Music Elitism Kills Music Communities
Following a recent experience of mine, the ideas of inclusivity in music have been weighing on my mind. Having been a part of the music community for a good few years now, I've taken notice of all sorts of gatekeeping and jealous guarding that take place in music circles. For some, that's gatekeeping their favourite genre or artist. Maybe you don't "look like you listen to metal", maybe that band is "a little too underground for someone like you." Of course, both of those are real examples that I have heard over the years. I think anyone who has spent more than ten minutes in music circles has heard their share of comments to that effect. You can see the effects that these comments have on people. It's always discouraging to be made to feel like you cannot know enough about the subject you're starting a passion for. The people who tend to share those comments are people who are in places of privilege among the music community; those who "look the part", or maybe those who have been around long enough to prove themselves to their fellow gatekeepers. That being said, these attitudes kill music communities. There is no worse feeling than entering into a field in which you are passionate about, only to have someone stomp on your dreams just because they think you don't look the part, or feel that you haven't met some intangible goalpost to be able to like a certain thing. Music has always been an act of culture. And what is culture without the ability to share it? Once you hear enough of these comments, the feeling becomes unshakable that you don't belong in the community of fans who like the things that you like. Slowly but surely, these attitudes kill sub-communities within the realm of music.
I will be erring on the side of looseness so as to not call anyone out, because these types of comments are absolutely rampant within the music community. Recently, we needed to get a piece of equipment repaired, and sought out an experienced repair person in order for them to complete the work that needed to be done. We were able to find someone who had been in business for many years who could do what we needed, and we booked a time for a curbside drop-off. Upon arriving, we were blown away when they took it upon themselves to talk down to us in regards to our equipment. According to them, our equipment was better suited for practice than performance and it would be "no loss" if it were to break or be stolen. Considering this particular piece of equipment was one that holds a tremendous amount of sentimental value, to say that we were hurt is an understatement. Now there's some clear implications to this behaviour. For starters, the equipment belonged to my partner, who is the one who booked the appointment and who spoke to the repair person. Women have always received the blunt force of gatekeeping in the music community, so it comes as no surprise that this industry veteran assumed that, as a woman, surely she couldn't know a thing about her own equipment! It was offensive, but certainly not surprising.
These attitudes bleed communities dry. People who believe that only those who look and act like them can be a part of the club leave so many marginalized people in our community feeling like they have no seat at the table. Elitism in all its forms can be contagious. The longer you spend among the "in crowd", you start to feel the part. In my own personal experience, I have had to make an effort to ensure that these feelings of being "in" do not manifest into feelings that other people should remain "out". At the end of the day, everyone should be allowed in, that's what music is all about. Music is meant to be shared. It's meant to be loved. It's meant to be heard. Don't let assholes ruin that.