I was reading Gawker’s takedown of Alexandra Molotkow’s New York Times essay, “Why The Old-School Music Snob is the Least Cool Kid on Twitter” with some amusement. Their take dismisses it as a music snob version of Patton Oswalt’s Wired Magazine rant against nü-geek culture: this is nothing new, the past wasn’t as great as you remember it, and you’re just being elitist. Oh, and you’re 27, so shut the fuck up already.
That’s at least a little true. But some pieces of the essay really struck me. On the shift in musical culture after the rise of internet file sharing:

Within a few years, knowledge had ceased to confer any distinction, and hoarding it had become about as socially advantageous as stamp collecting. Thanks to the Internet, cultural knowledge was now a collective resource. Which meant that being cool was no longer about what you knew and what other people didn’t. It was about what you had to say about the things that everyone already knew about.


My quarrel here isn’t with the idea that cool people don’t know as much about stuff as they used to. If you really want to drill deep into your interests, you still have that option. You just have to accept that most of your findings will have no social value.
My beef is really with the factors that gave rise to this state of affairs, and I realize this beef is deeply stupid: I bridle at the idea that good stuff could be public in the first place, that I should have to share my tastes with the wider world.

I definitely think that it’s true that the High Fidelity ideal of the record-collecting, bootleg-recording, foreign release-hunting music nerd has, to some extent, been absorbed into the broader culture. And this is because we’ve won. Almost ten years ago in Freaky Friday, Lindsay Lohan and Chad Michael Murray fall in love through their mutual admiration for semi-obscure alt-rock acts like The Breeders and The Vines. Entire TV shows, notably The O.C. and Grey’s Anatomy became enormously popular through their indie saturated, unusual-for-TV soundtracks. Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist. If everybody seems to be having the same conversation about the same artists peppered with the same references, it’s not because people have ceased to be adventurous with their music, it’s that the culture at large has shifted.
But it’s not all bad. These two things remain true: it’s really, really cool to be “into” music, but really, really uncool to be too into music; and, more importantly, people don’t even fucking hear 98% of what they listen to. As always, music is used today as a marker of what social groups you fit into, and somehow the highest form of praise one can give to another’s taste these days is eclectic. But get too music into talking about music, or, hell, talk about the music at all, and you start verging into uncool territory. Because people don’t know what they’re listening to. And to a snob like me, that’s reassuring, because even though what we listen to may be the same, we hear something different.

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