Is being picky about music inherently bad?

Some of us are adventurous music consumers - we’ll listen to anything and everything that comes our way. Some of us are picky. I knew a man once who rarely listened to anything but classic rock. We all have our likes and dislikes, but some of us are at home with the world’s music, while others rarely stray from the tried or true. Whenever board discussions about music appreciation come up, there is always one underlying question that never seems to get fully addressed. Now is the time - is being selective about the types of music you listen to inherently bad?

For me, I will say “yes.” I do believe being picky about the types of music one listens to is inherently worse than being more adventurous one. Why?

The first is that it is the sign of a small comfort zone with an unwillingness to step out of that comfort zone. To me, that seems like a sign of an underlying problem- perhaps it’s a lack of intellectual curiosity. Perhaps it is some kind of anxiety that makes you uncomfortable with new things in general. Perhaps it is just plain laziness. The truth is that being turned off by certain types of music are easy to overcome- the common wisdom is after giving a hated type of music seven good tries you will end up being okay with it. So what is keeping those who are picky about music from getting over that? It seems to me to be an unwillingness to push limits. And I really think it’s better for people to keep expanding their comfort zone as they learn more about the world around them.

Sure, maybe you really like jazz. But that guy who only ever reads Star Wars novels also really likes Star Wars novels. Wouldn’t you all live a richer fuller life if you branched out a bit?

The second is that it DOES hold you back. Maybe you don’t even notice it most of the time. But when I lived in New Mexico, new residents in town were picky about the music they choose listen to. This has a huge effect on their life- they were always passing by norteno and ranchero music when they tuned the radio, and made excuses about why they don’t appreciate music with lots of accordions and trumpets, couldn’t understand the Spanish lyrics, etc. It started to limit the concerts we all attended, and the radio stations we all listened to. Indeed, in most cultures music is a way of expressing that culture, and if you start refusing that, you are going to lose a lot. You lose a lot of the world when you won’t listen to their music, and that is a shame.

And that’s not just true for different regions and countries. I lived with someone who was picky about the music they listened to, and it was a pain in the butt all of the time. She kept me from enjoying many of my favorite artists, and it was just always a problem. Wouldn’t you want to, for the sake of your friends and family, work on the things that make you high maintenance and difficult?

I don’t say this lightly. I was picky about the kind of music I listened to as a child, and as an adult I listened only to acoustic singer-songwriter folk rock for ten years for no better reason than amplified instruments squicks me out. I decided that not listening to electric guitars and synthesizers was holding me back. So I learned to deal. Now, living on the Canadian border, I’ve had to learn to listen to a lot of pretty disgusting things- like prog rock and Quebecois pop. It’s not always easy. But I recognize that I will become a better person the more I learn to listen (and even enjoy) these things, and so I keep working on it whenever I can.

But if you’re picky, you’re probably a hipster, and we all know that’s no good.

Heh. Anyway, yeah, I did find the original thread on picky eaters a bit odd. Usually even sven is pretty open minded and an overall chill poster–I was definitely surprised to see this coming from her. It just felt kind of needlessly snarky in places.

I wouldn’t be so absolutely sure that it’s a universal truth that exposing someone to more examples of unfamiliar music will make him like it.

I can’t find the story at the moment but I read about some interesting observations. It said that many cultural biases (such as music, language, etc) have a limited time window in a person’s life to make a lifetime “imprint” For many folks, this window coincides with teenager years. For example, if a typical American kid is not exposed to Arabian or Asian semitonal music in his younger years to associate it with emotional hormone laded events like high school prom and first kisses, it’s not going to register later. The older brain is no longer as receptive to radically different musical styles.

This is a generalization of course so it doesn’t hold for everyone but this behavior matches how most adults describe their passion for music. The 30-somethings say the 1980s music was the best and everything after sounds like crap. The 20-somethings say to 1990s music is the best and everything else sucks. Your babyboomers think the 1960s Beatles was the greatest and after that day, “the music died.”

Some people appreciate music with artistic integrity as opposed to music that exists for the sake of money or media attention. Some music really is objectively better than other music.

FWIW, I agree with you. I spent years only listening to punk rock, and had all these reasons why I knew I wouldn’t like anything but punk rock.

As I got older and mellowed out, I learned there is a whole world of beautiful music out there- some of it was gasp even the country and rap music that I swore I’d hate until my deathbed. Since then I’ve learned to appreciate and love a wide variety of music from different decades and genres. This has helped me gain a better understanding of the world- after all, who could really understand the 1960s if they write off all the music from the era as “hippy BS” like I once did? It’s also made me a better socializer, since I have more to talk about with a wider variety of people.

