I’ve had to deal with a harsh reality as someone playing music in the 21st century – the fact is that bands are brands. As an independent musician or group today, one must brand themselves – it’s half the battle; however, for myself and my band, this often becomes more of a nuisance than the liberty that most social networks advertise themselves to be. Like it or not, I find myself in charge of our band’s virtual representation through these online networks – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…etc – each of them designed to represent who we (think we) are in the best way possible.
As Lefebvre taught us, spaces are produced through social relations (289); therefore, as I design posts on Facebook for instance to reach the maximum number of people, in order to best market ourselves, I am acquiescing to the rules which govern the particular online space – rules which were developed through socially reinforced hegemonic discourses. When something creative is involved, like music for example, this becomes problematic. Writing music at its best is one of the most unique out of body experiences I’ve experienced. If I could best describe it, its like an explosion of creativity that becomes so all-encompassing that one is forced to live entirely in the present. Playing music live is a similarly visceral experience. It’s insanely difficult to dilute this awesome experience into this online body which is designed to conform to marketing and communicable purposes. This process of confining our senses and emotions into an arbitrary representation of something greater and more real is quite limiting; as Friedrich Nietzsche would describe, in speaking of “trees, colours, snow and flowers, we believe we know something about the things themselves, and yet we only possess metaphors of the things and these metaphors do not in the least correspond to the original essentials” (4). However, as a band, we must prescribe to these so-to-say metaphors, because if not, a 21st century audience would have no interest in our music whatsoever. I wonder if this struggle is in any way similar to a question pondered by Sarah Ahmed; she asks, “what does it mean to be orientated?” (1). By conforming to the socially produced spaces of society, are we in essence, being orientated? When we are asked by others, “what genre of music do you play?” and we struggle to find a best-fitting answer to that question, are we actually struggling to choose an orientation, similarly to the way a transgendered individual might struggle to choose what public restroom they should enter?
In a capitalist society – public space becomes an arena of sorts where each of us become mini-entrepreneurs vying for an audience to buy in. Since this hegemonic discourse is so all-encompassing, there is no way out. Any artist that avoids fitting in risks becoming the other – an alien to the system. As a musician aiming to achieve some sort of financial success, one must conform to these online spaces because they have become the norm. I will always be somewhat uncomfortable when using these spaces for all the above reasons; however, in analyzing our environments and in general, through studying critical communications we can only benefit by understanding the systems of power which are constantly at work in these spaces and by cautiously accepting them with a grain of salt.
P.S. Here’s a link to this crazy interactive online map of sorts which shows “every” genre of music. Shows you how weird it can be to orient your type of music into a few words.
Ahmed, Sara. (2006) “Introduction – Find Your Way” Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, (1-24). Durham: Duke University Press.
Lefebrve, Henri. “The Production of Space.” In Gieseking, Jen J. And William Mangold, (Eds.), The People, Place, and Space Reader. (289-293). London: Routledge.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. “On Truth and Falsity in their Extramoral Sense.” Essays on Metaphor. Ed. Warren Shibles. Whitewater, WI: Language Press, 1972. 1-13.