Thursday, June 6, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Music Business

After a period of inspiration, the Whiskey Daredevils have a new batch of songs together. Presumably this means we will go to the studio and record “an album”. This is a bit of a Catch-22 as I don’t know if anyone but me still acquires music in that type of format anymore.  Music is now a free computer file that drifts around on your email until it is loaded into whatever device it is you carry these files around in.  At any time you can load into your device a lifetime’s worth of complimentary music in 60 minutes with even a simple search of the web.  There has never been a better time to be a music fan.  This is the Golden Age of Music.  All hail the death of music! 

The fact that there is so much music out there and it is so available has made it essentially worthless.  A MP3 file attachment is just another piece of content in a world completely overrun with content.  There is no tangibility.  At the risk of sounding like an eighty year old man, “it’s not as good as it was back in my day”.  When I first got into music, I would scrap together enough money to buy an album.  This was a carefully considered purchase, as you did not want to blow your money on a shitty record (like the ones in the back of the stack in your bedroom you never listened to.  Elvis Costello “Shipbuilding”, I’m talking to you!)  There was so little information available to help you decide if Van Halen’s “Mean Streets” made more sense to buy than the Scorpions “Blackout”.  (It did) You would stand at the bin, sift through the options, and pick up the record carefully examining the cover front to back.  Maybe one cover looked cooler than the other… Maybe that one song you heard on the radio meant the whole record would rock just like that one… It was an investment not only of $5.99 but of time and consideration.  You cared about that record by the time you got it home.

I liked the fact that you would put the record on, and this magic would burst out of the speakers.  You could sit and hold that record sleeve while reading the notes on it trying to figure out “who the hell are these guys?”.  You never saw a picture of Mutt Lange, but if you read the liner notes you knew he hung out with and somehow helped your favorite bands make this miracle on the record happen.  What the hell does a producer do anyway?  In the movies they sit at a mixing board and yell at people… I wonder if Mutt Lange is like that…  Hmm… 

The Age of the File means that now there is nothing to investigate.  People import the songs into their hard drive, and maybe never even listen to the songs in order as one piece.  Their MP3 player in constant shuffle, they wonder “who was that?” when a song floats by.  Listening is a solitary experience spent with ear buds.  There is no interaction with the world of the ear bud, no exchange of opinion between friends.  Each person is left on their own to discover music they like unless they are lucky (or unlucky) enough to have friends pushing their favorite music on them.

Is this good or bad?  I don’t know.  It’s just different I guess.  On the one hand, music becomes less communal.  On the other hand, each person can connect to bands solely on a personal basis without the overwhelming bias of peer group and/or fashion.  Each individual song becomes the test, and not a group of songs.  The attention span of individuals in American society is about 4 seconds.  What’s on that channel?  Click. Next.  Don’t hook them in during the first notes?  Click.  Forward to next song.  Simultaneously web chatting while texting while watching satellite TV with the ear bud from your iPod in the right ear.  What?  You have the new so and so record from that band?  Sure.  Send it to me as a zip file.  I’ll get around to opening it sooner or later.

The advent of Pro Tools and home studios means anyone can record and “release” music.  While this will produce the occasional diamond, it mostly creates a sea of crap that would otherwise never have seen the light of day.  There was something to be said about a barrier to entry into the marketplace.  The old system of labels at least insured that someone had to be interested enough in what you were doing to consider risking money to make it available commercially.  In the "good old days", if you were in a band that had a record out, that meant you were pretty legit.  Now?  To attempt to wade through all the shit out there and find good music is a full time job.  It’s not as simple as the idea of, “Oh, this is on Estrus Records.  I’ll like this.”. 

Things to tend to go full circle.  It has become like 1961 all over again.  The cost of gas keeps bands closer to home, so live music becomes more regionalized.  Instead of bands trying to release great albums, the focus becomes on getting that lighting in a bottle that is one “hit” song that cuts through the clutter.  Can you make just one song that people add onto their personal playlists?  That they will watch a youtube video of?  Something they will send to their friends and tell them "they absolutely have to check this out"?  That will convince them to download the rest of the songs and actually listen to them and maybe… just maybe… come see the band live?  It ain’t easy.  

If given my druthers, I wish the marketplace would allow us to record 7 inch singles and release full length albums in one format that would serve everyone at a scale that was economically viable.  I love the packaging of the 45.  The band puts their best song of the moment out every three months or so.  The B-side is a total fuckaround cut like a bizarre cover song or original that doesn’t otherwise have a home.  The challenge is also making a great looking cover that convinces someone to take the $4 risk to buy that single.  Then the band has about the three minutes of that A side to either win that person as a fan, or lose them.  If not for the “Girl From 62” 7 inch, you know how much money I would have saved on Billy Childish records?

From a selfish point of view, I know we will record a full length.  It’s how I like to listen to music.  I know that this group of songs works together and captures a particular time/place.  Hell, I even think they are good songs too. Will anyone else listen to these songs that way in the manner we intend?  Does anyone care?  Who knows.  We are just doing what we do.  The genie is out of the bottle.  The consumer won.  I guess they did anyway.  There is a sea of crap out there.  And we are getting ready to add just a bit more…    


At June 9, 2013 at 3:48:00 AM EDT , Blogger AZ said...

This is how I feel:


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