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If music was sport

Just for fun, here’s a thought experiment. It illustrates that things in the world of music (and the business of music) need not necessarily be configured the way they are…

If music was treated like sport:

  • Schools would have plenty of equipment and kids would have places to play and practice
  • People who didn’t do any music at all would be considered a bit lazy by their peers
  • Professional musicians wouldn’t get asked by their parents when they were going to get a real job
  • Most people would play music and almost none of them would expect money for it
  • Every weekend, you’d get a televised battle of the bands
  • Players in top acts would change bands for millions of dollars
  • Every four years, the best amateur acts would come together for the largest music festival on earth
  • There’d be significant funding for community music programmes
  • Most bands would have coaches as well as managers (and a physiotherapist?)
  • Schools, pubs, churches, villages, and even workplaces would have their own bands
  • If you went to a gig with a videocamera, you wouldn’t be considered a thief
  • Big acts would sell season tickets at their own venues
  • Government-funded television campaigns would encourage non-musicians to take up an instrument and practice for just 30 minutes a day…
  • Children from the age of 6 would know all the stats on their favourite bands
  • There’d be movies where people escaped from POW camps by playing the guitar
  • TV channels would get into bidding wars for the rights to show concerts
  • All the top bands would regularly hold auditions for new members
  • You’d join your first band at the age of five
  • The more musically inclined would routinely play in different bands in different genres
  • Audiences would bet on the outcome of concerts
  • University scholarships would be awarded on musical aptitude
  • Kids would dream of one day representing their country in Hip Hop
  • You’d play another genre of music in Summer - jazz is a Winter music
  • Band members would switch instruments from time to time (she’s been on drums all season - let’s give her a turn on vocals)
  • Bands would have reserves
  • You could swap out every member of a group and it’d still be the same band
  • In American teen films, trombonists would beat up the kid who got picked last for the orchestra

And so on… Of course music is not sport. It’s not even like sport. But it’s interesting to think through the things that we do in a different field of human endeavour, and realise that the way that we approach music and the business of music is not a logical necessity - it’s just how we’ve chosen to put it together.

And since that’s true, we can choose to do it a different way.

Personally, I like the idea of some of these outcomes. Especially the first one. I’m sure you can add some of your own too.

If music was sport… what else would be different?

Reader Comments (24)

If music was like sport, people would spend ages obsessing over who the best musicians and bands were....

Oh, wait... ;-)


October 22 | Unregistered CommenterWulf

If music was like sport:
* those who didn't turn up to training wouldn't be allowed to play on the weekend.
* when you didn't feel like training some dude would yell "when it hurts, do 3 more" at you
* someone would plan your season for you 3 months before it starts
* you would have a specific outcome in mind to make all your effort worthwhile. ie winning the competition or making it to the finals etc.
* at the end of a gig you would all vote for the Most Valuable Player or Man of the Match
* there would be a "Masters" concert every few years for the folks who are too old to compete with the young crowd.
* there would be a branch of music where the flashing lights and "the show" was more important than the content of the performance. Whoops, we already have that, ie. KISS is to music what Wrestling is to sport!!!

October 22 | Unregistered CommenterMark Gibson

If music was like sport, you wouldn't get beat up in high-school for being a band geek :)


October 22 | Unregistered CommenterHoover

If music was like sport, bands would play a warm up before playing their gig, then play a warm down afterwards.

Band members hitting duff notes would be sent for an early bath

Whenever a band gets bottled at Reading, the slightest touch of changed air due to a closely missing bottle of piss would see the band member collapse to the floor and roll around in agony before jumping up fine when the audience member had been given a yellow card

October 22 | Unregistered CommenterGazemous

What do you mean if? Most college programs treat it like a bloodsport... unfortunately when you leave college nobody cares what you do!

October 22 | Unregistered CommenterCameron Mizell

This is absolutely brilliant!

October 23 | Unregistered Commentermeg

love it!
but two things come to mind: first, a lot of musicians treat music as if it was sport, in terms of being the fastest for instance while forgetting what music should be about.
and second, this thought experiment seems to not work as well here (in germany). a significant number of those points would not be realistic because sport seems to be treated in a different way over here. apart from soccer and tennis, there is not that much money involved - so not such huge shows, not such huge stars...
but it's kind of more interesting to see that there's variations even within one field depending on where one's at. so yes, we absolutely made it ourselves and it's funny to see how it turned out....

October 23 | Unregistered Commenteraudiot

This is so pertinent. A great post. The reach of music is wider and deeper than sport so the fact that this point:

* There'd be significant funding for community music programmes

is just a "what-if" and not a reality is a terrible cultural tragedy.

October 23 | Unregistered CommenterChristian Ward

I like this a lot.....but you do realise that once you choose to support a band you cannot swap alleigance when they become rubbish? Life would therefore be a cavalcade of disappointment after album #2 in the case of 99.9% of bands/fans...


"You could swap out every member of a group and it'd still be the same band"

Oasis are almost in this situation and still firmly in mid-table....

I do, however, like the idea of band managers being interviewed on TV defending recent performances. They could bemoan the fact that their bassist isn't fit, before going out and buying a hot 20-year-old girl to join the squad.

(I could run and run with this)


Drum n Bass = Formula 1
Change the personnel and setting - who will notice?

Jazz = Kabbadi
No-one knows what the feck is going on, but it's strangely alluring.

Folk = Cricket
It goes on and on for ages, just like it always has done. Old men with beards control it.

