Are my musical choices determined by other people, and if so, how much do I really care about this?

In Music, Other on November 16, 2010 at 12:39 am

1.This train of thought was first piqued by a visit to AuthorStand. It’s a great self-publishing site founded by my good friend Joe, and I wanted to check out his wares and jump on the e-reading bandwagon. And it’s for free.

I selected one of the top titles: “Good Morning, Magpie.” The first line of the PDF under the title and byline reads: “Inspired by the song, ‘Good Morning, Magpie,’ by Murder by Death.”

My first reaction was “Ugh, this is going to be an emo book based on a metal song.”

Turns out it’s a ballad by an alt-country band out of Indiana. And the tone of the book reflects the tone of the song in a really touching way.

But of course I judged a book by the song it was inspired by. Harshly. And it made me think, how often do I use the narrowest of filters when judging?

And does it matter? In this case, not really. I didn’t love the book. But it was better than I thought it was going to be. And my lukewarm feelings are due largely in part to format and genre. Though I still think I was right about the author being a gamer in a big way.

2. Then Grooveshark got me.

Normally, I laugh in the face of their advertising. Country music? Ha. Victoria’s Secret? I am not a 13-year-old boy no matter how much I dress like one when the weather gets cold.

But Saturday, they had something for me. Black-and-white retro photo featuring 20-something men with Ray Ban-esque shades and dark, slightly dirty hair. It was a band called The Temper Trap. Alliteration? Yes, please.

The makers of this ad probably knew exactly what I was wearing the moment I saw the photo. They probably know what other kind of music I listen to, what I watch and what I read. They could even guess my major and favorite color.

As I went to type “Yeasayer” into the search bar, I paused. Is it really that easy to sell me something?

Returning to the main page, I clicked the ad and proceeded to sample the band, which I had been sure was from Brooklyn (Melbourne, Australia, actually).

The first song I knew I had heard before. A little wikisearch told me it was the soundtrack to 500 Days of Summer.

Oh boy, I had rediscovered something I already liked. I had already been sold!(?) I was going to tweet the world.

But I waited.

After listening to about ten more songs, I was a little bored. Maybe they’ll be right at another time, just not now.

Would I still tell people about this band? Probably the single I liked.

Will I tell people about Murder by Death? Nope.

3. Then I thought about whether or not I cared where I found out about the music I listened to. I don’t think so. I’m pretty happy about it because I was a pretty incompetent musical explorer for most of my life.

My earliest musical tastes that I can remember leaned heavily in the direction of Eric Clapton and Styx, thanks to dad.

Then it was Boyz II Men, the Spice Girls, Britney Spears and Sarah Mclachlan. Followed by an obsession with Gaelic Storm due to a gift from my aunt who owned the now defunct Fitzpatrick’s Irish America.

In 2004, I started listening to The Cranberries’ 1996 album “To The Faithful Departed” which I borrowed from a friend.

My world turned around in 2006 when I moved in with my best friend. He introduced me to Deerhoof, Headphones, Metric, Sufjan Stevens, Blonde Redhead, Regina Spektor, Mates of State and musical theater (which I immediately rejected but kept the rest).

4. It’s been a long road but a happy one. So while I shouldn’t be shallowly limiting myself to a certain “popular” musical dogma, it doesn’t really matter how or where I find out about it as long as it does the job of scratching that itch.


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