All this week, we have looked on in minor terror and major dread as we have watched some of our more indie-damaged brethren — call them the High Fidelity generation — going on Facebook and tearing poor, young Emily White a new one. Ms. White has found herself the target of what feels like a thrice-annual music-snob witch hunt wherein somehow, within the cozy confines of Your Indie Friends, a link gets passed around with enough disgust that it seems like it’s OK to crucify some poor person who was bold enough to speak against the tribe. What was the crime that so brought the hammer down on White, a summer intern at NPR? Admitting that, despite having some 11K songs in her iTunes, she’s never really bought any music and doesn’t have all that much interest in buying music — or at least not in the traditional way. Cue firestorm. How could she?
This affronted tone definitely characterized this blog post by Cracker’s David Lowery, who trotted out his dead friends Vic Chesnutt and Mark Linkous in an effort to shame Ms. White into the erroneous belief that, had she been forking over money for CDs for the music-consuming portion of her early-20s life, these guys would still be alive. Eye-rollingly specious arguments like this have characterized the outrage directed towards White this week, and let there be no mistake: They are all bullshit. And whether you’re a member of the entitled and apparently oh-so-embattled Indie Rock Establishment or just some bitter thirty- or forty-something frothing at the mouth about this, we tell you this, honestly and truly: You really ought to be ashamed of yourself.
For one, this is a generational difference: Today’s twentysomethings have grown up in a strange overlap in the way music is listened to and consumed, and if they’re not playing music the way you do, there’s nothing wrong with that. And in fact, White’s column — which is now national music news — provides a teachable moment to anyone over White’s age who is somehow still in the music business. For the penny has dropped: We now know (many of us have already known) that this generation is not really big on purchasing music contained in a physical format. BUT. Do they buy t-shirts? Concert tickets? Most likely. The point is this: In the new reality, the merch has been completely divorced from the music. AND THAT IS FINE. There is nothing wrong with that at all. Let us be more democratic, as artists or producers, in the way we attract fans. Let the music be heard! No one could ever own it anyway. If you were standing face to face with this kid, and she was like, let me hear that, would any of us actually say no? Never! All of this pissing match is about a very misinformed notion about the nature of music that always tries to tie itself to a format, and fails every time. To her credit, White does address this in her piece: She wants artists to be paid ethically. Everyone does. So stop acting like she’s a Justin Beiber fan who doesn’t know who the Beatles are. This kid is on your side. Or at least, she was until you fuckfaces just got all Jack Black on her.