The internet used to be a fun and informative place. These days, all of that has been replaced with anger, harsh judgment, and pure aggression. Most of it is done in the name of getting clicks and making money.
Sometimes it’s the anonymous commenters who spread negativity. Other times, it’s the content creator themselves who go on the attack.
Today, I’d like to explore this, and talk about why all of this is such a bad idea, and therefore should not exist.
A WORD ABOUT NON-MUSICIANS
I had watched a video where Steve Vai gives a tour of his studio. If you are not familiar with Steve Vai, then the video below might help you.
He’s an established musician who cut his teeth with the likes of Frank Zappa and David Lee Roth, as well as other acts. His solo work is nothing short of incredible.
He also wrote and performed both parts of a guitar battle in the movie Crossroads.
In other words, he has proven himself to the world as a top-shelf, incredible musician.
In the comments section of this particular YouTube video, there was a person who had a complaint about a segment of the video where Steve Vai was talking about finding inspiration.
He picked up a pedal and started getting wild sounds out of it, and noted that this could be a good jump-off point to starting the writing of some riffs that can be turned into songs.
The commenter had this to say:
“Oh, so here’s Steve Vai, everyone supposed guitar god, who’s supposed to be so great, and yet he can’t even write a song without cheating by using a pedal.”
So much to unpack here! But the main thing is the person felt that using a pedal is cheating. It is not. And he took this to mean that this is how Mr. Vai writes every single one of his songs, which is not true.
And the proof is in the pudding. His songs are stellar, incredible, and emotion-inspiring.
This guy was obviously a non-musician, since he clearly was not understanding anything about the video and his comment went to places where the video did not suggest.
If someone as talented and established as Steve Vai gets comments like this, then what hope is there for the rest of us?
MUSICIANS BULLYING OTHER MUSICIANS
On top of the highly toxic place that is YouTube video comments, there are actual musicians on YouTube who make videos and get clicks by making fun of other musicians.
These musicians might not be as good as them, might be from a genre that they do not respect, or any other type of situation that opens the door for ignorance and aggression.
I don’t want to name any of them, as that would probably land me in the same category.
These videos include name-calling, personal attacks [Ad Hominem], and jabs at their playing abilities. Some of the people who get attacked are beginners, and others are legendary players, so nobody is safe from this.
One guy who has over 2 million subscribers, and is a guitar shredder, decided to go after a 12-year-old girl’s video because she said that the shredding is a bit overdone.
She has 36 subscribers.
What he did was weaponize his subscriber base, and have them go to her channel and brigade her video comments, to try to shame her off the internet. Because how DARE you criticize an activity like that?
She didn’t go after anyone, although she did reference the guy who went after her. He got his feelings hurt and decided to get revenge.
WHAT THIS INVOLVES
When someone has 2 million subscribers, consider the idea that maybe only 5% of their audience is immature enough to engage in this buffoonery. That’s still 100,000 people.
It is safe to assume that these people will be hardcore sycophants who worship the person they believe they are defending. They will feel threatened by that other person, so they will submit insults, they will taunt, and they will issue death threats.
This is the danger of worshipping another human being. People who are into celebrities often times engage in this behavior when they feel a celebrity they worship is under attack. The feelings they have in this parasocial relationship get hurt or otherwise threatened.
WHAT IS A PARASOCIAL RELATIONSHIP? [NON-MUSIC EXAMPLE]
A parasocial relationship is a one-sided connection, where a fan will believe that they are friends with the celebrity they admire or adore. They agree with them like friends. They imagine them hanging out as friends. They might even imagine that the entire this is mutual.
Meanwhile, the famous person has NO IDEA that this fan even exists as an individual! At the very least, they might “like” or “heart” a comment, which leads the fan to have enhanced and accelerated feelings about the famous person.
These fans might even go so far as to believe that the object of their affection will help them out if they get into trouble supporting them. Most recently, we saw this in the 1/6 insurrection attempt, where people ended in legal trouble and had an expectation that Trump would bail them out or otherwise help them.
They voted for him. They sent him money. They supported him every step of the way. They even engaged in an act of insurrection to try to overthrow the government for him.
And then, they believed that he would swoop down and rescue them.
I know this is a non-music example, but I wanted to use a non-music example so that I don’t accidentally out a musician who is doing these things, or accidentally implicate a musician who does NOT do these things. Plus, it’s a situation of which everyone is aware.
BACK TO MUSIC
The above parasocial scenario can apply to any situation, including music. This is why the musician who gains popularity online has a responsibility to make sure that they don’t provoke or inspire their fans to go do something horrible, in order to have a “Notice me, Senpai” moment.
WHO ARE THEIR TARGETS, AND WHY?
There are many targets that a musician on YouTube could go after as a bully. In the case of musicians on YouTube doing this, they typically go after other musicians.
It could be that they are not good players. Maybe they’re beginners or intermediate.
They could be from a genre that is not appreciated. Rock, Metal, and Country musicians have fans that are VERY tribal. So if HIS tribe plays Metal, and he hears someone who is playing another genre, he could go after them.
