Creatures of habit. We are so much more than that when it comes to listening to music. In fact, our ‘listening habits’ are shaped and formed by more than just our own tastes. They are also influenced by elements such as peer pressure, nurtured biases, parental influences and our own individual ignorance and lack of understanding & exposure.
These are the natural instinctive biases, we as music lovers face when listening to a song for the first time or introduced to a new artist and/or style of music. For now, I would just like to expand on those previous thoughts, in particular, for the benefit of our newer students.
What I endeavor to do, is introduce everyone to a few choice pieces of advice to keep in the backs of their heads when they listen to music, especially something they might never heard previously.
‘I HATE Punk Rock – wait, is the Clash considered Punk?’
One of just a few of the confounding comments I have heard from students in my class over the years. These types of comments are neither, opinions or fact. Truth is, these types of comments are just simple declarations of ignorance. Often, I hear the students’ comment concluded by something like, ‘…well, that’s just my opinion’. Keep in mind, there are two types of opinions – personal AND professional – both of which can be either informed/educated opinions or uninformed/uneducated opinions.
‘I can’t stand that type of music!’….
Ones’ own personal opinions will always factor in our heads, but to be a respected member of the recording business or a respected musician, one has to have an incredibly open mind to music of all kinds. This is not easy if you already have pre-conditioned biases when coming into the business.
‘Gawd I hate that s*%t!’….
I have heard this many times. It is difficult to hear and accept, so, here are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind…
‘Use Your A&R Ears’ – The first fact I try to remind students of, is that, quite simply put…their personal opinions are no longer tantamount to listening or decision making. One should now be listening to music from a ‘professional’ perspective.
‘Ready For The Challenge?’ – Secondly, I ask students to challenge themselves and their opinions. If they find they do not ‘like’ a song or artist, ask themselves ‘why’ and if there is something they are not taking into consideration when assuming their dislikes.
‘Get Inside Their Head’ – Lastly, I would suggest a more humanistic approach. Try to imagine or reason as to why the other person likes that style of music or particular song/artist.
Ever since I was in my late teens, I have tried to follow these guidelines in helping me expand my own tastes.
Also, after being in the business for 30+ years, I have noticed there are different levels of music fans.
a) There are those who treat music like background wallpaper.
b) There are those who listen to music enthusiastically when it is on, but never one to pursue it, investigate it or buy it.
c) Then there are those who like a lot of music, but still their personal biases and opinions factor in a little too much.
d) Then, finally, there are those whose own personal tastes are so diverse they seem to have a universal consciousness and connect so well with like-minded fans, musicians, managers and others in the business. I like to consider myself, now, one of the latter.
I realize, that at the end of any day, not every person can be this diverse with his or her listening tastes and habits. It takes time and dedication to ones own love of music. Nor, is everyone willing to psychoanalyze or challenge him or herself, because, that is too daunting a task for most. All I can expect and respect is that, music fans educate themselves first, then, cast the stone if required. And, to hope for anything, would be that just one student in class leaves with a much more open mind about music.