Popular culture

Cancel Culture and the Offending Artist: Should We Delete Them From Our Playlists?

October 28 2021

Cancel Culture and the Offending Artist: Should We Delete Them From Our Playlists?

TGS does an Exclusive Interview with Professor Ernst Riefenstahl

Disclaimer: some of the individuals in the following piece have had their names changed to protect their identity. Some of the individuals may also be resident of an alternative dimension. Please proceed with caution.

I must start this article by asking – have you been affected by the omnipotent force of cancel culture sweeping across social media? Have you felt any moral pressure to wipe condemned artists and their music from your playlists? Well here at The Guitar Social, so have we. That’s why we’ve called in one of the foremost experts on the subject for an exclusive interview to help us with our moral deliberations and hopefully help you too. 

Last week I met with Professor Ernst Riefenstahl in his adopted home turf of East London down at The Royal Inn on the Park. We arranged this meeting to get his expert opinion on one of the main topics gripping the nation today: cancel culture and the moral responsibilities of music listeners and fans around the world.

Professor Riefenstahl turns up to the pub in a long black coat, well-worn brogues and a fedora that looks as if the moths are trying to nibble their way out of it. You wouldn’t think upon first appearances that such a man was the leading European expert on Consumer Pejorative and the Twenty-First Century Phenomenon of Cancel Culture. Having recently been consulted by the likes of the UN, Warner Music, and Sony, I’m lucky to get some time alone with him to pick his savvy brains on these issues which are affecting all consumers of music, film, and pop culture alike.  

TGS: Hi Professor – Ernst – is it ok if I call you Ernst?

Prof. Riefenstahl: Sure, that is no problem. We can smoke in here, no?

TGS: Um – no – we’ll have to go outside. 

The bartender nods and winks at Riefenstahl. Riefenstahl smiles back as he lights up. 

TGS: Oh ok – that’s normally illegal inside pubs here…but anyway, let’s get down to it. Professor – Ernst – first of all, could you tell us what cancel culture is?

Prof. Riefenstahl: Yes, of course. Well cancel culture is when someone – often a writer or musician – is condemned by the kangaroo court of social media and popular opinion and branded as ‘bad’ or ‘forbidden’ due to their purported actions or behaviour.

TGS: Can you give us some examples?

Prof. Riefenstahl: Sure – there’s Michael Jackson, Ryan Adams, R. Kelly, Marilyn Manson, Johnny Depp, J.K. Rowling, Ian Brown…

Riefenstahl waves at the bartender. He has the gracious wave of a man who has spoken to a sea of politicians and world leaders and appealed to their better nature.

Prof. Riefenstahl: Two Augustiner Helles Lager, Brian. 

TGS: No thank you – I don’t drink before 10am.

Prof. Riefenstahl: They are both for me then. 

Professor Riefenstahl has a very charming and reassuring smile and its not hard to see why the UN have chosen to consult him on such important issues in global policy and culture. 

TGS: So, I guess the next question is. Has cancel culture been effective at ostracising and oppressing these condemned artists?

Prof. Riefenstahl: Well, you may be surprised to hear – it has had quite the opposite effect.

TGS: Oh really, how’s that?

Prof. Riefenstahl: Well, for example, on day that the last episode of the Surviving R Kelly docuseries aired, R Kelly’s streams rose by 116%.

TGS: What does that say about people and their response to the documentary then?

Prof Riefenstahl: Well, as the old adage goes – there’s no such thing as bad press. But in this sort of instance we can put it down to a number of factors. Firstly, there will be an audience that weren’t fans or familiar with R. Kelly’s music beforehand, that will have gone to listen to it out of curiosity after watching the documentary. And then for people who were fans in the ‘90’s at the artist’s peak, R. Kelly will have been brought to the forefront of their minds and they will go back and listen to his records.

TGS: So nothing the artist does can be bad enough to put people off listening to their music, even if they know they are directly financially supporting the artist with their actions?

Prof Riefenstahl: Well, evidence shows that nowadays the money for artists is no longer in the streaming services, but in selling gig tickets and touring. And further studies have shown, that although people may be more interested in streaming the artist in the wake of their public condemnation, they become less willing to buy gig tickets.

TGS: Why do you think that is?

Prof. Riefenstahl: Well, attending an event in person like that is a much more public show of support for the artist and many people who are willing to press the stream button on their phones and in their bedrooms aren’t so willing to go out of their way to attend a physical event where the stigma of cancel culture is attached to that artist’s name. 

TGS: Interesting. Are there any other examples of this phenomenon of inflated popularity in the wake of condemnation in the press?

Prof. Riefenstahl: Oh definitely. It happens in almost every instance. Another recent example is the huge increase in streaming of Marilyn Manson’s music after accusations of abuse.

TGS: Now, that’s a different case to R. Kelly. Manson hasn’t been found guilty in any legal sense, unlike R. Kelly. At the moment, those are accusations.

Prof. Riefenstahl: Quite. And yet people have been incredibly quick to judge and convict, before the case has gone anywhere near court or trial. 

TGS: But in Manson’s case, it won’t go to a criminal trial, is that right?

Prof. Riefenstahl: Well, well, we simply don’t know what will happen with him yet.

Riefenstahl reclines in his chair with a handful of peanuts.

TGS: But surely the statute of limitations has expired on all the cases, meaning they can no longer be taken to a court of law?

Prof Riefenstahl: Well, it seems that the court is willing to accept Esme Bianco’s case. And we shall see what happens with Manson’s other accusers.

TGS: So what do you think that means for Manson’s fans and his music? He recovered from people blaming him for the Columbine high school shootings, didn’t he?

Riefenstahl: Well… do you think he’s going to recover?

TGS: I’m not sure – that’s why I’m asking you, Professor. 

