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Banning heavy metal fans from pubs isn’t just unfair - it’s simply inaccurate

The headline says it all. The Chronicle, which reports all the news that is fit to print in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in England notes that “Rock Fans Were Kicked Out Of A Newcastle Pub Because Of Their Outfits”. The seven giants of rock were booted out of the City Tavern solely for wearing the standard metal uniform. Prior to a refurb, the bar ran regular rock nights and still has no dress code; 93% of respondents to the newspaper’s own poll disagree with the move, which is simply the latest in a long history of bizarre acts of censorship aimed at music fans.

Eric Nuzum’s book, Parental Advisory, and The American Civil Liberties Union website both provide some other wonderful examples of this nonsense. The ACLU report, for instance, that in 2000 a Louisiana judge ordered officials to return music to a skating rink owner, which had been confiscated in the belief that it had caused a car park fight: the fact that the music included some Britney Spears and even Disney’s Tarzan soundtrack might make this measure seem heavy-handed to some. The site similarly reports that attending a Backstreet Boys concert was sufficient to cause school students to be suspended in Texas (and not on grounds of their poor musical taste either), and that wearing a Korn t-shirt that simply features the band’s name has similarly been enough to get you suspended from school in Michigan.

The academic literature similarly details the pervasiveness of the stereotypes of musical subcultures. One study showed that simply presenting a criminal defendant as an author of rap lyrics cause him to be perceived as more likely to be guilty; and whereas rap fans are portrayed as a threat to others, heavy rock fans are stereotyped as more likely to self-harm.

Nonetheless, clear differences do actually exist in the personality and lifestyles of the people who like different musical styles. Rock fans score higher than most on measures of having a personality that is sensation-seeking and open to new experiences, and I have also found evidence that fans of 35 different musical styles differ on such wide-ranging variables as political beliefs, number of holidays taken, whether they would like more friends, frequency of taking a bath, and the types of alcoholic drinks they consume.

So given that real differences exist, it is possible to some extent to understand why certain groups of fans get picked upon. However, the problem is that the stereotypes are so often inaccurate. The manager of the City Tavern might like to know that my data shows that the fans who apparently take least care of their appearance are those who like opera, as they take the fewest baths and wash their hair least frequently.

The fans most likely to be a real danger to themselves are not metal-heads, but instead those who like blues, as they smoke more than others. Perhaps most importantly for a publican, I should also point that, with the exception of those who go to nightclubs a lot, fans of jazz drink the most. Given all this, I would imagine that the Newcastle Seven are much more desirable customers than the boss of the City Tavern seems to think.

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