Metal = American Football
Loud, stupid and insanely popular.

Black Metal = Wife Carrying
Not strictly a sport, but big in Scandanavia

Mum says I have to get off the internet now.

October 23 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

"There'd be movies where people escaped from POW camps by playing the guitar" - I can feel a script coming on...

Great post.

October 23 | Unregistered CommenterDean

'University scholarships would be awarded on musical aptitude'

This happens.

October 23 | Unregistered CommenterKate

It already is a sport: Marching Band. The Sport of the Arts.

October 23 | Unregistered CommenterEl Caliente

- You'd be drinking Gatorade on stage, rather than beer or whiskey.

- There would be random drug testing before/after gigs. But of course, the bigger bands would buy their way out of scandals that would eventuate.

October 23 | Unregistered CommenterGareth Bedford

Fun post.

If music was sport, what would trigger the offside flag? And who will rise the flag?


October 24 | Unregistered CommenterMehdi

At 18 I had to choose between professional sports (skiing), or music (drumming); figured could drum later but not vice versa, which worked (tho now with several screws, post-joint reconstructions...aaahh, youth), so this REALLY resonates...BRILLIANT!!

Given the current state of the music biz, this really does exemplify how we, if WE choose, get to redefine music. Nobody has had this opportunity in a long time. Thanks for the inspiration!!

October 26 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

* Gigs would have live commentary from musical greats past their prime.
* Schools and colleges would have official, coordinated groupie teams.

October 26 | Unregistered CommenterLucas

"Off-side" flag - raised when you tread on another band's stage. There would also be "out of time" and "out of tune" flags.

October 26 | Unregistered CommenterLucas

Cool site, autor zzot!! ))

various artists groovy music planet volume 1 (shag005) mp3 download

November 3 | Unregistered Commentereiffel fabric
November 3 | Unregistered Commenterjm3 mp3

*There wouldn't be many decent British musical acts

*Any Britigh musical act that was slighty alright would be the subject of extreme pressure and relentless absolute slaying by the British media for a bad gig.

*The Australians and Jamaicans would have some of the best music in the world

December 3 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Pardon me if I'm being crazy, but I think music IS a a way.

Take piano for instance. The months spent before my final ARCT exam were treacherous. I practiced for at least 3 hours a day, and often my shoulders, arms, and wrists were aching as if I'd done pushups. I had to get up every now and then for a drink of water and a snack to get high and do it all over again. Of course, I sweated, and my heartrate went up.

It might be hard to understand at first, but sports and music-playing have a lot in common. In compeititions, the biggest guys tend to win, 'cause they've got more strength in their arms, bigger hands, longer fingers, etc. Strength is a giant factor, so is flexibility, and using the right muscles. I don't remember how many times my teachers had to correct me because I wasn't producing the right sound with the right muscles.

On top of it all, music trains your brain. You tend to have a faster reaction time, especiallyd uring sightreading.

February 27 | Unregistered Commenterchar

Music IS a sport! It's the notion that it's a matter of opinion,rather than fact,that has caused the horrible free-for-all,called "popular" music. It should be placed under the control of viruosi and experts,and not profit-makers that just want to lower standards on order to make good musicians expendable. It is a discipline and a skill,just like football,etc,and it should be treated as such.

November 27 | Unregistered Commenterchimes rbe

This is very interesting. However I think that we should try to reframe music more as a game than a sport. That is to say a cooperative game and one that is, or at least can be, played by all members of society, just like a game of catch in the park or one of those circle games like 'duck, duck, goose'. As some people have mentioned on here, music is a sport in many ways, especially with the game of the music industry as one that is highly competitive and with the actual music often subordinate to its efficacy as a vehicle for the unrestricted flow of capital.

With regards to education, our children would definitely benefit from a shift in the school system's perspective of music from that of art to one of sport, exercise (both physical and mental) and general well-being. We would certainly see much more funding and focus on music. There is no reason why music shouldn't be a compulsory subject just like maths, language and science. I guess it just doesn't fit the mould when it comes to shaping kids for a successful future in the world of finance and industries that serve to reproduce this unfair, unjust society rather than to change it.

Music has the power to open us up to our fundamental humanity and dissolve boundaries between us and others of different cultures, socioeconomic status and physical ability. When we are lucky enough to enjoy playing music together on our own terms outside of market forces and the judgement of 'experts', we are empowered and given much strength as we unite across dividing lines. I don't think there is some sinister conspiracy thought up a few individuals to keep us suppressed from reaping the benefits of playing music, I just think it's systematic of a capitalist society that strives, naturally, to maintain power of the few and the powerlessness of the many.

There is much great research on music, well-being and communication it needs to get out there. The great revolution of the 21st century will be a musical one. After all there is no revolution without music. But rather than revolution, we should be thinking about evolution; the evolution of language, communication and media. Despite the exponential advancement of technology, we are still stuck in a old way of thinking that needs to change. We need to significantly accelerate the development of collective communication on a local immediate level, and this will be achieve through liberating music from the shackles of industry and into the hands of all members of society.

June 17 | Unregistered CommenterBarney

What music is associated with bodybuilding for you? Don't only tell dance music. It's too obvious. Although, there's nothing else besides this in gyms. I can't stand it. I go to the gym regularly, do workouts, consume myostatin peptide, and I like it all. But the music... Plz, turn it off.

August 23 | Registered CommenterGreg Bjorg

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