This week, for the first time in years, I am listening to Michael Jackson music again.
A little background: I’ve been a huge Michael Jackson fan since I was a kid and found the Thriller video. From the first few notes, I was hooked! My family wasn’t much into celebrity gossip, tabloids, or even television, so I didn’t know much about the scandals and the rumours until I was much older. And even then, I brushed them off as “just tabloid magazine fodder”. To be fair, my family brushed all celebrity news as tabloid magazine fodder.
But in recent years, with the accusations increasing in volume and becoming more detailed, I realised that it was much more than fodder; something potentially very wrong had been going on. And I had to ask myself the question: should I be listening to the music of someone accused of molesting children?
And Down the Rabbit Hole We Go
I went down the rabbit hole and tried to figure out the ethics of consuming art by any known, alleged, or rumoured criminal. It was intense, guys, to put it mildly. I couldn’t make up my mind.
On the one hand, criminal, boo! Let’s not support a criminal, especially one who harms children.
On the other hand, art! Enjoying the art doesn’t mean you are supporting the crime! I won’t stream, that’s fine, I’ll dust off my CDs and player and no one will make another penny of these songs and I can enjoy them, right?
But the children, how can I do this to the children? Am I undermining their pain and suffering?
I kept going back and forth and, quite honestly, starting to lose my mind on this question. Like I said, it was intense.
What The Real Focus of Our Energy Should Be
But a few months ago, something clicked. I realised that the question I was asking was not the right one. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if we listen or not to Michael Jackson’s music. What matters is that this same kind of stuff is most probably happening right now, as I write this, as you read it, whether or not we are listening to the music.
It is so much more than listening or not to the music. It’s about figuring out how to transform the music industry as a consumer. I’m still unsure as to how, but I know it’s a much more constructive conversation—and a much better one for the children and all other victims of crime committed by celebrities and perpetuated by the current structures of the music industry.
So this week, for the first time in years, I am listening to Michael Jackson music again. I am enjoying the music and treasuring the feeling of unease the knowledge of the accusations is inspiring. I’ll use it to continue the work towards creating communities in which such accusations will never be made, and entertainers are not adulated, deified, and enabled the way they are now.
How can we, as consumers, help transform the music industry for the better?