Unless you’ve spent the past 12 months so engrossed in Serum’s wavetable editor that the outside world has become but a distant memory, you’ll have noticed that we’re living through interesting times at the moment. Of course, by ‘interesting’ we mean ‘utterly terrifying’.
During such turbulent eras musicians have traditionally turned to making protest music, but from Bob Dylan’s meaningless Blowin' in the Wind (opens in new tab) to Mike Reid’s challenging UKIP Calypso (opens in new tab), protest songs are exclusively dreadful pieces of music. Theoretically, their musical shortcomings are mitigated by their ostensibly world-changing powers, but in reality, their effect is limited to say the least.
In fact, creating protest music isn’t just a waste of time, it’s likely to be counter-productive to your cause. If that sounds like an alternative fact, prepare to have your prejudices blown away by MusicRadar’s top 5 reasons why your protest music is actually making things far worse.
1. You can’t change anyone’s mind
No matter how catchy your melodies or funky your beats, don’t fool yourself: your opponents aren’t going to be swayed by your arguments. Even if your message is objectively accurate, it’ll likely have the opposite effect to (opens in new tab)that which (opens in new tab) you intended (opens in new tab) according to this research paper (opens in new tab), which notes that “If people counter-argue unwelcome information vigorously enough, they may end up with 'more attitudinally congruent information in mind than before the debate,' which in turn leads them to report opinions that are more extreme than they otherwise would have had."
Let’s take this famous saucily-titled anti-cop jam (opens in new tab) as an example: despite the evidence submitted to the N.W.A. Court, US law enforcement declined to go F themselves (opens in new tab). Who could have imagined such a shocking turn of events?
2. Social media is an echo chamber
Unsurprisingly, Facebook has become the primary source of news for younger generations (opens in new tab), but once you’ve dropped your 2-step folktronica truth-bomb on your timeline it’s only likely to reinforce your similarly-minded friends’ opinions.
This is because - as everyone apart from the supremely naive realised years ago - social media is an echo chamber that can isolate us from opposing political ideas (opens in new tab). What’s more, when people ‘like’ something they’re given the feeling that they’re helping, reducing the likelihood they’ll actually do something useful (opens in new tab).
On the plus side, perhaps you might radicalise your mum, or at the very least get a couple of SoundCloud plays off someone you spoke to briefly at a party in 2007.
3. You’re making money for the man
So, you’re fully committed to dismantling the exploitative capitalist system with your freaky breakcore sounds, but who is really benefiting from your supposedly anarchic antics? You’ve bought a computer (which is unlikely to be organic and locally-sourced), forked out to your ISP to upload the data, and everyone who finds your music is almost certainly going to be data-mined to within an inch of their lives by unscrupulous tech giants.
What’s more, your incendiary bangers may be bookended by ads (opens in new tab), making a mockery of your anti-establishment stance.
4. Your elitist views aren’t valid
If you're reading this - let alone making socially-aware future bass music on a MacBook in your local independent coffee shop - you’re not just a regular Joe. You’re a member of the liberal elite (opens in new tab), an ill-defined section of society that everyone hates. It doesn’t matter that you’re working in the service industry and scraping by on an income that your parents would consider a pittance: your snobby, highfalutin attitudes are driving a wedge between the classes and you’re indirectly responsible for the rise of right-wing populism in Europe.
Perhaps instead of banging on about identity politics you should write an aspirational song about poppin’ bottles in the club like everyone else?
5. Individualistic self-expression is useless
In his documentary HyperNormalisation, film-maker Adam Curtis argues that individualistic self-expression is actually antithetical to effecting political change (opens in new tab):
“I sometimes wonder whether the very idea of self-expression might be the rigid conformity of our age. It might be preventing us from seeing really radical and different ideas that are sitting out on the margins - different ideas about what real freedom is, that have little to do with our present day fetishization of the self. The problem with today’s art is that far from revealing those new ideas to us, it may be actually stopping us from seeing them.”
Who could possibly have thought that dedicating the entirety of one’s life to programming the most anal neuro bass patches possible alone in a darkened bedroom would result in a navel-gazing attitude?