by Daniel Jason Wonacott
When I was fourteen, I attended my first show at the SOMA in San Diego. I went with my best friend Jeff, who had introduced me to punk rock. The show was Face To Face and Less Than Jake. I did not know what to expect. I was pretty excited and frightened to go to my first punk rock show and finally see the bands I had been listening to at home.
To my surprise, I felt more at home on the dark, dingy, sweaty floor of SOMA San Diego than I did in my own school. There was a clear message to a young 14-year-old kid in 1994: If you listened to punk rock, you might be a freak, but you could be yourself. You could be anything you wanted.
In 1994, Nirvana was too big for a kid like me to feel connected with in any real way. The local Southern California punk bands, however, were within my reach. I could go to shows. I could sneak backstage. I could say hello to the bands and they always seemed happy to talk to me. The shows were full of kids who knew every word to every song and showed up for the collective experience of watching a band.
The punk scene is much the same today, although bands exist in a very different space. You no longer search record store bins, you flip through your phone. All serves a purpose, but with the changing music industry has come a changing scene, a culture that grew up on Myspace and Facebook and accustomed to having instantly validated opinions about music.
Somehow all this has translated to an entitled class of bands, some of which believe that everything they say to their audience is as harmless as a Twitter or Facebook post. Artists have unprecedented access to their fans, but this does not mean they are entitled to prey on their fans and use them like a commodity.
As an artist, your fans are all you have. Fame is an illusion, money comes and goes, but reaching people with music can last a lifetime. For artists to abuse this privilege is shameful and embarrassing to the larger community. In the current iteration of our music scene, where bands are neatly categorized by genre and alphabetized on devices and carried around by fans… it MATTERS. How you treat your fans MATTERS.
They are not ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ and ‘views’; they are human beings who somehow found your voice and decided that your band is worth listening to. It’s time for alternative music to be a shelter again, a place for listeners to find hope and solace, to be inspired and called to action.
Managers and industry leaders need to step up and get back to developing young artists to play and perform music for the right reasons, to treat their fans with respect and to give back instead of take from them. It’s time for artists to grow up and realize that, if they’re lucky, they may be able to make a couple records and tour and have people listen and that this experience is a privilege.
Our fans have given us everything we have, a life full of amazing experiences, a chance to travel around the globe and a voice. There is no excuse for abusing your fans. EVER. Alternative music has been a shelter to me and watching what’s going on with certain punk and alternative rock bands is extremely troubling.
The answer lies with the fans; you have the power. If some rapey, questionable band is coming through your town…Don’t go. Let them play to an empty house. Let them know you won’t be bullied or preyed upon. Empower artists who empower you.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are of
the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Safer Scene