This is my response to the article on this site concerning band’s responsibilities towards its fans. I was going to respond with a message but then I decided I would attempt to formulate my ideas into something more developed, hence this article. I want to make it clear that this is not a personal attack. It is, I hope, a valid contribution to the music debate on this site.
One of the views that came through was that because music listeners have partly paid for an artist to live comfortably and allowed him/her to develop themselves that the artist somehow owes the listener something. I disagree with this train of thought. Surely the recording pays for itself? If not, I would ask for my money back not feel snubbed if the artist did not fulfil my expectations.
Apart from anything else, there are many music listeners in the world, all with their own expectations and preconceptions of their idealised musicians so surely it would be impossible to please them all.
Now let’s get things into perspective. It’s an obvious point but a musician is still a human. They have similar kinds of random thoughts and issues to deal with as everybody else and can’t possibly held responsible for every word they say and every act they make despite the fact that it may go down on record which in turn may influence people. Admittedly, some artists more than others seem to be guilty of exploiting this but for the most part, I’d say this holds true. Most of the shock value is in media portrayal rather than the words or deeds themselves. Remember, a musician is just somebody who makes a sound that is (theoretically) pleasing to the ear, not someone who can instruct and advise us on how to live our lives (as if anyone could). If a musician believed otherwise, they would be seriously over-estimating their own importance so we, as listeners, should do the same.
I don’t believe that an artist or anyone else in the public domain can solely influence someone by example. If someone does something then it must be in their nature to do it anyway (or be easily led), the artist merely functioning as a kind of ‘carte blanche’ in the whole scenario at most.
Music, and the arts in general, is an intrinsic part of most people’s lives. However, it should be viewed at a distance too because any one piece of music is produced by one person or a fairly narrow band of people and cannot be seen as wholly representative of a culture/philosophy. The implications of this are that no single song/band/genre is a sure sign that the world is fucked up or whatever message they’re trying to promote. In short, songs like ‘Last Resort’ should be taken with a huge pinch of salt (like most music to a certain extent). Here’s a crazy thought, perhaps Papa Roach were being ironic - the song is a great way to put listeners off self-harm by showing how jaded and tiresome the whole generational-angst thing has become. The likes of Nirvana never felt the need to be so explicit in claiming to be spokesmen for their generation (and notoriously railed against this) and yet are probably still considered the ultimate soundtrack to the Generation-X years.
On a different tack, the notion that bands should gear their live shows totally towards the fans is another point I disagree with. Different bands have different approaches - if it was Aerosmith, I would agree and without the fans, there would be no shows. However, from my viewpoint, as a fan, I would prefer to watch the band getting engrossed in what they do and not to appear self-conscious. You want passion but you want it packaged and ready to use for fans? I sense a contradiction.
I’m not saying that popular artists don’t influence their fan’s lifestyles but the fact remains that no-one is forcing them to live as they believe their idols to live in the vast land that is rock ‘n’ roll mythology. What it comes down to is appearing credible to the people you consider important. It’s a basic human instinct and it’s futile to fight it. What you have to be aware of is that if you choose to be ‘credible’ in this way, you may make a few unwise lifestyle choices along the way. You have to accept responsibility for this. Not the artists you’re choosing to emulate or the people you seek to appease.