This article addresses a really intimate issue for me, which is how to deal with friends & family when you have heavily invested yourself into music, but they don’t. On top of that, they're criticize what you listen to, and arguments and conflicts between you arise.
I grew up listening to 80’s Bon Jovi rock, pop country, and contemporary christian punk with my family. Needless to say, by the time I was hitting my late teens, my musical tastes varied a lot from my parents, siblings, and friends.
My family is mainly a musical family. My mother, brother, and dad all play music in church, and we had more than a few bohemian rhapsody rock-out sessions in the mini-van growing up.
Because music was hugely important for me, my newfound love of thoughtful music caused a lot of conflicts, especially between me and my brother.
His favourite music was Avril Lavigne & Reliant K, mine was Tool, The Mars Volta, & James Blake. It’s tough to reconcile those two styles, but over the years I learned quite a few things to help me with the struggle.
When music is so close to your heart, hearing someone say “that sounds awful” about something you really love, can seem like a personal attack. For me, my muscles contract and I immediately rise to the defense, taking painful stabs at anyone who would assume such a position.
The main reason that I would get so upset, is that I generally hear this from people who don’t invest their time or life into music.
Sure, they listen to a bit of music on the radio, or maybe their few favourite albums, but it’s never a conscious effort to expand themselves. It’s never an exercise of growth, just an exercise of comfort.
My immediate thought is often that this person has no idea what they’re talking about (and they often don’t). This might seem like an immature reaction, but consider this: if an experienced musician, or someone I actually respect musically criticizes something that I like, I don’t have even a remotely similar reaction.
Instead, I accept their opinion and realize that they have a right to have it (because they have enough knowledge to be critical without ignorance).
This shows that me being offended is because they couldn’t possibly be criticizing the music, because they aren’t smart enough to even criticize it! Therefore, they must be criticizing ME!
That was my subconscious thought process, but it’s a wrong process. The reason being, is that the person making the criticism really genuinely isn’t taking a stab at you (at least not at first, although it might become that way once you’ve had 10 arguments about the subject), they simply don’t like what they hear. They feel that they are qualified to judge music that may (or may not) be way over their heads.
You can’t invalidate that either. No matter how ignorant or stupid or idiotic you may think they are being, they genuinely hear the music, and they don’t like it.
That might be hard for you to understand, seeing as though you like it so much, but it’s true. And no amount of arguing is going to change their perspective. You simply cannot invalidate a perspective.
And there’s my main point:
This one can take a while to wrap your head around, so take at least 30 seconds and reflect upon that. Ask yourself, “Do I accept that my brother/sister/mother/friend genuinely does/doesn’t like this music, and that they aren’t going to change that anytime soon?”
If you realize that you can’t change them (they might change, but that would be on their own accord), it will really change the actions that you take in the future.
Instead of arguing and trying to convince them to like something you like, you can instead say “Well I’m sorry that you don’t like the music that I like, but I’m sure you can accept that I genuinely like it.”
You can follow that up to help minimize conflicts in the future by saying something like “I would appreciate if you wouldn’t openly criticize this music that I like because it’s simply disrespectful to me, just like I won't criticize what you listen to”.
Of course, you have to do the same. If you go around criticizing other peoples music (I’m more than guilty of this), then you can’t really use that second line on anyone. I don’t use it yet, because I still haven’t grown past the point of poking fun of music that plays on the radio (I really do find much of it atrocious, except for maybe what’s on CBC Radio 2). But if you do want to stop open complaints about it, then you might consider using that second line and then living it out.
It depends on how much you want those comments to stop, or how much they happen to you at all.
It’s also possible that you might not have family or friends that will respect your wishes if you request something like that. If it’s friends, then I would ask: are those really the type of friends you want around?
If it’s family, you can’t really just drop them, so I would recommend avoiding the subject of music entirely if they are consistently rude about it. If you have a family that's so disrespectful though, you might have some deeper issues that are impossible for me to address here.
If I were to go to my extreme side, where I’m listening to death metal, and frantic jazz and math rock, it can cause some conflicts between any of these naysayers that I have issue’s with (that is, if I’m excitedly trying to share some music with someone close to me who doesn’t share my tastes).
They simply aren’t interested, and are far more than likely to be critical.
What I do once I’ve identified someone as a musical naysayer (feel free to use that term), is try to find out the type of music that they might like. I have a really wide variety of music that I listen to, and can often find some middle ground between things I like, and what they like.
For example, I have a friend of mine, Tim, who I rarely see eye to eye with in music. When I was a teenager we used to play Audioslave and Fallout Boy songs together (sad right?), but since we’ve grown up our tastes have gone in wildly different directions, which has caused some friction on long car rides.
But when the Daft Punk album “Random Access Memories” came out, I knew I had something that we could both agree on. It was the perfect blend between an accessible mainstream album, and a genuine alternative electronic funk album. I love it. I showed it to him, and now he loves it. We both love it.
After years of getting into conflicts about it, it was great to be able to reconnect over some music again, finally!
Even if it’s not your favourite album, as long as you can find some value in it, you might find yourself able to bond with those close to you again over music.
If you’re as passionate about music as me, there can be a temptation to want to get your friends to change their taste in music so they can appreciate what you like, and settling for nothing less than your most extreme tunes.
It’s a trap! Don’t do it!
If someone is mostly used to something far different than you, you need to slowly ease them into music that is your style. Try to find a connecting element between what they like, and what you like.
For example, do you have a friend who loves metal, but you like electronic music? Maybe choose some amazing electronic metal such as Genghis Tron, which is more brutal than most metal albums I’ve heard.
Take a moment to accept that right now.
You may have friends who end up genuinely liking a bunch of new music. For those who won’t budge though, compromise, and accept it. You can only force genuine change in yourself, not others.
For the sake of music, compromise your position and stick to the bands that the two of you have in common. It will be much easier than constantly annoying them, and in return you’ll still be able to enjoy music with someone, rather than it being some annoying contentious issue for the both of you.
My name is Andrew Muller. I love creative art, music, television shows, movies, video games, and a good story.
If you had to find me somewhere, you would probably find me down at O'neils home cooking eating an organic sweet-potato bun breakfast sandwich with ham.
Among my friends, it's a "Muller Classic Move" to eat Mcdonald's at 2am because it's cheap and open 24/7. The joke here is that I'm an idiot.
I play drums, guitar, piano, and I write & perform music for My Goal Is Telepathy. Take a listen to the latest sound here.