Hello there. Let’s design our perfect band!
First up, I think we’d all agree that we’d want this theoretically perfect band to write their own music. We don’t want a Jedward or Steps, trotting out forgettable pop nonsense that will be forgotten as soon as it drops out of the Top 20.
And we want them to be real musicians, having spent years honing their craft, practising long into the night. Their talent and hard work should be rewarded, of course.
They should play live at every opportunity, right? We don’t want some miming automatons. We want to hear that real sound of instruments before all the organic warts and all have been compressed and post-produced out of it.
We’d want them to act appropriately. We all like a rock and roll bad boy, but in general we’d want them to act with humility and good humour, and use their position of influence for good, right?
So, with that in mind, and assuming you’ve agreed with most of what I’ve written above, why are Coldplay one of the most hated bands in the UK?
They tick every box, and yet they seem to draw much more hatred than bland, pre-packaged pop like Boyzone. People like to paint them as humourless and pious, when they’re often humble and joke self-deprecatingly about their charity work. I always wince a little when I hear people say “I hate Coldplay”. I just don’t understand it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Coldplay fan. I’ve never bought a Coldplay CD, and I’ve never seen them live. But I’m amazed by the outpouring of genuine bile for a band that seem to, on paper, be the perfect band. It’s as if their success, having gone from a small band to a massive band playing their music to millions instead of a few, is something inherently evil. Surely if you don’t like a band’s music, then it’s a simple matter of not listening to them.
Many of us just seem hardwired to bring a massively negative emotion to front of our minds whenever we’re confronted with anyone or anything hugely successful.
“Obscurity is not a f***ing badge” – Hidden Track, McLusky
When Andy Murray was comprehensively beaten in the final of the Australian Open earlier this year I saw a flurry of tweets saying that Andy Murray should give up because he was “s**t at tennis”. That’s the Andy Murray who has been one of the top handful of players in the world for the last few years. He may not be the most lovable character, but to say he’s “s**t at tennis” is astonishingly stupid.
And Tim Henman, a man whose career winnings totaled over eleven million dollars, and who spent an entire decade ranked as one of the top 10 men’s players in the world, was constantly labelled a “plucky loser” because he could never quite win a Grand Slam.
We’re a nation that loves the underdog. And that’s no doubt a good thing. But I think it’s often at the expense of supporting those who’re achieving great things at the top of their game. Our default mode is to have a negative stance towards anyone successful. There seem to be very few people or organisations that we champion unreservedly.
And this reflects a lot in our attitudes to entrepreneurship here. It’s only recently that the word “entrepreneur” has stopped being a dirty word in the UK. But I still hesitate to use it when describing what I do. There’s still a residual sense of you being either a “bit of a wheeler-deeler, Del-boy type,” and if you haven’t succeeded yet (or worse still have had a failed business behind you) then you’re demoted to the status of failure.
Compare this to the US, where being an entrepreneur is a badge of honour, and where a failed business seems to be regarded as a necessary stepping stone to reaching your inevitable success. A mantra in the Silicon Valley startup community is “Fail often. Fail fast. Learn.”
For a bit more insight, this short video from an American who appraises the transatlantic differences in entrepreneurial attitudes is worth watching.
I think this attitude to success, whether in the fields of sport, entrepreneurship or music, is quite odd.
We seem to turn to the negatives, and even hate, when confronted by someone achieving great success which doesn’t exactly meet with our approval. And without wanting to come across as some massive hippy (I cut my long hair off a very long time ago), I think that actively hating anything is such a massive waste of energy. Music you don’t like is so easily avoided (or at worst will be over in 3 minutes), and that energy could be so much better utilised. I’m not proposing we can change a national trait overnight, and there will always be curmudgeons who moan and whinge about stuff that isn’t underground or cool enough, but I strongly believe we may need to foster a more positive attitude to our success stories as we enter this new phase of increasingly global competition.
“It’s easy to spot a purist. They’re the ones without any skin in the game”. – Hugh Macleod