I have rock snob tendencies, I admit, so I have some sympathy with Michael Crowley’s whining in New Republic.
"Snobbery subsists on exclusivity. And the ownership of a huge and eclectic music collection has become ordinary. Thanks to the iPod, and digital music generally, anyone can milk various friends, acquaintances, and the Internet to quickly build a glorious 10,000-song collection. Adding insult to injury, this process often comes directly at the Rock Snob's expense. We are suddenly plagued by musical parasites. For instance, a friend of middling taste recently leeched 700 songs from my computer. He offered his own library in return, but it wasn't much. Never mind my vague sense that he should pay me some money. In Rock Snob terms, I was a Boston Brahmin and he was a Beverly Hillbilly--one who certainly hadn't earned that highly obscure album of AC/DC songs performed as tender acoustic ballads but was sure to go bragging to all his friends about it. Even worse was the girlfriend to whom I gave an iPod. She promptly plugged it into my computer and was soon holding in her hand a duplicate version of my 5,000-song library--a library that had taken some 20 years, thousands of dollars, and about as many hours to accumulate. She'd downloaded it all within five minutes. And, a few months later, she was gone, taking my intimate musical DNA with her.
I'm not alone in these frustrations. "Even for a recovering Rock Snob, such as myself," Steven Daly told me, "it's a little disturbing to hear a civilian music fan boast that he has the complete set of Trojan reggae box-sets on his iPod sitting alongside 9,000 other tracks that he probably neither needs nor deserves."
I love the language these rock snobs use though: “a friend of middling taste”, “tracks that he probably neither needs nor deserves". Wow. Do we have to “deserve” to own music now? Is the fan who made his or her way backwards from the watered down reggae beats of Sting and UB40 to Bob Marley and then to Lee Perry and finally to the real thing, the Trojan boxed sets, more deserving than the “musical parasite” who lifted them from a friend’s computer?
Perhaps. At least the first fan showed some diligence, some idea of the interconnectedness of musical idioms, some notion of musical research. At least he or she had done some reading, some hanging out in record stores, and had experienced the joy of discovery.
But on balance the demise of the rock snob, if indeed that is what we are seeing, is probably a good thing, if only because it will spare us from people like Steven Daly patronizing “civilian music fans”. Yuk. Go and count train numbers Steven.
Note: the picture is Mick Jagger, 1975, from a series of ten colour screenprints by Andy Warhol, Collection of the National Gallery of Australia