One day everyone is trying to find a place to put all those costume New Year’s glasses and the next, the web is flooded with another landslide of countdown, top, and best lists for the end of the year. Time really does fly by and, as not long ago as it felt to write a 2017 list of 10 under noticed songs, another 365 is already about to pass. One thing is for sure: 2017 has led to lots of drastic changes in the world – environmentally, socially, politically, emotionally, creatively, and more. That’s a result on which everyone is bound to agree. Knowing this is the case, one theme that everybody can perhaps go into 2018 keeping better in mind, is the idea of listening. Hearing something or someone is one thing but listening, genuinely and patiently, is something entirely different that tends to get overlooked in a flurry of urges to always be on the move.
Whether it’s music, or social causes, or just better connecting with family and friends, listening is crucial in nearly every part of human living. Doing so better can make a huge difference for big issues and topics but for the ubiquitous and common notion of liking a band or artist, can we be better listeners? This goes beyond just meaning playing a track on Spotify more often or streaming a YouTube video twice as much. Trends can influence the public but the public can also influence trends. In the case of those who fancy many a band and many a song, maybe consider starting with better listening as a fan through some of these actions and then maybe carry these ideas over to other parts of your everyday life.
When you go to a concert, come and stay attentive for every artist
Why people pay money to see a band or artist and then deliberately show up late to skip an opening band or leave early if the opening band is the “only one your care about,” baffles me. Money that went to your ticket is already spent so why not make the most of it and get everything for which you paid? Furthermore, if you do show up in time for every band, it’s all fine and well to chat with friends and get drinks by the bar as your settle in but consider maybe not using those first or last acts as just background stimulation for your conversations. You never know what you could be missing if you’re not giving any attention to the people out to entertain you on the stage. The world is all about music discovery but when extra bands are concerned, sometimes people seem all too eager to let perfectly good opportunities for organic introduction pass them by. And if a show is free this point is even more crucial.
If your habit is to just use one medium for getting your music, consider branching out
There is so much choice out there for people when it comes to deciding from where to get access to music. No one should tell who or where you have to get your music from but if you have a specific favorite influencer or a specific handful of algorithm curated lists from where you check in for new tunes, maybe check out something new in 2018. Never been on Bandcamp? Type a random word in the search bar and see what comes up. (Seriously, I did this and that’s how I found out about GoGo Penguin this year – one of my new favorite bands.) Always defaulting to the same combination of genres for recommendations from Spotify? Take a chance, shuffle it up and listen to at least one full playlist of things that you might not be expecting. Have that one friend who is always recommending bands to you and you say you’ll “go check them out” and never get around to it? Devote an afternoon to looking up a bunch of those suggestions and make a playlist. Then you’ll have lots to discuss with your friend and they’ll be more likely to check out your suggestions too.
If an artist has something to say that you don’t agree with (within civil and respectful reason) consider remembering that musicians are people too – not simply the larger-than-life caricatures people sometimes make them out to be.
Musicians might have chosen to make “making music their job” but who says that person only ever has to talk about or express feelings about their job? Do you only ever talk about your job? At work, at home, at parties, with your significant other, with your kids, when hanging with friends, is your job the only topic of conversation you’re allowed to breach? Then why is it different for musicians? True, some of them are heavily in the public eye but again, regardless of public stature, artists are people too. They have families, they have friends, they experience joy, love, loss, sickness, pain, divorce, death, anger, frustration, worry, excitement, and hope. Every facet of the human emotional spectrum is in musicians too so when they talk about something other than music, that comes from an emotional place, let’s try to remember that part of the reason we enjoy music so much is because it makes us feel things. So clearly, the people who write those songs we love, (or love to hate), feel lots of things too.
If you haven’t in a long time, consider reading the liner notes included with your next music purchase.
It’s easy to forget that the release of an album by Band X actually involves a slew of people from across many skill sets. One album is a multi-person effort and perhaps a little more awareness of the grand design of how the music industry moves and works will introduce a little more day to day appreciation of just how much music the public gets access to and is given by artists, every single day of the year.
The next time you and your friends are listening to music, make it “strictly listening”
Vinyl might be making a comeback in retail numbers but are the associated practices that come with collecting vinyl coming along with it? Not necessarily. Vinyl takes space, time, and care that digital downloads and web-based streams do not. We can flick through thousands of songs in a matter of minutes and change genre vector on a dime without a second thought. We can also interrupt a great concept album because we want to text someone or have to pump gas and turn off the car, or because the oven just beeped that dinner is ready. Well even thought music can be part of every moment in our lives, what if it was the only thing in a particular moment of our lives? Listening to records with friends used to mean bringing over vinyls with a player, plugging it in, turning it on, and sitting around the player while the record turned. There were no multi-platform distractions and the only topic was the music playing right in front of people.
This kind of designated listening experience in coming back in pockets (like through public events hosted by collectives like Classic Album Sundays) but undivided attention is hardly the default mode of the modern music fan. Maybe make it an event for yourself and some friends in the new year. There are book clubs for readers to discuss single reads. How about record clubs for people to come together, listen to, and discuss just one record at a time? It sounds drastically different but it might just be the refreshing reflection the world needs.