6 Steps To Happiness (Or, How To Deal With The Music You Hate)
“THIS SONG MAKES ME WANT TO KILL MYSELF!”
You know that feeling. Perhaps it arrived the first time you heard Rebecca Black, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, or Hot Problems by Double Take. Whenever it came to you, you can remember exactly what it was like. First, you probably felt amused. Then irritated. Then angry. Then homicidal. Maybe all of the above simultaneously. And you almost certainly felt the overwhelming desire to cut off your ears and stick your head in some unset cement.
Regardless of the exact symptoms, you definitely know that you’re not alone in suffering this way. The number of YouTube comments, Facebook status updates, mainstream news pieces and online blog posts about the above musical phenomena (and many more besides) is staggering. Consider the following Google search figures:
‘Double Take Hot Problems’: 93.8 million hits
‘Rebecca Black’: 153 million hits
‘Justin Bieber’: 688 million hits
‘Miley Cyrus’: 776 million hits
Each of these statistics serves to reinforce that ancient marketing mantra: There’s no such thing as bad publicity. All that hatred directed daily toward these four acts alone has served a single purpose.
It keeps their brands alive.
Every ‘celeb’ blog post slagging off Miley Cyrus for kissing a girl or treating Justin Bieber’s potential retirement from music as if it were as significant as the arrival of world peace or a cure for cancer has, ultimately, done absolutely nothing to push either star out of the spotlight. Instead, such actions just perpetuate the same situation – one in which that band / artist you hate so passionately will keep soaking up the world’s attention and continuing to annoy you.
However, there are alternatives to the tried-and-tested-and-proven-to-fail approach. My 2014 New Year’s resolution is to follow these five steps each time I come across something irritating on the Internet, and I invite you to try them out too:
1) Close the damn browser tab.
If you live to be 75, your life will last for 39,420,000 minutes. When you get to the end, and think about how you spent your time, will that crappy four-minute YouTube video look like such a great use of your most precious resource? Even if you had £39.4m, would you spend £4 – or any amount of money – to do something you hate?
2) Resist the urge to promote whatever-it-is.
At this point, remember the Streisand Effect. According to Wikipedia:
“The Streisand Effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.”
If you share anything you’re opposed to online, you’re helping to draw more attention to it. This is fine if you’re sharing an article about discrimination, social injustice and so forth – but viral publicity is every marketing executive’s dream come true, and sharing that Nicki Minaj video alongside a quick fragment of text about how much you hate her will only serve to work against you in the end.
Oscar Wilde said it best in The Picture of Dorian Grey:
“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
The digital world is an attention economy. On YouTube, a video with no views is worthless. Therefore, by choosing to ignore that awful song and not drawing attention to it, you’re increasing the likelihood that it will just go away. Even if it doesn’t, you can still…
3) Listen to / watch something you enjoy instead.
Thanks to the world of digital media, we all have access to more incredible music than ever before. Whatever you’re into, you can find it out there. Discovering awesome music is a great way to renew your faith in humanity.
4) Promote the music you like, not the crap you hate.
If you replaced every hate-related post/status/tweet/etc on the Internet with a link to something the original poster actually liked, what would that look like? Let’s be honest – we’ll probably never know. But a great way to make the world a happier and more interesting place is to spread the word about whatever makes you happy. If you only feel happy when you’re hurting other people, seek professional help.
5) Don’t be an elitist asshole about the music you like.
Since I run a website dedicated to supporting musicians who exist in ‘the underground’, this might sound insane – but if you actually like Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus (or Rebecca Black, Nicki Minaj, or Double Take for that matter) I couldn’t care less. I’m not in their target market – as I write this, this is what I’m listening to – but if you find value in it, great. Hopefully I won’t be shot in the street for this, but Wrecking Ball is, to my ears, a pretty decent song. I don’t like it enough to want a permanent copy – RCA are welcome to the tiny fraction of a penny they’ll get for my handful of Spotify plays – but if you ask me, it’s not as bad as it’s often made out to be.
When it comes to ‘X band / genre is better than X’ arguments, I often think of Bill Hicks talking about non-smokers:
“Listen to this: how many non-smokers do we have here tonight? [loud applause] Bunch of whinin’ maggots. [lights cigarette] Bunch of obnoxious, self-righteous slugs. I’d quit smoking if I didn’t think I’d become one of you.”
Remember that last sentence and make it your laptop’s wallpaper, pin it to your home office corkboard and hang it in a frame opposite your toilet if you ever want that little-known band you love to have a real future. It’s a sad fact about subcultures of all kinds that they often become home to fanatically elitist, pedantic, condescending, obnoxious and self-righteous people. As a result, initially interested newcomers are quickly put off and the scene becomes stagnant, wilts, and dies. An old friend of mine used to love jazz, until he actually met some jazz musicians who were so rude that the next time I saw him, his Miles Davis and Charlie Parker albums had been consigned to the bin – and to this day he still avoids the music he used to love. A common response to this situation might be to say ‘Oh yeah, but that just means he wasn’t a true fan, so good riddance.’ But what actually happened there? A scene that’s had to hang on by its fingertips for the past several decades lost a supporter. How is that a good thing?
6) Remember the previous five steps!
Fortunately, there are a great many individuals in subcultures everywhere who already have the above guidelines ingrained into their DNA. If you’re one of them, or someone willing to give these five simple steps a shot, you can help confirm the following theory:
By minimising the attention given to their competition and using all that spare energy and attention to give them the helping hand they need to survive in a turbulent and uncertain industry, we can all push our favourite musicians up to a point where they can make a sustainable living from doing what they love.
Is this theory right or wrong? To find out, share this post using the buttons below.
And please don’t shoot me for enjoying a Miley Cyrus single.
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