A myth persists that successful musicians are the most talented. In reality, music is not so much of a meritocracy; talent and popularity are not necessarily correlated. I’m not saying that the industry’s most popular artists are necessarily talentless, but I rather mean that talent does not guarantee popularity. Some may feel this is unfair as it keeps skilled musicians earning less money than those with less talent than them, and it becomes harder for musicians to make a living off their passion. However, I disagree, and a perfect example for why is the band Weakened Friends.
Weakened Friends is a rock band from New England. They released one album and recently made one single called “What You Like.” With just a guitar, bass and drums, their grunge-indie tone is reminiscent of the ’90s grunge scene that formed bands like Nirvana. While their style doesn’t scream popularity in this age, their music remains well written, produced and performed. I first discovered them when I saw them play at a music festival in 2018.
How I Discovered Weakened Friends
Music festivals are another great example of how music is not a meritocracy. While festivals may feature a few headliners, most of the artists are lesser-known. In fact, many music festivals are where an artist can get their “big break,” so to speak. A perfect example of this was when Green Day performed at Woodstock ’94 and got in a mud fight with the audience. After that, both their album sales and audience numbers increased. Furthermore, music festivals support so many talented artists, and the people who attend are fortunate enough to see multiple fantastic artists in one day.
In 2018, I went to Boston Calling, a popular music festival, because some of my friends were going and Eminem headlined. The chaotic atmosphere is definitely not somewhere I would be right now with the pandemic. I also had no idea who most of the performers were. But Eminem, the artist I was eager to see, had an ocean of people at his stage that stretched out at least a quarter of a mile. I could barely see him. I realized that music festivals are not for me, but I’m still glad that I went and discovered some great artists. In fact, I would even go back to discover more!
My friends and I walked over to center stage where there weren’t many people. That’s where I discovered Weakened Friends. Despite being on center stage, they didn’t sing for a huge audience. They even said at the end of their set, “We know you probably didn’t come to see our band, but we appreciate your support!” That degree of humility is severely lacking in the music industry these days. I was intrigued to check them out on Spotify, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Weakened Friends demonstrates how a band may not be popular, or even the most technically proficient, but they still sound great. While they cater to about 17,000 listeners on Spotify, they’ve gone on vast tours with other bands that cover most of the U.S. and Europe. Most importantly though, they produce good quality music while remaining humble and in touch with their fans.
Why We Need More Bands Like Weakened Friends
Bands like Weakened Friends are perfect examples of how there is musical talent everywhere. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars going to a concert of some famous band. You can find good local bands who are just as talented and entertaining. Additionally, you can find great bands in famous music cities every single night. Nashville houses one of the most famous, lively music scenes in the U.S. I went there once and was amazed by how much sound could be emitted on one street.
Just imagine you’re walking down Broadway one night. You’re overcome with the radiating noise that comes from each of the bars. You poke your head into one bar to focus in on the performers there. Maybe you like it and decide to stay. Maybe you don’t and move on. I remember being amazed by some of the performances that I saw that trip from artists and bands that I had never heard of. One guy in particular had only a guitar and a looping pedal and managed to capture the magic of an entire band.
Less popular artists are also much more in touch with their fans. Weakened Friends manages numerous social media pages and even a Patreon account, where they connect with their followers. Over the pandemic, they streamed a few shows on Facebook from their home. These interactions make the artists much more relatable and genuine. The more popular artists in the music industry today tend to lack this kind of ingenuity and connection with fans. Fame can do a lot to a person’s ego. Some can handle it, but others may lose touch with ordinary life.
Unrecognized talent exists throughout the music industry, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Good music becomes easily available, and a new favorite artist is at everyone’s fingertips. There also exists an integral degree of humility within independent artists, which makes them much more likeble and can be heard within their music. These days, music is made just for Spotify hits far too often. Society needs talent driven by authenticity, not by money.