Today I thought it’d be interesting to talk about something we see on the internet every day: memes! But what does that have to do with music?
- Memes are shared by regular people. While sometimes they’re created by companies as a way to promote a product or an idea, usually they’re created as a commentary on current events, pop culture, or cultural norms. They’re usually rapidly spread from the ground up via social media.
- The traditional model of releasing music is much less prevalent than it was a couple of decades ago. Fewer artists are getting signed to record labels, and record deals aren’t as lucrative to artists as they used to be. Many are completely forgoing labels. Instead they opt to release and sell their music themselves through channels like Bandcamp or iTunes, and promote themselves via social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, independent artists will even create their own memes, whether to promote an upcoming show or a new music release.
- Both meme creators and independent artists eliminate a middleman and instead depend on a grassroots following to spread their work.
That being said, I wanted to take a look at this Bernie Sanders/Hillary Clinton meme. Earlier this year, during the Democratic primaries, this meme took many different forms with different topics and captions from the two candidates. Usually, it depicts Sanders talking in detail about a topic and Clinton showing a very basic understanding of it, implying that Sanders came across as more “authentic” to voters and Clinton giving the impression that she pandered to what voters wanted to hear.
There’s sometimes a certain attitude among music fans that in order to be a “real fan” of an artist, someone has to know every song, album, and fact about them. Here, the creator doesn’t seem to be doing this as any sort of top down/promotional branding, but is just doing it as social commentary and to poke fun at the candidates. Sanders is shown having extensive knowledge of the band Brand New’s discography, while Clinton is depicted as only knowing the band’s most popular song. Here, they’re implying that Sanders was “authentic”, while Clinton was a “poser”.
Regardless of anyone’s political views or who was the “better” candidate, the meme worked because it melded people’s perceptions of the candidates while also making fun of “fake” fans.