When I was 14 years old, my friends and I defended our favorite band like a farmer would try to fence off his land against raiding nomads. There was a tacit understanding that The Dead Milkmen was my band, Cibo Matto was another's band, and so on -- you could listen to them a little, but never really go steady with them, to mix metaphors. And you would never commit the faux pas of showing up to school wearing a t-shirt of Someone Else's Band.
Back then it was very easy to be the only one in your whole school or college who knew about your favorite obscure band. When we went to see Jad Fair at the 9:30 Club, the 30 other people there must have represented his entire East Coast fan base.
But after the internet became mainstream in the mid-1990s, that wasn't quite so simple. At first it posed no real threat to your indie ego -- "cool, I found a group of people who like writing messages about my favorite bands!" You'd never meet them in real life and be forced to compete face-to-face. (Although I did meet up with a bunch of internet-fans of They Might Be Giants somewhat regularly, mostly I-95 road trips toward Irving Plaza or the Mercury Lounge.)
Now things seem a lot different, with all of these websites like musicforants (I was pointed to this site a year ago -- may no longer be cool). They put up mp3s from bands that remain obscure for, roughly, 30 minutes -- until the other 10,000 dorks who follow the website click the play button too. Has the ubiquity of these sites changed the social dynamics of these people?
Now that people don't get out and socialize much anymore, especially music nerds, most of their interpersonal contact is gushing over the internet with their peers about the hot new bands on these websites. Of course, this just makes fatigue set in much faster than before --
Oh... you've heard of them too? Yeah, I guess I kinda got tired of that album after the third day. I'm so into ____ right now.
The basic model here is the co-evolution between a host species and a parasite species. The indie rock nerd sees himself as the host, and anyone else who likes his band is a parasite with no musical radar of their own. This drives him to abandon the band once he senses enough others are listening to them, and to find a new band. Now, though, the parasites can locate and exploit the host so quickly that the host ends up spending most of his time, energy, and resources trying to out-run the parasites -- a Red Queen scenario.
Is there anything to this? I matured beyond indie oneupsmanship when I was about 17 or 18 years old, so I don't have a really good feel for what the music dorks are like now. But from what I've read on the mp3 promoting sites, there's always some neurotic mess saying that he can't stay passionate about a band for longer than a week -- "after that, I'm so over them." Are they now locked into 18-hour days of indie drudgery, their only obsession being to unearth that one band that no one on the internet has heard of?
Buncha dopes. At least they won't have the time, or the social skills, to reproduce.