Saturday, August 29, 2009

I Am A Lemming Or, Why The Drive To Find What's Popular Is Just Plain Silly

I need your help! Yes, I'm talking directly to you. There is a behavior that a startlingly large (enormous, actually) percentage of the population of Western Civilization exhibits that I don't share. In fact, I don't understand it in the slightest; and that is why I am asking for your assistance.

Here is the set-up scenario taken from actual events in the life of one Super Dave (one of my longest and best friends): Super Dave - and stop me if I've already shared this story - used to work at a music store in the greater Newport Beach area in southern California. I remember him telling me about a customer that came into the store one day and made a b-line for the front counter with nary a head-turn to the left or right to gaze at the large selection of shiny plastic drink coasters commonly referred to as "CDs". Said customer sidles up to the desk and asks Super Dave point blank what the popular albums were that week so that they could perform the customary transaction that one engages in at a music store. Super Dave responded in his usual nice-guy manner that the store was filled with a lot of CDs and select slabs of vinyl, and that maybe the prospective buyer would like to spend some time browsing around to see if anything exciting caught their eye. "No thank you", said the music fan, "I really just want to know what is popular so that I can get some new music". If that isn't as shocking to you as it was to me at the time of first hearing this, Super Dave said that this same Greek Tragedy (of sorts) played itself out almost every single day with new people playing the role of music seeker!

Needless to say, when I hear somebody looking to find what is popular in order for them to discover what they *like* it invokes a powerful gag reflex in the back of my throat. Case in point: this morning I was listening to Net@Night #115 with Leo Laporte and Amber Mac on the TWiT Network

Sidebar: Even though there is a next to 0% chance that either of those folks will see this post, I want to point out to all readers that not only do I love Net@Night, but I feel the same way about all the shows on the TWiT Network. In fact, they take up the lion's share of my Podcast listening time every day. Nor, does this negate my willingness to go on the show to talk about RadiOblivion, or the GaragePunk Podcast Network as a whole. End of Sidebar.

and they were talking with the creator of a new video site called Magma; a place that collects the "hottest" videos from around the web from sites such as YouTube, Hulu, Vimeo, Blip.TV, and whatever video hosting sites are out there on the interwebs (as David Letterman calls it). Now, my recollection is a bit fuzzy as to what exactly was said - due to the sheer nauseating effect that it had on me - but it seems that in the course of about 3 seconds they mentioned TV Guide, the Billboard Music Chart, and other ways to discover new things to like based on what is popular. Gah!! It was Amber Mac that I distinctly heard saying "It reminds me a lot - and I think you mentioned this before - of the whole Billboard list of, uh, top music hits. You know, there's a Top 100, uh, hits - kinda the first place to go if you wanna decide 'hey, what music should I be listening to that's really popular?'" Double Gah!!

I truly do not understand the type of mentality presented in these two scenarios. However, I do believe - as stated at the beginning - that the overwhelming majority of folks possess it as their Modus operandi. I also strongly believe that (and this may cause some controversy) people who operate under that system don't really like music or other forms of entertainment. You would be hard-pressed to change my mind on that; but you are certainly welcome to try. No, I'm not saying that they don't enjoy music, movies, or whatever other forms of media you can think of, but that it is an "enjoyment" which is relegated to background music, or watching films strictly as just something to do, a pass-time; nothing more. And, hey! That's perfectly fine. Who am I to judge? But, at the very least admit it! Just preface any conversation about music and such with a simple "Music etc. isn't really that important to me. I'm happy with following with what others listen to so that I don't have to waste my time discovering things on my own." I understand that people, being social creatures, want to fit in. They want to be able to discuss the gossip surrounding *insert name of Billboard Top 100 artist here* at their cocktail parties and Gala Luncheons. They need to know about what is trending on Twitter; what videos have the most views on YouTube; what movies they should see; what books to read; what iPhone apps to install. I understand. Its lonely listening to music, reading books, and watching movies that 99.9999% of the population doesn't know exists. That is why I don't go to parties.

So, help me out here. Why is it that I don't understand this way of thinking? Or did I pretty much hit the nail on the head: that the drive to find what's popular is just plain silly?

As a final note: I set-up an account on so I can see what is popular too. Hey, I need to find out what I should like; there's a social function coming up, baby!