Listening to music today, especially popular tunes, it seems that there are always chants in the song, moments where the audience or listener is encouraged to participate with a simple Oh, Ah, Hey or some other single syllable phrase. While this has always been a technique of bands and musicians for live shows, it seems more prevalent than ever before in recorded tracks. A great example of this is The Lumineers song: Ho, Hey. The Lumineers embody a style called “Hey Folk” (as my friend Dane Page informed me), but this technique is in more than folk music as every genre has taken to creating songs with these sections in them.
I’m not suggesting this is wholly a bad thing, I like The Lumineers a lot and I really like Ho, Hey. Also, when I saw the Lumineer’s live at FlodyFest last year, you better believe I sang along. I’m more curious about this trend in the music industry, and specifically the recording industry, right now. More and more often songs are written to be easily replicated live and, when performed live, to involve as much crowd interaction as possible. The benefit of this is that it turns concerts into unique experiences for the audience members, making it something potentially more memorable because of their participation. While giving an audience a unique and compelling memory has been the goal of live music for a while, perhaps this contemporary trend is, in part, a response to the rise of downloading and the access to free music the internet provides. Artists aren’t making as much money off of album sales so drawing crowds to live performances and selling tickets for tours has become more important for survival and longevity in a competitive industry. While I acknowledge that many artists are finding creative ways around the necessity of record sales, but those methods could be a post all their own and I’m more interested in exploring this stylistic choice.
Along with altering Pop music this trend has had an impact on the indie scene. Even if a musician’s not selling out stadiums, there’s a strange pressure and expectation on an act to try and replicate the sensation that popular bands with large followings have. But trying to make a crowd of people in a coffee shop, or bar interact with you by clapping or singing is often difficult and awkward unless they become invested, which is rarely the case. But it’s important to remember, that these listeners are not necessarily there for a typical concert experience. If they wanted they could pay for a venue ticket and go watch bands in a music hall or stadium setting, but they didn’t. They’re in that venue to meet up with friends, have a drink, relax, or just do their own thing in a space where if there happens to be entertainment then that’s all the better. It’s important for indie and beginning bands to not create expectations that don’t really exist. Obviously it’s important to play a good show, but there’s no set definition for what a good show is supposed to look like. There’s this perception that a genuinely good show has to have a group of people chanting with you and that isn’t true. There’s success, albeit a humble success, in playing music for people and just letting them listen.