They could have sound of lower quality, such as is the case with Lo-Fi creators. I LOVE lo-fi music, and also see how they could be attacked.
The targeted musician could be a part of the outsider music movement. Outsider music is not all that polished or refined. In fact, it can be downright raw.
WHY THIS IS HARMFUL
One could make the case that it’s not productive to bully and cause emotional harm to others. That’s the case that I am making here.
But it’s also harmful because it serves to silence other musicians. They may start to believe that they are not good enough, or that their message stinks, or that they themselves are bad or wrong.
The damage can be big. Sometimes it can be deadly.
KEITH EMERSON’S DEATH
When Keith Emerson was planning a new tour, it wasn’t because he was pumped up about getting out and getting in front of the crowds again. He was in his early 70s, and was setting up a tour because he needed the money.
The idea that every successful musician is a multi-millionaire is fallacious.
As he was preparing for this, he decided that he needed a second keyboard player to help cover some things he could no longer play, due to nerve damage in his hands.
So-called “fans” on Reddit decided to go after him. They said a number of horrible things to him:
- You’re just an old man. Go away.
- What a loser. Can’t even play his own parts without help.
- This is what you get when failures are out for a money grab.
- This guy should just accept that he’s a has-been and kill himself.
These are but a few of the many comments about Mr. Emerson and his situation. On March 11, 2016, Keith Emerson took this advice and killed himself, with a gunshot to the head.
Words mean something. What motivates these trolls and angry people?
Most of the time, it’s jealousy, or the fact that they’ve not gone anywhere with their own lives. Life for most of us doesn’t really “go anywhere,” because the point is to LIVE life, not get to a destination.
But I think that they get a thrill out of knocking someone down. There are too many people in this world who have such low self-esteem that they have to resort to knocking others down in order to feel uplifted.
That’s not being lifted up. That’s being a piece of garbage.
ATTACKS ON ME
I get comments on my videos from time to time. Some are kind of backhanded like, “Get it, gramps!” I don’t mind that, even though ageism in the workplace has caused me a great deal of grief. Context matters.
Most comments I get are about my weight. They tell me that I’m a fat loser in a wide variety of ways.
At first, I used to put a heart on these, like them, and even pin them to the top. I might even reply and thank them for the click, the view, and the engagement.
I had even considered making a video telling the guys who think that I need to lose weight that I’m not into them because I don’t swing that way. This would be a great insult, as most people like this are homophobic. But it might land me in some hot water for being homophobic myself, should anyone take it out of context or otherwise misunderstand it.
I’m great at being misunderstood. Thanks, Autism!
But I’ve been deleting them lately because I don’t want to give them any encouragement.
WHAT THESE ATTACKS ACHIEVE
As noted earlier, the Keith Emerson example is the most extreme.
If a musician suffers depression, as I do, then it can drive the depression to a dark place from where there may be no return.
Best case, it may cause the musician or video maker to stop making videos. It may silence them, possibly forever.
I do not want anyone to be silence. I refuse to judge anyone as being good or bad, with regard to their musicianship. I won’t even offer up the idea of lessons, because they might be taking lessons already. Saying that someone needs lessons is an insult, and I’ve received it from time to time.
Silencing other musicians because you think that they “aren’t good enough” deprives the world of what they might create later on. I’ve heard many songs that will never be number 1 hits, and yet those songs move me to the point that I will listen to them quite frequently.
ON BEING COMPETITIVE
Edward Van Halen said that he lamented the fact that he turned guitar playing into a sport. I am certain it wasn’t his intention. But even my grandmother noted that his playing was going to spark a tidal wave of copycats, even said that lead guitar players might become rather intolerable people, depending on how they approach this.
She was correct.
I am NOT competitive with anyone externally. My ONLY competition, so far as I am concerned, is with the version of me that existed yesterday. I strive to be a better musician today than I was yesterday.
What is NOT fine is finding some beginner and telling them that they suck, in order to feel better about one’s self.
IS THERE SUCH A THING AS GOOD AND BAD MUSIC?
There are OBJECTIVE elements that could determine that a musician is bad. They might be beginners who are sharing their early attempts and advancement online. Videos like these can help other beginners on their journey.
If their tempo isn’t perfect, that’s fine. If they make a “mistake,” then that’s fine.
“Once is a mistake. Twice is Jazz.” –Dave Mustaine
One thing I learned early on for performance is if I make a mistake, then I will make it again so it appears to be on purpose.
But when we look at things like music genre, we enter the world of SUBJECTIVE judgment.
I can use myself as an example. I am NOT a fan of Country music, at all. I do not want to listen to it. I feel a bit sick to my stomach when I listen to it. Some of it is stereotypical and invokes Country music fan tropes.
I do not like it.
Does that mean that it’s bad?
What it means is that I am NOT the target audience for this particular artist.
Having this attitude is what leaves me open to exploring and accepting new music, new artists, and even new genres.
MORE ABOUT BEGINNERS
When a person first gets into playing a musical instrument, be they young or old, there are many moments of challenge and frustration. This can be killed by only ONE person telling them that they stink, or that they should give up.
