What do artists "owe" their fans?
One of my favorite bands is Low. They are from Duluth, MN and I've been listening to them since the mid-90s. They are known for their quiet, beautiful and minimal songs and were one of the bands that my wife and I bonded over when we first met each other and started dating. Long story short, they hold a dear spot in my heart.
Last Saturday, they played Rock the Garden, a large music festival in Minneapolis, MN, sponsored by The Current, a local public radio station. Low's set consisted of a single 27 minute song that was mostly a wall of noise (listen here). The reaction to is has been really interesting. Many people were extremely angry. The general sense seemed to be that felt ripped off since Low didn't play any of their hits. It raises a really interesting question about artists and what their responsibility is to their fans. If fans pay for a ticket to see a band, is it their right to hear certain songs? Is it their right to see a certain type of performance? Andrea Swensson, a music critic for The Current, wrote a great post called "The audacity of Low: What does a band ‘owe’ us when we pay to see them perform?"
Personally, I love that Low did this. They've been around for awhile and have a lot of hit songs they could have played in front of this large hometown crowd. But instead they decided to do something bold, risky and unexpected. Even if I didn't "like" the set musically (which I did), I'm super inspired by the mere fact that they tried something different and unexpected. This is what Alan Sparhawk from Low had to say.
It was a big show, so we wanted to do something big and different. If I was there in the audience, that’s the kind of thing I’d like to see a band do.
This is exactly what I want from creative people. They should surprise me and not always perform to my preconceived ideas.
In my own creative world, a lot of the work I'm most proud of has come from taking a risk and trying something new, unexpected and maybe a little controversial.
Thanks for being inspiring, Low.
One of my favorite Low tunes, "That's How you Sing Amazing Grace."