Internet Takes Away All The Fun Of Unhealthily Obsessing Over Rock Stars

May 14th, 2007 // 14 Comments

timesmag.jpgYesterday’s New York Times Magazine featured a lengthy article on how technology is changing the way some musicians interact with fans; while much of the piece focuses on singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton–who spends almost as much time on the computer as he does on stage–it also examines one of the less-sexy aspects of new-media semi-stardom: While the Internet might provide you with a loyal fanbase, it can also take away any chances you might have at cultivating a rock-n’-roll mystique.

And, as with all articles written about music-scene trends within the past year, this one invokes the Hold Steady:

[The Hold Steady guitarist Tad Kubler] regards fan interaction as an obligation that is cultural, almost ethical. He remembers what it was like to be a young fan himself, enraptured by the members of Led Zeppelin. “That’s all I wanted when I was a fan, right?” he said. “To have some small contact with these guys you really dug. I think I’m still that way. I’ll be, like, devastated if I never meet Jimmy Page before I die.” Indeed, for a guitarist whose arms are bedecked in tattoos and who maintains an aggressive schedule of drinking, Kubler seems genuinely touched by the shy queries he gets from teenagers…

Yet Kubler sometimes has second thoughts about the intimacy. Part of the allure of rock, when he was a kid, was the shadowy glamour that surrounded his favorite stars. He’d parse their lyrics to try to figure out what they were like in person. Now he wonders: Are today’s online artists ruining their own aura by blogging? Can you still idolize someone when you know what they had for breakfast this morning? “It takes a little bit of the mystery out of rock ‘n’ roll,” he said.

Indeed, there’s little mystery left about any performer nowadays: Big-name stars are analyzed in-depth by the tabloids and countless TV shows, while lesser-known acts commit every single semi-relevant detail of their daily lives to the Internet; as a result, there are only a handful of artists about whom we can maintain more than five seconds of passing curiosity. For proof, check out this Mystique-O-Meter:

Thom Yorke
Jack White
Trent Reznor

Brandon Flowers
Bright Eyes
David Bowie
Iggy Pop

Pete Wentz
Chris Martin
The Gallagher brothers
Flavor Flav


Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog [NYT Magazine]


  1. Ned Raggett

    see Marilyn Manson’s new video

    Let’s not and say we did. (Mystique!)

  2. janine

    @Ned Raggett: sweet jesu, you must. it’s a cry for help that would make britney spears blush. go now!

  3. RepentTokyo

    Coulton is awesome, by the way.

  4. plasticaisle

    Can people stop acting like the internet is this brand new thing? We all know that it has changed the way we interact and communicate, but it’s become a really lazy topic and has been beaten to death in the media. I feel like I have read this article 300 times already.

  5. Ned Raggett

    Can people stop acting like the internet is this brand new thing?

    Consider the New York Times Magazine’s general demographic, though. “So there’s this website?”

  6. RepentTokyo

    @plasticaisle: Considering the vast number of bands still relying on labels to distribute their music, I would have to say that for many artists not only is it a “new” thing but it’s a “misunderstood” thing.

  7. mike a

    If I’ve met an artist who either deliberately cultivates a mystique or just has a unique presentation, the human being becomes a separate character to the voice on the record. Kristin Hersh is a great example – she’s so low-key and “normal” in person that you can hardly believe she was responsible for “Vicky’s Box” and “Hate My Way.”

  8. AcidReign

    …..We all play characters and cultivate mystiques in real life, why should musicians and movie stars be any different?

    …..Frankly, I love being able to instantly google/wikipedia up any topic that comes to mind. The ability to pull up the history/discography of any band on your screen? Priceless. I sure wouldn’t want to go back to reading Rolling Stone for my info!

  9. Vince Neilstein

    Tool’s Maynard James Keenan should be added to the list of rock stars that still have a mystique. Due to the band’s refusal to have themselves in videos, magazine articles, or any photos at all, no one even really knew what the guy looked like unless you saw him in concert until a few years ago.

  10. millwhistle

    I’ve always thought a mystique is useful for musicians – and writers and actors and artists, for that matter – who would otherwise be completely dull. or sound stupid. a mysteriously-zipped lip is infinitely preferable if the alternative is inane babble. those people should probably not blog. because also, then they will make spelling errors and I’d grow to hate them even more.

    however, when the musician – or writer or actor or artist – is truly interesting/witty/intelligent, I say, reveal away! john darnielle had a semi-secret diaryland page years ago and I stalked it religiously. john darnielle describing what he made for lunch beats half the nyt bestseller list right now.

  11. RepentTokyo

    @Vince Neilstein: ….and daft punk fans don’t even get to “see” that group in concert.

  12. Poubelle

    I’m baffled by the idea that Pete Wentz or Chris Martin were, at some point, intriguiing.

    (Jonathan Coulton, however, will never stop being fantastic.)

  13. La Mareada


    Add Brandon Flowers as never intriguing.

    Still somewhat intriguing:
    Erykah Badu
    Sly Stone

  14. La Mareada


    No longer intriguing:
    Axl Rose

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