by Renee Arabia SA21-Q
If you listen carefully, you could hear it everyday, and you’ve probably even said it yourself. Music is my life. Or perhaps, Music keeps me going. But what does it mean to be a music fan in the Philippines?
I grew up surrounded by music. My mother loved pop, my father loved New Wave and a lot of older genres. Though there was no actual musical upbringing of any sort, it was still the music that made an impression on me. Somewhere down the road, I grew up as a musical fanatic, and I lived, ate, and breathed music – local music, to be more specific. I gained the reputation as the “bands person.” I knew who they were. I could tell you their sound, their recent releases, their members, etc. I spent my money on albums, gigs, magazines, merchandise, etc.
So what does it mean to be a music fan in the Philippines?
After years of being immersed in such a culture, I found that there are many types of music fans in the Philippines. First, we discuss those who adore mainstream pop music. They are almost always the same, regardless if we talk about fans of local mainstream pop music, or foreign mainstream pop music (although, the fans for foreign almost always have prejudices against the fans of local mainstream pop). The concerts they attend will always be in the bigger venues such as Araneta, etc. The albums will always be available in most record bars. These fans understand the nuances of VIP tickets as compared to general admission tickets. It is common knowledge that these people are what keep the record companies alive, it is this collective that the companies analyze and experiment on. The companies abide by their taste, and they too follow what the companies release to them. This is why being a fan of mainstream pop isn’t much difficult. Everything you want is almost always readily available to you. Upon observation, one can always notice a younger crowd going to events for mainstream pop: the screaming girls and even boys. Within their subculture is a relatively young age group that encompasses social class. This phenomena, however, is more out of business and economics rather than cultural. Why? Because as said earlier, this is the genre that record companies control. In order for them to create mainstream success, they must be able to appeal to the greater audience. In concerts themselves, there is a great divide if you compare VIP to general admission, wherein some VIP tickets can go up to 10,000 Php while some general admission tickets don’t even reach 1,000Php. It is from there alone that one can see how much economy can influence, and even make, a culture.
Now we move on to another type of music fan: the independent music lover, and the band lover. Here in the Philippines, this subculture is very interesting to observe. If you are a part of this, then you probably already know that it is almost the opposite of mainstream pop culture. Unlike mainstream pop culture, these people do not have everything readily available to them, and there is almost no distinction between a foreign independent music fan, or local independent music fan. Their albums are the type you have to scour the city and the internet for. You can find Taylor Swift in almost any record bar, but what about bands like Us-2 Evil-0? Hey Marseilles? The supporters of the genres that fall under independent music and such, have to put in that extra effort and extra money for this. It is this factor why such music fans have established their own subculture. They know exactly where they should go. Some have come together to pool their resources. Some have put up their own shops so fellow fans can have easier access. A good example would be Cubao Ex. The place has transformed from Marikina Shoe Expo, to a art and culture center, almost like a settlement for the subculture. Also, remember that this is a collective that is not driven by the record company, nor by musical trends. So you will find that these people have more color and dimension in their musical taste, and are much less homogeneous as the mainstream fans. So here you will find people who listen mainly to New Wave, some are into soul music, some jazz, etc. Contrary to popular belief, these people also listen to pop music. But their pop music has a certain edge, because it is not to sell, but to send their own message across. Their pop too has an edge, that is you can still find traces of another genre, and this is why mainstream fans might not understand it as much as the independent fan. This diversity in this subculture works in a way that doesn’t divide them, but merges them together. This also translates into their music, and this is why there is a birth of new genres such as neo-soul, dance punk, etc. This phenomena comes from this human reaction to being “the other.” When a person has been labeled or has realized that he/she is not a part of the majority, it is natural to look for another one like him. Humans cannot thrive alone, and will always need at least one companion. So, they invite people like him to join him. You can even observe this in a typical gig that caters to this audience. The gigs are usually held in smaller and more intimate venues, places like 70’s Bistro, Route 196, B-Side Collective, etc. There is no difference between VIP, and general admission. There is only a door fee. But once inside, space divides the audience. The music critics usually sit at the back, absorbing the music. Those at the front are the younger, and more energetic (or, for lack of a better term, rabid) fans. In the middle and at the sides are the more mature audience and the fellow musicians who have come to observe the band and to socialize with the fellows. Despite this, at the end of the gig, the audience merges into one. It won’t be a homogeneous mix, but this is exactly what makes this subculture work.
At first, one might say that the latter has more culture, or that the former is a product of society’s economic ideals. But at the end of the day, one can conclude that both are established subcultures on their own. They only move by different ways, but they are quite similar. They are a collective of people with a common love for music. They both like watching their favorite artists live, they both have their own “meccas” where they go to buy merchandise, and to have their fix of the music they love. They both come together with fellow fans. Perhaps this is the biggest contribution of music to the society: it brings people together despite their differences.
Haineault, Doris-Louise, and Jean-Yves Roy. Unconscious for Sale: Advertising, Psychoanalysis, and the Public. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1993. Print.
Carrabine, Eamonn. “Popular Music.” Cultural Theory: Classical and Contemporary Positions. Canada: SAGE Publications, 2007. 231-51. Print.