Shut up and play: musicians blindsiding their fans with politics

ryan-opinion-photo-from-flickrEvery U.S. election features a certain amount of commentary, especially from musicians. This year has been no different. My tolerance, however, has been.

In previous years, it was easier to just ignore the comments, regardless of which side of the aisle they fell on. But now, it seems like we lack the ability to have a civilized discussion or to just simply agree to disagree.

I have no problem with people expressing their opinions, just as long as they give those with opposing views the same respect. What I do have a problem with is musicians blindsiding their fans with politics.

A few months ago, Robin Zander of Cheap Trick commented on the band’s offer to play at this year’s Republican National Convention. Zander made the comment that the band would, “have to make guitars with swastikas to make it make sense.” This did not sit well with fans of the band, who viewed Cheap Trick as an anti-political band.
I make a point in my shows to not make any political commentary, because that’s not what people are there for. They’re there to have a good time and forget about everyday life, especially politics. Do I have opinions? Yes, but you don’t need to know them to enjoy the music.

Some artists are known for their political commentary, however, so their fans know what they’re getting when they buy a ticket. For instance, if you go see Steve Earle, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear political references. He’s always included that in his music. Some musicians even go on the campaign trail with politicians, like Bruce Springsteen did with President Obama. Those aren’t the artists I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the artists that think their popularity is equal to the value of their opinion, or that anyone who disagrees with them is stupid. If you sing and play guitar, you’re no more of a political genius than I am. More importantly, your opinion doesn’t matter any more than mine. Your vote counts the same as mine.
So if I pay $50 to see you play some great music, don’t preach politics to me. Preaching wasn’t on the ticket. Grab your guitar and get on the stage. Shut up and play.