anyone can pay to anything, someone who wanted to be a fan of EVERYTHING will perhaps have a shallower relationship with any one band as a result. But a kid who’s looking to find a couple new heroes is gonna have a much easier time of it, since social networking sites can work as a filter, weeding out the bands that nobody cares about or that don’t care to build a relationship with their fans.
In response to Digby’s point about kids leaving shows after their favorite band leaves the stage: so what? Perhaps they listened to the other bands on the ‘net and realized that they didn’t like them. Is it a fan’s responsibility to support music that he doesn’t care about? On a similar note, a kid that hits “like” on a Facebook page and doesn’t support the band in any other way isn’t necessarily a bad fan — he’s just a fan that hasn’t built a strong enough bond with the band to spend what little money he has on an album, merch, or a live show. That’s okay. Those kinds of fans have always existed, and at least now bands are able to easily communicate directly with those kinds of fans to try and convert them to full-fledged fanhood. As it becomes easier to get your music out there, it becomes more difficult to get your music found among the clutter. That’s not the potential fan’s problem, though. It’s the band’s. Savvy bands and label heads should avoid grumbling about how social media is ruining everything, and realize the power that’s at their fingertips.
Okay, kiddies, now it’s your turn! Weigh in with your answer to the question of the week below.