I always show support to beginners. It’s a lot like learning a language. When a little child tries to talk, we don’t make fun of them because they don’t know certain words, or say certain words wrong, or make other mistakes.
No! That’s not how ANYONE learns!
Rather, we have to talk WITH them and encourage them. I think Victor Wooten addresses this better than I could.
WHY BOTHER WITH A LOSER?
As I write this, I am thinking back to high school. Those were the days, as I was the big-shot on the drums with the high school band. I wasn’t necessarily the objective greatest. I was just the only one who was into band. There were drummers who were as good, or maybe even better, who just had interests in other things. That’s fine.
When the younger kids were coming up into high school band, I would be a bit tough on them at times. Within the context of a situation where we’re going to be marching or performing, I wanted them to be their best, and I’d push everyone — including myself — to be the best version of ourselves that we could possibly be.
There was ONE student named Billy. He had Down’s Syndrome, so he got left out of lots of things, and was made fun of frequently.
And he wanted to learn how to play drums. When someone actually wants to learn, I get excited about that.
Billy wasn’t going to find greatness joining the marching drumline with The Phantom Regiment. He wasn’t going to go to State competitions [ISSMA] with me. He wasn’t going to be soloing in the band. And he definitely wouldn’t be making millions with a hit record.
So why bother?
Billy wanted to learn, and that was something that spoke to me. I remembered when I wanted to learn, and the person I looked up to taught me some things. I was pumped and forever grateful.
He showed up on time. He paid attention. He actually learned things. Sometimes, even if he couldn’t yet do something, I knew that he had learned it, and that it was all a matter of connecting the knowledge with the physical motor skills.
Billy signed my yearbook at the end of the school year, and he wrote about how grateful he was that I took the time to teach him how to play drums.
This story is valuable to me. I remind myself of it at times when I feel like there is no point to anything.
I know that many people in school judged Billy as being a “loser,” because of his disability. As someone who was always picked last in gym class, I knew how he felt. And although I didn’t know it then, I was and have always had a disability of my own to deal with, in my Level 1 Autism.
To me, he was NOT a loser, especially with regard to drums. Again, he was on time, he learned, he worked, AND he had fun doing it.
What’s wrong with having fun?
Too many people use awards or big money earnings as a sign of being “good.” This is not true. What made Billy good was that he put his all into it and had a great time.
HOW THE READER OR LISTENER TAKES IT
The above story is a great example of something that can be misunderstood.
Some might think it’s an inspirational story about helping someone else. But others will see it as a negative thing, that I told the story in order to get brownie points, or to otherwise virtue signal.
This is a case of assuming the worst in others, which is another form of negativity.
All the same, those who take it the wrong way would probably be quick to judge, and quick to let me know that I was “wrong in using that poor boy’s situation to get views.”
While that could be a possibility, is it the reason that YOU are reading this now? Probably not. I write for myself, for the handful of close friend who read, and for people who might be interested in this topic.
I don’t need a pat on the back or validation of any kind, which kills off the idea that I’m using the story to get clicks or any other type of online social reward.
This isn’t for validation.
This is for discussion and education.
IN THE END
Neither musicians nor fans should be in the business of bashing other musicians. I used the word “business” on purpose, as there are those on YouTube who get clicks and make money being bullies.
As a musician, I work to remember that I once started out as a beginner. Even in college during my first year, when I had to learn the upright string bass, I remember those lonely days in the cold music building, where I’d be in a room for an hour trying to play a giant instrument that sounded like a tortured animal in the wild.
It sounded horrible. It hurt my hands. I wasn’t “good” at it. And as a result, I felt like I wanted to quit.
While I ultimately quit college for other reasons, I worked through my bass class and passed it with flying colors. This would NOT have been the case, had some of the senior musicians come in, listened to me, and told me that I sucked, or that I should quit.
And believe me, that happened to other people. I saw it. This is why I’d get to the music building at 5:00am to do my bass and marimba work.
I think about how boring a walk through the forest would be, if only the “best” birds with the “best” songs were allowed to sing.
Instead of judging music or musicians, I think it is a good idea to start listening and working toward understanding.
I cannot name one musician that everyone universally likes. I have heard bad things said about every musician I have ever listened to in my life. I’ve also heard bad things from musicians and fans when talking about music genres that aren’t their thing.
In the name of “being the kind of change that I want to see in the world,” I am going to continue to encourage musicians I encounter along the way in life. I want to give them encouragement! I want them to learn and grow however they want.
I want them to be themselves and have their own voices.
Bullies online are working day and night to silence the voices of musicians all over the world, to get them to feel frustrated or shamed in order to drive them to quit.
EVERYONE should be making their own YouTube videos! Put yourself out there.
It has taken me a long time to get to where I am now. I’ve uploaded some videos here and there. But now, I feel like I want to do more and make more videos on my channels, regardless of whether or not I have good or bad quality.
It’s all about doing and learning, enjoying and living, creating and sharing.
This is what gives life purpose.
If you like what I write, then please consider sending a one-time donation to me via PayPal. Please use the following link and click SEND to donate, and thank you for reading! https://paypal.me/drumwild