Should People Gatekeep Music?

Gaslight, gatekeep, girl boss. It’s all fun and games until someone actually does either of the two formers. While it is perfectly fine to joke about gatekeeping things like music (the act of preventing general access to something or withholding it to prevent it from becoming mainstream or popular), in practice, it can actually be a toxic and harmful thing to do. Gatekeeping music from mainstream audiences can be harmful to musicians, listeners, and society as a whole, because of the dangerous mentalities and limiting experiences and worldviews it promotes. 

When it comes to gatekeeping music, it is often the lesser-known musicians whose music is being withheld from mainstream audiences. Usually, the situation presents itself as an individual who stumbles upon an amazing new band or artist who isn’t well known yet, and rather than sharing the music or talking about the artists, the listener keeps the music to themselves, under the pretense that it makes them especially eclectic or unique to have discovered them so early on in their musical careers. Because lesser-known artists are more likely to have their music gatekept, they are the primary victims of this flawed mentality. When a musician shares their music publicly with the world, it is because A. they want to share their sound and hope that it will resonate with people, and B. because it presents the opportunity to make money off of their skills and craft. Withholding these artists’ music and preventing it from becoming popular inhibits their ability to support themselves as artists, and in some instances, it could even prevent them from producing more music (assuming their livelihoods really did depend on the success of their music). The mentality of a fan should be to support the artists they love so that they have the resources they need to keep producing the amazing music that fans originally fell in love with. Gatekeeping clips musicians’ wings rather than help them to soar. 

Gatekeeping is also bad for listeners. Going off of that previous example, if musicians cannot support the music they make financially, they won’t be able to produce it- or at least- they won’t be able to produce it as much as they would have been able to have their music brought them immense success. Promoting and talking about music by these underground artists is like investing in them. They get to keep making music, and fans get to keep listening to it. In preventing music from becoming popular, it prevents the further production of similar music that might bring fans even more joy and thus negatively impacts fans’ listening experience. 

Not to mention, gatekeeping keeps fan bases from growing. Limiting how many people get to experience a certain type of music demonstrates an inherently selfish attitude. We should want to share what we love with other people in the hopes that they might also enjoy it. Sharing music brings communities closer, as it unites people over shared interests and experiences. Plus, larger fan bases mean more touring, concerts, and merch, all things that help connect fans to their favorite musicians and strengthen the comradery between people within a fandom. 

My final plea for why people should stop gatekeeping music is that it encourages a limited worldview and life experiences. In saying that only some people can listen to a certain band, people are essentially saying only this group can do this thing. That’s when we start to see more stereotypes about certain fandoms and the people within them. People shouldn’t be putting others into boxes but rather accept that anybody can like any kind of music, as everybody is unique and has the potential to relate their life experiences to any type of music. After all, music is an art. We wouldn’t tell people that they can’t look at a painting and derive meaning from it just because we saw the painting first. If anything, we should encourage people to share their music tastes with each other, as it invites people into each other’s worlds and allows them to better understand each other and their experiences. 

The act of gatekeeping presents more harm to the music industry than people realize, having a negative impact on musicians, fans, and society as a whole. Though it may be funny to joke about, it’s important to remember the real-life consequences of gatekeeping. The next time you discover a new artist, consider telling someone about them rather than keeping it to yourself; you might just love what happens next.


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