“Gangnam Style” Might Pay Your Bills This Month

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Here’s an actual sentence that has come out of my mouth, circa 2005: “No, I don’t like country music. I only like good music. Like Coldplay”

Oh, young Brandon. You have so much to learn. And so much more beard to grow.

Oh, young Brandon. You have so much to learn. And so much more beard to grow.

When you first get into music, you discover just how much is out there, and you pick and choose the different things that float your boat. In high school, I listened almost exclusively to bands like Coldplay and Death Cab for Cutie. That, to me, was what good music was. But in my limited scope, I was writing off entire genres of music. Early college was my hip hop phase (I still own Late Registration on vinyl), and shortly thereafter was my electronic phase (I even recreated the Daft Punk “Around The World” music video for my junior recital).

I'm still not sure how I convinced 20 people to learn all those dance moves.

I’m still not sure how I convinced 20 people to learn all those dance moves.

I’ve had many different genres come and go in my life but I can say with 100% certainty that I’ve never had a country phase. It just doesn’t do it for me. However, in recent years, I’ve moved away from genre-bashing. Why? Because on multiple occasions, people have payed me good money to play such music. Country music payed my rent that month.

When you make the jump into being a freelance musician, things change. You’re certainly allowed to have your personal taste in music. It’s what got you into the game in the first place. But, as we’ve discussed here many times, in order to survive as a professional freelance musician, you need to do multiple things. That probably includes multiple genres. And that probably definitely includes stuff that you wouldn’t normally listen to on your own.

Like Hoobastank. Sorry, who am I kidding? This album is universally revered as a masterpiece.

Like Hoobastank. Sorry, who am I kidding? This album is universally revered as a masterpiece.

This doesn’t mean you have to love all the music you’re playing, but appreciate it for what it is, and play it to the best of your ability. In a great interview with the Red Bull Music Academy, Questlove talked about this idea with his DJ-ing style and his professional taste in music.

 

I’ve learned, maybe last year, to just do away with the idea of “this is good music, and this is bad music.” Because, you know, personally for me, I know what I personally like, my personal tastes. My personal tastes don’t match my professional tastes. You know, last year I had absolutely no shame whatsoever in playing “Gangnam Style.”

You can laugh now, but nothing beats the feeling of watching a thousand execs at the Viacom Christmas party dance on tables. So it’s like, well, is that a bad song, or is that an effective song? And so that’s the conflict I’ve been having: my personal taste versus my professional taste. Because a lot of the music that I won’t listen to on my personal time, I need that to work for me. It’s something that I’ve been wrestling with. So I don’t know, I don’t believe in good or bad music anymore. I just believe in what’s effective and what’s not effective.

- Questlove
For me, it’s incredibly encouraging to hear someone as prolific and creative as Questlove know his audience and know what they want. If he was DJ-ing the Viacom Christmas party and played exclusively deep cut J Dilla beats, they would awkwardly head for the door. That’s the wrong audience, they won’t appreciate it. Instead he puts his personal feelings on hold, plays what they want to hear, and makes them lose their minds.

 

Don’t write off entire genres of music because it’s not your cup of tea. Give the people what they want. Gangnam Style just might pay your bills this month.