Getting stuck in a rut- any kind of rut- is a bad thing.

Yes, there’s a difference between picky and discerning. You’d never call someone who said “I love The clash, but hate Blink-182” or “I love post-rock, but hate 90’s boy bands.” picky.

On the more general topic hit upon by both threads, more adventurous probably correlates to more cultured, but is that really much of a positive character trait? And there are so many different aspects of culture that everyone’s a boring homebody in one even if they are a globetrotting connoisseur in other aspects. For example, I do not get poetry at all and am only an adventurous eater in the sense that a guy who doesn’t really care what’s on the radio is an adventurous listener, but I love arty movies, I actively seek out novels that they make people read in English class, and most of my music listening is to amateur musicians who put their music online.

I disagree with the notion that music can be objectively judged as being better.

The music we like is very much subjective. Even the reasons we might like it are subjective. How does one objectively measure the artistic integrity of music when making money (for example) are not mutually exclusive?

To the OP’s question, I don’t see it as inherently bad to be picky about music. There isn’t a specific burden on anyone to listened to music they’re not accustomed to. Unless, of course, that person feels limited by what they listen to. I do think it is counterproductive if the reasons for not listening to something are not related to the actual music itself. For example, not trying any disco because “all disco is terrible”. Opening one’s mind means tearing down prejudices when it comes to music.

Personally, I try to be opened minded, if not too terribly proactive, when it comes to listening to different music.

I guess it all comes down to what you consider ‘picky’. I’ve got a satellite radio in my car, with dozen of music channels. The ones I listen to play rock, metal, classical, and blues. This isn’t to say that I don’t like ANY rap or ANY jazz etc. If fact there are songs of just about any genre you can name that I like. It’s just that I’m much more likely to enjoy metal, rock, classical, and blues than I am to enjoy anything else. I’ll give most music a listen, I won’t say ‘eww, not FOLK MUSIC!’ if you say you’ve got something I might like, but I won’t go out of my way to look for music in different genres, because I *probably *won’t like it.

Is being picky about music inherently bad? That depends. Let’s examine wine drinking by analogy. In order to have a ‘sophisticated’ pallet one must try many different types of grapes/varietals so one can understand the properties all the different grapes have, how they age, where they are grown, proper temperatures, etc. Over time one may develop educated individual preferences based on this foundation of understanding and return again and again to certain favorites, but unless one is keeping up by continually trying new wines they may be missing out on a richer wine drinking experience. So to that extent one should ideally be open to trying new stuff all the time, even if it should prove that the majority of it is mediocre or worse (hey, if excellence were commonplace it wouldn’t be considered ‘excellent’). On the opposite end of the spectrum, let’s say someone tries Boone’s Farm Strawberry Ripple as their first wine, immediately falls in love with it and drinks nothing else…they may like it well enough to satisfy their own tastes, but objectively speaking their opinion concerning wine is worthless to others as they have no basis of comparasin. So too with music.

So be of use to your fellow man. And increase the depth of your musical education by being willing to listen to more crap.

I teach banjo, thus my thread name.
Most people don’t listen to banjo music.
Once they do, a whole range can be found. Old-time music from the 40’s, old bluegrass, 60’s folk music, Dixieland jazz, Pete Seeger, the Newgrass Revival, Bela Fleck, Steve Martin, etc.
I suggest to my students that they spend some time listening, and always ask what they’re listening to. Last night one said Jefferson Airplane and Steve Goodman
No banjo there. I said I wouldn’t dream of not listening to the Jefferson Airplane. I’m going to fool with Embryonic Journey on the banjo.
I ask my young students if they know people who only listen to one kind of music. Most of them say they know people like that, but don’t respect them for it.
I am a dj at a mostly alternative rock station in Chicago, and have found so many new sounds there.
There are worlds of music to find. Open up your ears, and enjoy Go out of your way to find new music.

Is this post meant to draw a sarcastic analogy to the picky eaters thread, or is it an actual question?

If its the former, I don’t think the two are analogous at all. Human beings from the same social circles are far more likely to have to share food than they are to share music. Finding compromises on music is also much easier due to the vast amount of existing genres out there and the ease at which they can be switched (you don’t like xx group? Fine, look through my iPod and pick one of the hundreds of other bands I have on there). If someone doesn’t like the current song on the radio, it’s not like I have to go to the store to get different music, or drive an extra 10 minutes to find a different station, or spend 45 minutes putting together their own personal playlist. Nobody is going to be offended if they decide to just not pay any attention to the song.

Plus, other than concerts, listening to music isn’t really even a group activity anyway. They even make devices that prevent other people from listening to your music, and pretty much every music listener owns a pair these days.