Music Shaming


Libby Camp, Staff Writer

While walking down the street in Burlington, the buzz of bass and licks of guitar reverberate from buildings all around.

Burlington’s flourishing music scene is expansive in scale but perhaps limiting in its inclusion of different genres.  

There are over 20 different venues in a 15 square-mile radius, a budding DIY community and 42,000 people to enjoy all of the offerings.

With such a large population comes a wide variety of student and local bands.

Phish formed at UVM in 1983, Strangefolk formed in 1991 and nowadays there’s no shortage of new bands to go see at Radio Bean, such as Bison, The Onlys and Gestalt.

However, with a fervor for music comes a hierarchy of tastes and genres perpetuated by college culture.

People are sometimes shamed for listening to certain kinds of music, said sophomore Noah Schneidman, leader of the band Full Walrus.

“I think that in communities where music is really important it’s more of a problem than in others,” Schneidman said.

Schneidman said that when music becomes such a defining factor in people’s personalities, it also leads to stereotypes.

“If you like indie music, then you cuff your jeans, go to basement shows and drink PBR, whereas if you like trap then you aren’t politically sensitive and you wear joggers,” he said.

Sophomore Ben Schnier says a lot of people have snap judgements when they hear what others are listening to. “Like wow do they really listen to that?” he said.

“Because most of the scene doesnt range past the indie scene, other genres are associated with certain audiences and stigmas,” sophomore Emma King said.

With social pressure to remain in the indie music community, Schneidman said, it’s common for people to be afraid to say that they like certain songs or types of music.

“I think it’s not an unrealistic thing to do,” Schneidman said. “People are afraid of not seeming cool enough just because they may like a popular artist.”

“I think [if you like popular music], those around you might question whether or not you have an ear for what you really like, or if you are just following what is popular,” Schnier said. “It’s kind of more special, or unique, to listen to different stuff.”

King also said that this problem is perpetuated by UVM sponsored organizations such as WRUV.

In order to achieve a variety of music, it’s part of WRUV’s policy to never play songs from the Billboard Top 100, present or past, said Rachel O’Neill, WRUV station manager.

“By creating this rule, it’s excluding a lot of its listeners and titling those who listen to that type of music as ‘basic.’ Honestly, it’s pretty unfair because some popular music is valuable,” King said.

This culture of music-consciousness creates guilty pleasures for certain people, Schnier said.

“For me, some of my secret songs are like Taylor Swift’s old songs, like ‘You Belong With Me’ and ‘Love Story,’” Schnier said.

His openness about the music he likes also depends on the age of those around him, Schnier said.

“If I’m around older people, I usually am not talking to them about how much I love Kanye West, because I know they are just going to judge me for it,” he said.

But when it comes to music shaming, not everyone thinks a solid solution exists.

“I feel like people will always have preconceived opinions about certain genres,” Schnier said. “Opinions are acceptable, but shaming people isn’t acceptable.”

Like different opinions on food or sports teams, music might never be agreed upon, he said, and that means some form of shaming will always persist.

“Being judgmental is natural to human beings,” Schneidman said.

“But people who are shallow enough to judge you for your music taste obviously aren’t going to be good people to be around, so just like what you like and do what makes you happy,” he said.

However, King thinks that certain steps can be taken to push back against music shamers.

“[We need to] expand the DIY scene in Burlington to allow more genres of music, have WRUV play all types of music, open spaces dedicated to certain genres and don’t let people be assholes,” King said.