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December 2, 2023

How you can become a tried and true music fan

By NIKITA SHTARKMAN | February 14, 2019

Tired of listening to the Spotify Discover playlists? Bored by the same artists that pop up on the top 100 charts? Want to become more well-versed in music? You’ve come to the right place. In this article I’ll lay out a simple road map that will turn you — a boring layperson who listens to lo-fi music while studying — into a well-respected, nay I say sophisticated, music fan.

The first step is to download SoundCloud and spend a day on the app, looking for artists with barely any followers. The weirder the name of the SoundCloud artist, the better. Look for accounts with lowercase letters and random punctuation in the middle of their names. If their track covers are anime characters, even better; these are your new gods. Whenever anyone asks you what they should be listening to, immediately start rambling about these artists (make sure to figure out how to pronounce their names).

Your next step is to buy a record player and start collecting vinyl. To start you only need three vinyls. The first is a basic, classic album (think Jimi Hendrix or Led Zeppelin — you need to prove that you understand and appreciate old, popular music). 

The next purchase should be an obscure live jazz recording. The last vinyl you buy must be foreign. You must make it clear that you are a worldly, open-minded music fan. I recommend African beat compilations, Japanese string music or Brazilian rhythms. 

Don’t worry about actually listening to any of the vinyls; that isn’t important. Just try to talk about your collection at all times. When in public, go on the internet and scroll through rare vinyl pages on eBay, grumbling about the prices. Whenever you drive into a city, immediately go into record shops and look around intently. Don’t worry about expenses. You don’t have to actually buy any new vinyls.

Along with your new record player, you need a new pair of headphones. Throw away your Apple earbuds, and don’t even think about buying AirPods, they are beneath you now. You can’t be seen wearing any old pair — you need to show that what you’re listening to matters. 

Many amateur music fans make a grievous mistake and get Beats. Avoid Beats like the plague. In fact, make fun of Beats headphones at any opportunity you get. You need to buy bigger, louder over-the-ear headphones that make your neck buckle. 

The company that made them should have some German or Dutch name. Music must be playing out of your headphones at all times. If they aren’t over your ears (which they should be for almost all of the day), then they should be around your neck.

Memorize a list of jazz musicians. Then, when you hear jazz playing, try to guess the artists playing each instrument. You don’t have to have even the slightest clue to guess — what matters is that you try. If someone more well-versed in jazz corrects you, strain your face, pretend to be listening harder, hum the melody, then say “Oh, how could I have been so silly.” Chances are the person who corrected you also has no idea what they’re talking about, so don’t take it personally.

One of the biggest mistakes burgeoning music fans make is that they form their own opinions about music. This is one of the biggest no-no’s of music fandom. What if you like an album, and it gets critically panned? Or worse, what if you hate an album that opens to wide critical acclaim? These are unacceptable circumstances. There is a simple way to avoid this problem. Do not listen or talk about an album until either Pitchfork or Anthony Fantano release their reviews. Then pick the one you like the most and regurgitate it for the next week or so.

Talking about music isn’t easy. The musical jargon is wide-ranging and hard. You need to be fluent in it. Google words like polyrhythm, legato and crescendo. Print them out and keep them on flashcards. Make a Quizlet, too. Study these nightly. You never know when someone around you will confidently belt out one of these terms. If that happens, consider it a test. If you fail to respond correctly, you will expose yourself as a dilettante. That disgrace will mark you for the rest of your life.

At social events, stand in the corner, away from everyone dancing, and shake your head at each new track. Mumble about pop being garbage and EDM being a soulless genre. If there is a DJ mixing tracks, complain to everyone around you about their poor transitions. If someone asks you to dance, wave them away. They’re beneath you anyway, with their top 40 playlists. Throw on your headphones and go home listening to distorted math rock or alternative post-punk.

The biggest misconception is that music fans listen to music that they enjoy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are actively entertained by the music you’re listening to, then sorry, but you’re not really a fan. As a true music fan, you force yourself to suffer through the most experimental, progressive, abstract music possible. You suffer for your art, goddammit. 

Replace your Chopin with Schoenberg. Delete your trap music playlist and download the whole Death Grips discography, then delete that and download Viper’s You’ll Cowards Don’t Even Smoke Crack. Venture into atonal, distorted ambient music. If you keep working at listening to more and more difficult, experimental music, you will reach the peak of music-fan-enlightenment — spending hours critically listening to white noise generators. Just don’t get tricked into thinking ASMR is music.

With these simple changes to your life, you could become a bonafide, out and out music fan. In no time, you’ll be commenting on Pitchfork articles, contributing to 4chan /mu/ boards and wearing gauges in your ears. 

Perhaps you could even write for The News-Letter’s Arts section. Now wouldn’t that be cool?

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