I am a weapon of massive consumption…
In the field of Cultural Studies, the consumption of music, particularly in the battle of mainstream vs subculture, can be split into two defined categories: passive and active.
The passive consumer, is a part of the feminine culture. In some lovely stereotyping, it has been determined that women use music as a background to activity, as a secondary element.
Men, on the other hand, are the active consumers – when they listen to music, it is central and personal. The idea is that girls listen to whatever is on, whereas guys will go out and choose what they listen to. An example given was that at a club, women don’t care what the music is, as long as they like it. Men want to know what they’re listening to. Male consumers are more likely to alphabetise their CD collection, and more likely to attend live music gigs. Females prefer to go out dancing.
Does this make me a man? I engage in both active and passive consumption of music. I love live music, and while I do go out dancing, I go to a club night where I want to know the name and artist of each song that is played.
The other clear definition between the sexes, in relation to music consumption, is their attitude towards the idea of “mainstream”. Essentially, according to an American study, men regard the term “mainstream” as derogative, something to be avoided. Whereas women would think of it as just another way of saying “popular”, oblivious to any negative connotations.
Realistically, whether something is mainstream or popular shouldn’t affect its credibility. But it can, and that’s an argument for another time.
What I’m wondering, is are these assumptions sexist? Are they true? Are you a mostly active or passive music consumer? Does the fact that I alphabetise my CD collection make me any less feminine?
Andy Bennet. 1999. ‘The Sociology of youth culture’ in Popular music and youth culture: music, identity, and place. New York, St. Martin’s Press: 11-13
Sarah Thornton. 1995. ‘Exploring the meaning of the mainstream (or why Sharon and Tracy dance around their handbags)’ in Club cultures: music, media and subcultural capital. Cambridge, Polity Press: 87-115