One of the truly funny, and oftentimes sad aspects of the music industry is how rapidly people become elitists. I see this happen all the time, and it sucks. The music business is a space that is not only stratified (Which makes sense) but also one where people with even the smallest modicum of power are going to gleefully lord it over those who do not have that power. This is prevalent on all levels, from the confident “My band is playing tonight” walk that you have seen countless dudes make at local shows, to the “I’m so cool drinking beer backstage” journalist by way of the “Your band isn’t good enough for my roster” booking agent. Now I want to kind of pick apart some of these ideas because when it comes down to it, in my eyes a lot of the arrogance that comes from the scene is due to a lack of time and too much demand. This is where the music industry gets tricky and shitty and where we need to start thinking about how the macro-economics of this thing works.
Now we’ve talked about this before – the big reason that people don’t want to deal with you is not that they are dicks but that they don’t have the time and they want to get the most bang for their buck. Punk rock is a volunteer position, no one asked most of these people to be here and to do this and you can’t act like they owe you anything. An attitude of entitlement is going to get you anywhere, neither will being hard on yourself because people don’t want to help you out. At the end of the day there are two types of people in the music industry, people who are doing it for shits and giggles and people doing it for money. All of these people probably have passion and a vision, which is great, but you also need to realize that people are trying to get something out of this, and in a world as emotionally charged as music this is going to mean that they are looking to work with projects they are already in love with. This does not excuse certain behavior however.
The behavior I’m talking about is the willful gatekeeping out there. The people who think that they are too big for their britches who forget where they were a year ago. There is no reason a bigger band shouldn’t be willing to say, “Hey man, I get where you are coming from, but here is where we are at” and be polite about it. A band like Baroness is a perfect example of this. They are humble and kind, but they also know where they are at in their careers. Balancing these things out can be tricky to be sure from a gatekeepers perspective, but they need to remember that todays small fry has the potential to be tomorrows big fish. You see it all the time – be it in a manager who landed their first big client or a journalist who got picked up by a big publication. Obviously there are changes in their lives and they need to reflect those, but acting as gatekeepers and like people are not good enough for them is only going to hurt them.
It has always been my view that most of the good people in this business stem from the underground. They are the people who remember what it was like to be a punk – even if they don’t interact with that world anymore. They let that ethos shape them and it leads them to a lot of success. The folks who try to limit who they interact with often have a hard time growing their brand because they are no longer tapped into the new shit, and if you’re not tapped into the new shit you’re basically wasting your time. Sure some people are so established it doesn’t matter – but those people are usually inaccessible to folks at lower levels anyway. I do want to point out that a lot of this thought process applies to bands too – if they stop keeping up with the young groups out there then people are going to stop wanting to come to their shows. They will feel like the band is no longer plugged in. If you lose your seal of authenticity it’s all over.
Be aware that as a member of your scene if you want it to grow then you need to be kind and welcoming. You can’t act like just because someone doesn’t know a classic bang that they are not good enough to take part. We have fewer and fewer people who are interested in this thing with every passing year. You need to try and do your best to bring more people in if you want the gift that is underground music to continue. We have an obligation to think about the long term, to consider how we are going to develop the music we love and the scenes we adore. This is not about your ego, for some folks this is life and death. At times there can be no toher option than to look into the void and realize that you are a part of the problem with your scene. Let people feel comfortable with this thing, we need them to want to contribute. We need to be willing to share the magic, and no magic is shared when you bitch about someone not knowing about My Bloody Valentine.
Long story short – gatekeeping is fucking lame and people who do it are just insecure. The folks who legitimately want to grow the scene are out there educating and being kind. The people who just want to show off how cool they are are frequently actively hurting this scene. So give up on your gatekeeping. Try and be helpful and let other people take part in this beautiful thing we have created. I know it’s rough sometimes and I know other people suck, but if it wasn’t for this we might as well be dead, so let’s try and cut the bullshit and work together on creating the sorts of projects that we can all be passionate about.