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COLUMN: Gatekeeping unnecessarily shames people for enjoying music



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It seems like almost every time a song by an up-and-coming artist becomes popular, there are some fans that get defensive of the artist. They want their favorite musician to be “underground” or don’t want new listeners to call themselves fans when they only know a few songs.

Gatekeeping happens when hardcore fans shame others who enjoy the same content but are not as knowledgable about the artist or haven’t enjoyed their music as long. You may have seen this attitude play out in the comments section of an artist’s music video on YouTube. Longtime listeners boast about being fans of the artist before their new song became popular. 

While this may seem harmless, it has undertones of shaming other listeners who may not be as familiar with someone’s music.

I often discover new music and artists through my Spotify daily mix playlists, which mixes songs I know and love with tunes I have never heard before. Even though I may not have a deep knowledge of everything the singer has ever released, when more of their content gets shuffled into my personal playlists, I begin to consider myself a fan. I may not like everything they’ve made, but I am contributing to streams that will help the artist grow.

Another way musicians get discovered is when their song goes viral on a social media app, such as TikTok. The song “Heather” by Conan Gray recently started a trend on this app, but his longtime fans were disappointed by everyone’s sudden appreciation for him. In response, Gray called his fans “elitist assholes” on Twitter for bullying new listeners.

There is no need to label people depending on how knowledgeable they are on a music genre or artist. Shaming people because their favorite track is the one that was played all over the radio does not prove any point – except how pretentious supporters can be.

Sometimes, artists write total bangers that are well-liked and widely shared. It was a sample of the artist's work that drew people in. Obviously it became popular for a reason, so there’s no point in making fun of people for enjoying it more than other songs.

Being a longtime fan does not make you a better person than someone who is new to something. Not everyone can discover the same music at the same time. Different genres and styles are enjoyed by different people, with crossover in between. It’s impossible to label people depending on their preferences.

Instead of hoarding all your love and knowledge about an artist, share their greatness with the world. Why would anyone not want their favorite musician to be successful? 

Exposure can turn a practically unknown artist into a recognizable figure quickly. Those who consider themselves true supporters should rejoice when those they care about are rewarded for their talent and hard work. 

More streams and purchases means more money for the creator, allowing them to turn this recognition into a profitable career. This increases the likelihood that a beloved artist will continue producing more music. 

It’s a win-win situation for everyone, as long as selfish fans do not cause drama in the process. 

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