Music Fans Verses Pop Culture Fans

I know that everyone has had a say about Rebecca Black in the past week or two (I am not even going to link to the video here) but I thought it timely to remember that Rebecca Black doesn’t really have anything to do with music or the music industry.

A lot has been written about Black’s ‘Friday’ video, (for the record I reckon I have seen and heard much worse – try 95% of the demo’s that come across my desk!) Much of what has been written looks at Black as if we are seeing something new in terms of the music industry.  We have always had Rebecca Blacks’ (remember the Crazy Frog?) and they will always get noticed somehow – but it is nothing to do with music.

It is a popular culture fad.  She will come and go fast enough unless she does something outrageous or exhibits a hidden talent that is not apparent on ‘Friday’.  It’s no big deal.  There is no difference between Black and the ‘Dancing Baby’ YouTube video, or ‘Charley bit my finger’ or countless others.  (YouTube them if you don’t know what I mean.) They are just unusual moments that get traction for some unknown reason, they become the must-see moment of the week.  Big deal.  Nothing to do with music at all.

There are a lot of commentators who get stuck on this point.  I think that there are really two types of fans out there.  Music fans and Popular culture fans.  The music fans are serious about music; they listen to it, buy it and connect with music because they have to.  The music is what they are all about and they can’t live without it.  It is important to them.

The 2nd type of fan is the popular culture fan.  These people connect with music because music provides important touchstone moments in their lives…but they could live without it.  They might buy music from time to time, but they are more likely to buy music that is hot at the time, they won’t seek out an artists back catalogue or snap up everything that artist has touched.

I am not trying to belittle the pop cultures fans music experience, it might be important to them, but nothing like it is for a music fan.

The problem for the music industry is that the pop culture fans heavily outnumber the music fans.  Horribly so.  The Music fan is also more likely to be a collector.  Their CD collection means something to them.  The CD and its artwork are important, something to have and cherish.  Pop culture fans are more likely to find the illegal download because it is about experiencing that touchstone moment, not collecting.

For years now I have seen groups of students express this frustration with music not being as important to the rest of the world as it is to them.  They take a superior view that suggests that the pop culture fan is below the music fan and that it is some sort of right that ‘serious’ music (whatever that is) be taken seriously.  This gives them a license to dismiss anything that they see as not ‘serious’ music, stuff like Blank’s Friday video is reviewed and viewed as if it is competing for a place in their converted and carefully curated CD collections.  Of course, in reality, it’s not.  It’s just a touchstone moment in 2011 culture that will be fondly remembered by a handful and completely forgotten by everyone else.

So let’s not worry about Rebecca Black – it’s as relevant to music as the yoyo craze that sweeps through school every few years.  Nothing to it.

Banner Photo Credit

Malcolm Lightbody