Sunday, March 8, 2009

Musical Etiquette: At The Party

So you've been invited to a party? Good for you, you're popular! These are generally entertaining events where people mingle, dance, discuss their interests and attempt to sleep with one anothers exes. If you're at the right party you may even see blood-alcohol experiments performed live and/or copious drug use! But don't let that discourage you, parties are a great way to meet new people and have stimulating conversations about your interests.

Music is a wonderful topic to break the ice, entertain a group of people and showcase your sparkling wit. After all, you're popular! You need to be sure that people remember you at the end of the night. Knowing the song that the host has put on can make you appear "hip", "with it" and "cool". But be careful! Go too far into your musical knowledge and you'll be labeled as The Giant Music Snob. Lucky for you, I've got some good advice to keep you looking good and the party flowing.

1. Don't Bore People.

Here's a quick way to tell if you've slipped over the edge of good taste. See the glazed expression in the eyes? The slack jaw? This girl is no longer interested in you because you can't shut up about Obscure Band #1's Japanese release limited edition promo only 45 B-side live acoustic cover of Obscure Band #2's best song from their unreleased 4-track demo.

If you see this look on a fellow partygoer's face, you've been going on way too long. Try changing the topic, or asking a question and listening instead of waiting for your turn to speak. See what happens!

See, look at her now.

Keep this in mind; even if you know more about an obscure band than anyone else in the room, they don't care. You'll meet people who share your passion at times, the key is to recognize them. Musicians generally listen to far more music than other types so feel free to test the waters about how long they'll talk. Of course, they may have dates with them that aren't into it or friends in the group who don't share your interests. Play it by ear and watch their eyes, you'll do fine.

So now you know when to stop! It's an important lesson. Are you ready for your next one? Good.

2. Don't Be An Asshole.

Everyone is, on occasion, a total asshole. It's a sad fact of life but the frequency can be minimized with some basic guidelines. First realize that music is subjective. It is a very personal decision as to whether or not a record can be counted as "Good" or "The Worst Shit I've Ever Heard In My Life". People can be rather testy about their tastes and I've found it best to avoid absolute statements when discussing music with people I don't know well. You don't know the people at the party very well? That's good! Parties are about meeting new people and vomiting on them! Let's look at a couple ways of telling someone what you think of the song that's playing.

"I've heard this before. I don't really care for it that much."


Which of these people would you want to talk to? If you picked the second or third one, you may be masochistic and this blog cannot help you. Please seek professional help. Did you pick the first one? Good! He is exhibiting the appropriate response to someone elses taste in music. The truth of it is that you can always find someone whose tastes in music will offend you, or vice-versa. There is a price to be paid for the variety in the world, you will always find things you do not like.

3. Stick to "I" Statements.

What's an "I" statement you ask? It's simple. I'll give you some examples.

Bad: Morrisey's last two records are fucking terrible.
Good: I think the last two Morrisey albums were fucking terrible.

Bad: The Killers? Why the fuck would you waste your time?
Good: The Killers? They're alright, but have you heard of Interpol? I think they're far better.

Bad: The artwork for this album makes your eyes bleed for two weeks.
Good: The artwork for this album made my eyes bleed for two weeks. My doctor said he had't seen anything like it since the 80's.

You see, the second one is a tricky one. The speaker has managed to do two things at once, Not Be An Asshole and Stick To "I" Statements at the same time. Once you've done it for a while, it will be second nature. To be quite frank if you don't hold a degree in music and aren't prepared to explain yourself in very technical terms you're probably not able to make an objective statement about the quality of a record or band. It's a safe bet to talk in the first person; you may find yourself at a party with the guy who produced that album you just trashed. Wouldn't that be embarrassing?

4. Have A Good Time!

Well that's why you're at the party! Keep the smiling up, don't bring everyone around you down with a thirty minute rant about how much you hate some band or another. Once again, no one cares. Be sure to find something nice to say about the host's music choices. You never have to come back to this party anyway. Just smile and nod. You'd be surprised how popular you can get just by smiling and nodding at questions! In any case it won't hurt you to be nice, no matter what you may think.

Talking about music at parties is something that takes practice, skill and a little bit of luck but keeping these simple things in mind can make the experience enjoyable for everyone at the party. You'll be sure to come across as "cool", without sounding like A Giant Music Snob.

Until next time,
Eriq Nelson

Questions about Musical Etiquette? Send me your quandaries at


Amber Dawn said...

Eriq - you are a fucking genius. I LOVE IT.

Ste. Goldie said...

I've been posting your blogs on my facebook...You make me laugh!