Riefenstahl reaches into his fedora and pulls out a wriggling rodent. He feeds her – her name is apparently Julia – with some of the peanuts donated by Brian the bartender. I try to get Riefenstahl back on track after this, but it seems that Julia has completely distracted him.

TGS: So boiling things down to the crux of our problems? Should we or shouldn’t we delete these artists from our playlists?

But Riefenstahl is irrevocably absorbed in petting Julia between her furry ears. I try coughing and ruffling my interview notes to remind my learned guest what he is here for, but from this point onwards I can get no further response from the charming Riefenstahl. (If he should read this interview – dear Riefenstahl, I very much enjoyed your company and would love to meet up again, but I must be honest here, and the truth of the matter is that you did answer no further questions and were indeed wholly unhelpful.) 

I gave it one last shot.

TGS: Professor – should we listen to or decry cancel culture? Should cancel culture itself be cancelled?

The unfortunate fact of the matter was that Professor Riefenstahl was no longer listening and had set up a ‘Peanut Race’ on the floor of The Royal Inn, pitting Julia against the resident one-eared mouse, who Brian informed us was called Michael. 

Ironically, I had to carry out the rest of the interview with myself in order to finish the article.

TGS: Perhaps, when you get to the heart of the matter, it is a question of whether you believe that the art does in fact belong to the artist. Once the art has been created and leaves the artist’s hands, it is its own being and belongs only to the person interacting with it. The artist is merely a vessel. Perhaps it shouldn’t matter where the music comes from – if we like it and it means something to us, we should be able to listen to it. Shouldn’t we?

At this point, Julia and Michael’s behaviour has become decidedly primitive. Riefenstahl is no longer bothered, however, as he is enjoying some much-needed rest on the rather sticky floor.  

The interview ends with Professor Riefenstahl being carried out the pub by the hefty Brian and bundled into the back of his car. I think Brian is taking Riefenstahl home, but it could be something more sinister. We’ll have to wait and see. 

Latest News

Explore learning tips, career advice, IMA updates and more.
What’s in a song? A guide to picking the perfect jam song
Before a new term we spend ages stress testing new songs to play in the...
Songwriting tips – using intervals
This is a video we sent to our songwriting class; showing examples of songwriters who...
How to peer pressure yourself into doing your practice
We’d then send those 30 pieces to members of the club, jumbled and disassembled, who...
The Sunday morning podcast #2
The Sunday Morning Podcast #1
Country roads
Nicola Cortese
Nicola Cortese
I started a course in Jan as a beginner with Thomas and I can already play 5 songs!.. with simple chords :) both Thomas and Fiona are really lovely and they really know how to teach whilst having fun! I'd highly recommend dropping at one of their Thursday's open mic! Tons of fun and talent for free!!!
Jonny Pollard
Jonny Pollard
Very friendly learning environment, was a bit nervous to play with a group having not played socially for many years, but it was super relaxed, and I learnt a lot in the first session. Looking forward to the next session!
Adam J
Adam J
Had a great time tonight! I joined on to the beginners course a couple weeks late, but Fiona was great at running me up to speed before the class. Tom was a great instructor, and managed to get us to cover lots of ground in a short space of time. The group was super freindly and relaxed, and im looking forward to going back next week!
Jakub Špaček
Jakub Špaček
Having played guitar in my past within academic environment I have to say The Guitar Social club opened my eyes with their amazing and vibrant atmosphere with company of great people. Lessons are really fun and easy to follow. Feel really motivate just after few classes and my connection to the instrument greatly improved!
Paula Smith
Paula Smith
Unbelievably great, not kidding.
Marcella Puppini
Marcella Puppini
This exactly what I was hoping it would be. A fun and engaging way of learning a new instrument at a lovely venue, with great people and great teaching. Thoroughly recommended.
Only been going 2 weeks but it's a great environment with good pacing throughout the lessons. The community is quite helpful + open to learn so it's really a great space for anyone wanting to hone their guitar chops!
Kevin S.
Kevin S.
Is it a guitar school? A social events group? A music workshop for all ages and abilities? An open, non-judgemental route to performing? A holiday club that includes jamming on guitars around the campfire? Well–it's all these and more. The Guitar Social is built around founder & lead tutor Thomas (plus TGS Business Director, Fiona, originally one of its earliest students). Patient and passionate, Thomas and his relaxed, friendly temperament get the best from beginners to improvers and beyond. Personally for me, one core strength of The Guitar Social is that Thomas realises what most tutors and courses never do – we can all learn fast and well when we play whole songs together and discover as a group how to make them work. Thomas and TGS guest tutors will always tend to teach music theory for guitar, and focus too on scales, chord voicings, correct rhythm, licks, riffs, parts, soloing etc, but with a tendency to make it about the fun and learning gains when students jam together on great songs instead of staring at a white board and not playing much music. Jamming songs in similar or mixed ability groups helps TGS students become functioning musicians who have built useful real world skills and experience across many sessions similar to how working musicians rehearse and workshop songs. And you will have the opportunity to build live experience too if you wish – solo or with your term group or with others of your choice, in a safe, positive environment, with friendly fellow students as your audience. Never any pressure and just one example of where TGS delivers extra value. They are really worth trying. I haven't even done full justice here to all the different activities they do.
stu smith
stu smith
The coolest club in London!
Colin Taylor
Colin Taylor
I'm back for my second series of the Joy of the Jam. After not playing with others for over 30 years, these sessions are reminding me just how inspiring and enjoyable jamming can be. Thomas leads the sessions with huge enthusiasm and a great deal of humour. The support of his impressive musical knowledge is ever present - but this never gets in the way of our desire just have fun and be playing.

Leave your details below with a message and we will get back to you

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.