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York's Busiest Music Nerds: In Conversation With AlbumSoc

Alex Thompson speaks to AlbumSoc about getting started under Covid, integrating feminism into their society and their shared love of Anthony Fantano

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Image Credit: Artwork by AlbumSociety

One of the newest additions to societies on campus, AlbumSoc is the self-described ‘book club for albums’ with a rapidly growing membership and shared love of the music critic Anthony Fantano. Their format seems bulletproof in a pandemic setting, with online listening parties, collaborative playlists and talks with the likes of FemSoc. Earlier this week I caught up with Jack Barton, the founder and President, to talk about the birth of AlbumSoc, gatekeeping and integrating feminism into their society. Here’s what happened...

Alex: You guys are a very new society. Can you tell us how AlbumSoc started?
Jack: Last year I was very drunk at Freshers Week and was watching a lot of Fantano. I got drunk and made a group chat, adding loads of people to talk about music. Nothing really happened then, over lockdown, I messaged the chat saying it had so much potential. Our now Secretary, Joe, suggested forming a society and it sort of spiralled from there.

A: Do you feel like there is a niche appeal to AlbumSoc, or is it something for everyone?
J: For us at AlbumSoc, we don’t want to be a niche thing. We want any sort of music to be discussed and we don’t want our members to be shy to talk about the music they love. We don’t want to be gatekeeping, we want everyone to enjoy what they enjoy and help others find new music.

A: How’s it been getting a society started under Covid?
J: It’s been pretty difficult to be honest. There’ve been a lot of issues to do with funding which we unfortunately haven’t managed to get. So far, the only money we have is made from our membership fees. Sorting venues has also been an issue, so we’ve had to move our format online - which worked pretty well with the listening party we had this week, but it would have been better live.

A: Can you tell us what you’ve been doing with FemSoc and how you feel feminism plays a role in your society?
J: You can’t really discuss music without discussing the issues of gender surrounding it. We have to think about the way we listen to music and one of the biggest issues with that is to do with the perception of female and non-binary artists. We’ve been working with FemSoc to discuss safe spaces which is something I’ve been very aware of in the past and we are planning on working to help create a safe space for women at gigs.
Also, music fandoms do tend to attract slightly edgy white guys, and we need to remove that stigma as quickly as possible to create a more diverse and inclusive group. We are trying to create a fair space for everyone to enjoy music without worrying about issues of gender.

A: Black History Month is also something you are focusing on. How do you feel music can help people learn about black culture and history?
J: Black history is being pushed aside, especially in the education system in the UK, and music is a great way to celebrate and recognise black culture and voices. It’s massively important to us to celebrate these amazing artists.

A: Do you think people need to diversify their listening more?
J: Yes, 100 per cent and I am definitely guilty of that. One of the reasons I started this society is that I’m so keen to broaden my listening. Everyone should diversify their playlists - music is a great way of celebrating everyone’s differences and everyone’s passions.

A: How do you see the future of the society moving past the Covid era?
J: We’ll be doing more socials and hopefully we’ll be able to create spaces where people can have free form music sessions to help people diversify their music tastes. We are also looking at hosting events to help promote a safe space at gigs. I’ve always found that as a white male I’ve felt very safe at gigs and this is a privilege. We have so many members in our group so hopefully it will be easy to find people to go to gigs with, which will be better socially and also a lot safer. As a society we can hopefully help people learn about creating a space space at gigs and maybe festivals. Also, with so many different music tastes, our socials are going to be wild.

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