“The quickest way to get dumber is to find a Youtube video with more than a million views and read the comments” – me, after reading some comments on Youtube videos
The drumcam footage that I’ve posted recently has somewhat renewed my affection for Youtube. I’ve been checking out documentaries and bios and live footage and all kinds of worthwhile stuff. And then, beneath every video, is a mountain of not-so-worthwhile stuff. Online commenting is a massive part of the social networking culture, and commenters create a fascinating subculture of their own. I want to be forthright and say that typical Youtube commenting is utterly nauseating to the part of me that wants everyone to behave like decent human beings, but the armchair psychologist side of my personality is having a field day with it. It’s equal parts hilarious and intriguing to watch users passionately debate something they seem to know so little about. And the more commenting trends I observe the more I’m discovering metaphors for the music world.
Observations of Youtube commenting and how it correlates to music-making:
1. Commenters seem to often be most interested in having their perspective “win” the discussion. This is typical for human beings generally – we like to have our voice heard and deemed most important or most correct. But this is a TERRIBLE thing to do when involved in collaboration, like, for example, music. A rehearsal where your band is hashing through new songs, a studio session creating arrangements or parts, or even a sit-down meeting to form a live show set list… these are all situations that could be viewed as a competition for your ideas. DON’T DO IT. Don’t think of musical environments as having winners or losers. It’s problem solving! It’s a search for the most helpful answer! It’s not a battle where you need to prove yourself. You will help your reputation immensely by being a musician who contributes to finding solutions/decisions/conclusions while collaborating, rather than a belligerent ____ who has to have it their way.
2. This observation is very different from my first point: I notice that many of the comments I read seem to neither contribute nor detract from the video itself, almost as if the commenters merely want to post something in order to see their own name in print somewhere in the vicinity of the video. For example, that legendary “first” post, where a user simply types the word “first” on the latest cool video in order to show other users that they won the contest of who can type a comment fastest. This is so funny to me! The user has completely missed the point of video comments… TO COMMENT ON THE VIDEO. It reminds me of my instinct to play a variation in my groove just because I’m bored during the song, as opposed to intentionally structuring my parts to always enhance the moment. My fill or variation might not be “incorrect” or poorly-played, but if I play it for any reason other than the specific intention of helping the music than it ultimately only adds “noise” behind the real purpose of playing music in the first place – the song. My friend Matt Tobias says: a part is never neutral. It either adds or it detracts.
3. Reading some of the comments on my own videos freshly reminds me that real knowledge is always contingent on understanding the circumstances surrounding the facts. For example, using a click is, for most live performances, a way to enable to the band to stay locked with the backing tracks. If there are no backing tracks then a click is optional and is often only employed if the band is having a hard time hearing one another because of audio difficulties in the room. Either way, if a user doesn’t know the realities associated with what I just described then their perspective on why a band might use a click (or whether a click is a good thing) will be hugely flawed, ignorant, or naive at the very least. This whole thing makes me once again realize that there are a lot of things that I don’t know about the music world, and it motivates me to put my mind into a posture of learning instead of a posture of knowledge. I’m not in the game of music to simply observe what others have done and then decide if I like it. I want to grow in my understanding of the myriad of variables that makes music such a deep art form! I want to become a more knowledgable drummer, a more experienced performer, and a smarter musician generally. This causes me to approach musical situations with an intent to discover things that I haven’t yet discovered, instead of showing up and merely demonstrating the things that I think I already know.