What Makes a “Cult” Band? Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #107

By Mark Linsenmayer

What makes for a “cult band”? Not just a small audience, because Grateful Dead fans are an archetypical cult. Not just a devoted, emotionally invested audience; no volume of Swifties make Taylor Swift qualify as a cult act. Does the music have to be somehow inaccessible, or the fans snobby?

Your host Mark Linsenmayer and three other musicians try to figure it out:

A few of the names that come up for consideration are Tom Waits, The Cure, XTC, Big Star, Brian Wilson, Lou Reed, Guided by Voices, David Bowie, R.E.M., The Residents, Os Mutantes, Tony Owens, Phil Judd, Mike “Sport” Murphy, and many more.

We talk about how the Internet has affected fandom and the music business, the power of musicians lauding each other, and how music fandom relates to other fandom.

Listen to Tim on Nakedly Examined Music and The Partially Examined Life. Read his blog 5-star-songs. Read his article “Hopelessly Devote: Cult Bands.” Follow him @tbquirk.

Listen to Aaron talking about his songs on Nakedly Examined Music, on Pretty Much Pop last year (talking about Borat), and as part of a Partially Examined Life audioplay (also featuring PMP favorite Erica Spyres and cult actress Lucy Lawless). Listen to the song he mentions that resulted from a Tik-Tok collaboration with cult artist Emma Freeman. Follow him on Facebook.

Read Chris’ post-mortem on cult artist Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger.

A couple of articles that fed into this included:

Just to explain one of Mark’s comments, there really was a playset for “the hatch” for the TV show Lost.

This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.