The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

This post isn’t designed to be positive or negative to any real degree. Like most of my posts it is merely here to highlight things I notice and opinions that I have. This particular subject matter though, is all too common these days, yet I don’t recall reading many opinions on it. This post may even be in danger of looking like an attack. It is not so… It is food for thought… as all the best blogs are. So what exactly is this mysterious subject matter of which I speak? It is the (apparently) *helpful* music fan.

Being a gentleman of 35 I have existed on various music scenes in various guises for the past 25 years. My first gig was when I was 9 years old, at the Tap & Spile in Pontefract. I was extremely nervous. My dad got me up to play some guitar (the biggest guitar you ever did see!) and to play some cheeky harmonica. I got through the gig (of course I did! My dad was there!) and I felt like a million bucks when he took me to one side afterwards, and said “Well done… that’s ma boy”. I looked up to him, and thanked him, not for looking after me, but for letting me have the chance to play. I learned right then, that to help someone musically is to support them and give them opportunities for them to go on and do with what they will.

I grew up. I went and turned into a music teacher and got all helpy. I went and teamed up with Antonio Lulic and ran a wonderful Open-Mic night at O’Donoghues in Wakefield for a couple of years. A few years later I started the Open-Mic Monday night at The Hop in Wakefield, and as of next Monday the 21st Jan, it is 4 years old. I have endeavoured, in my fashion, to support and give opportunities to those who are willing to take them, and if I have passed on any experience whatsoever, then a minor success on my part has been achieved.

I speak of my labours to highlight how I believe helping and supporting people should be done, by living it, not shouting about it very often and hoping that it rubs off somehow and that someone somewhere notices enough to believe that they can themselves start open-mic nights and begin supporting people in a similar fashion for everyone’s mutual gain.

So when does it go wrong? It all sounds very cosy and nice… and it is. Yet I notice a different breed of helper, one that should be taken with a sprinkle of salt and a dash of caution. I speak, of the middle-aged music fanatic, who has *chosen* the artist that they are going to support, and that is that. Do you know of someone similar to whom I speak? The common characteristics are these;

Offers lifts to ridiculously far away gigs…

Uploads videos of every single performance of the artist nearly every day…

Goes to *every* gig and monopolises the artists time believing that they have some *right* to speak to the artist, as they’ve been *so* helpful.

Volunteers to do *the sound* but only turns the vocal up because “her voice is sooo beautiful”…

Tells the audience to SHUSH.

Strategically shows up to gigs and manages to only support the artist they *love* because they spend the rest of everybody else’s set either A) talking to someone at the front of the audience about how well they know the artist, or B) wanders around handing out bootleg CD’s of local artists that they have *something to do with* whilst blatantly costing the artist a £ CD sale…

Gets gigs for the artist and sets up events pages on the artists behalf, even though the artist didn’t ask them to, but can’t really say anything about because superfan is now so deep in the network of things that falling out now will cause 80% grief and 20% relief…

The fan decides that he (it is normally a he) doesn’t like the new band line-up and declares that you’re going in the wrong direction musically and expects their musical opinion to have weight because of all the things they’ve done *especially* for you…

Hangs about talking to people at the end of the gig knowing full well, as does everyone else, that all his conversations are meaningless distractions until he gets that hit of *talking to the star* and having everyone see him being on good terms with said *talent*…

You know someone like this don’t you? Normally they come and go, waning into the distance when everyone finally gets fed up of them… (they normally have an amount of people who aren’t on *speaking* terms at the gigs they go to as it is). But when it gets dangerous and silly and stupid, is when the artist actually makes it. Their artist! The artist who wouldn’t have made it without that PA “superfan” borrowed for you at that gig 5 years ago in Preston…

Said superfan goes uberfan. Uploading every single video they were granted access to and blasting twitter with nothing but posts of #artist. Well I think it’s a shame. Because these superfans ARE nice people. They do nice things for all the right reasons but… I have to say… what about everybody else?? What is the point in helping your artist if they have already made it??!? Surely there comes an obvious point where you have to notice, that if you spent all the effort that you do on your chosen artist on someone who hasn’t made it yet, that maybe that would actually do some good???! Maybe it might add some light relief to your tweets to actually read a tweet about a different, *unknown* artist that you also support?! Or about something else, god forbid, NOT music related??!! Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not suggesting for a minute that you give up your true love… by all means be involved… but surely as the artist’s career develops your relationship with them and how you conduct yourself has to mature and grow with them… It’s perfectly clear that these people are unaware on some level of what their actions might mean long term, or that their demeanour might make you feel uncomfortable at all. The worrying thing though, is that these few specialists suffer from a lack of control and they get giddy, and occassionally in their fight to maintain appearances they can begin to tell little white lies.

“Oh yes I’m a sound man… I have my own PA you can use as long as I can do the sound for you…”

“Hi Audioworld?.. do you have a PA I can rent?”

I don’t know. Maybe the limelight and the chance to be “the one” who the artist couldn’t have made it without is just too much of a burden to bear for these very unique people. Very lovely people. People who love music and are passionate about music but are too often blinded by *the hit* that they can’t actually let go of the artist enough for things to remain comfortable. Undesirably they change tracks onto the same line the artist is on… and fundamentally, trains on the same track crash at some point down the line.

I just believe that there is a different way to actually help and support someone… but even more importantly, I believe you *have* to remember that A) the person you have *decided* to help so much is going to make it whether you decided to help or not and that this is a good thing, and B) that it is utterly wrong and manipulative to offer help in lifts and favours only to expect to be paid back in loyalty and in opinion taking, despite saying frequently that there are no strings attached when the help is first offered.

This is what frustrates me the most. The art of favours that secretly buy favours. If I get you this gig and lend you this PA and get you this Cellist, then in 2 years’ time when I give you an opinion that your music is changing for the worse or that I don’t agree with your chosen bassist that I expect to be listened and adhered to.

You see this is a difficult subject matter, because many would argue (some who fall into this very category included) that these people are essential to the music world and to live gigging. My opinion is that they are not. When something is absent a different thing moves into its place to compensate. I think the music world would be just fine if these people left or remained doing what they do to be perfectly honest. A blog from someone like me is certainly not going to stop anyone in their tracks and make them think about how they conduct themselves. I wouldn’t want it to. These people are sent to entertain us and the world is a better place with them. I just wish they would think about their actions sometimes and how they effect the artists they claim to love. One thing is for sure. They struggle to genuinely put the artist as a person in front of their own passion for the music 100% of the time, and *that* is something they SHOULD DO.

So my advice is this. Listen to the guy who teaches you how to play the chords and be dubious of the guy who says he’ll play them for you. Especially if your male friends often blush around you and sometimes don’t finish their senten.


So yes, I’ve had a little rant there. Is my rant about anyone in particular? Yes. It’s about a few people. If these people had faded away and were not causing unrest anymore then I’m not sure this would have made it to blog. It’s not something I particularly lose sleep over. It’s just an observation and as it stands, I think people need to be made aware. These people are a little dangerous because they are so nice, (their intentions are utterly genuine, and they sometimes can’t see how they are being) and they offer the world and they groom #artists ego. But just beware of non-musician music nuts… They can often get themselves in a bit of a cluster.