Aren’t we amazing and other questions of our time…

20 12 2008

No review today, although I’ll be back with them before long, just felt like a change. Very long article I know but hey, you don’t have anything better to do, do you? Or is it just me who doesn’t..?

We’re awesome. Really, we are. I wake up every day and take pride in just how amazingly great we really are, in fact, taken as a whole, I’d say we’re probably the best people who ever lived. And there’s lots of us. And even if some of the individuals amongst us are shite they still become, by virtue of connection, really amazingly excellent. Who comprises of this elusive ‘We’? Is it just a reflection of my often rampant egomania and a vain affectation of using the royal ‘We’ when refering to myself? For once, no. ‘We’ are the thousands of people hovering around the world of free music and we should all be fucking proud of ourselves for being so much better than most of the universe.

Most of us don’t do anything of course, for every one artist making the music there are thousands of others who listen, enjoy and give nothing of particular value back but hell, there’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s the beauty of the whole system, people enjoy the music and that’s the end of it, there is no more, which is pretty much how things should be really.

That music should be free to the listener is, in my opinion, a statement of obvious fact. All art should be freely accessible, from visual art to literature to music. Sure they’re not human rights (as far as such things ever exist when they can so easily be defied) but they’re so essential to living what I’d call a worthwhile life that they should at least be practically treated as such and on occasion they have been. Libraries, galleries, museums et al, they all serve to give people ready access to the best bits of humanities productions and even if too much is denied to too many people by virtue of financial interests or petty political grudges there is at least some intent there to keep things as they should be. And now the musical world has it’s own equivalent, now we’ve got Net Labels, we’ve got sites like Jamendo, hell, even pointless little blogs like this one, all making sure that the music that’s there is waiting to be found to anyone who looks. And being involved in all of that at any level makes us great.

But all is not rosey and beautiful. The world of music is still divided along harsh lines. At the core of the mainstream there are the corporations, the gargantuan major labels who are, despite the winds of change, more or less guaranteed to survive and hey, they have a market, it may be a largely shite one full of ‘artists’ who are more the product of PR ingenuity than any musical efforts but nonetheless that’s a necessary thing, for now at least. I don’t much like that fact, especially when their domination of the media and distribution chains bars the good and the original from emerging but that’s life and I’ll survive, irritable rants ignored.

Then there’s the Pirates who, despite adverts to the contrary, aren’t the scum of the earth (Google ‘Knock of Nigel’ for an example of astounding stupidity by the powers that be). Do they hurt music? Certainly fucking not. They’re destroying a system that’s controlled music for far too long, which has consistently screwed over the listeners and more often than not the artists and which through its manipulation of the market has denied vast swathes of great music to everyone, fuck ’em. To my mind the Pirates are the Anarchists to the free music movements Pacifists, they hit stuff, we sit around strumming guitars and braiding each others hair but it’s all about the love on both sides.

Small labels, always pitied and often lovable. They do a better job of freeing music than the majors do, certainly, but ultimately the Pirates will still destroy them and I can’t say I’ll shed too many tears over that. They may be several rungs down and far more honest in their love for what they do than those further up but for the most part they’re either working in a system which was long ago broken and which is fated to pass away, regardless of what they do, or they’re moving forward and desperately seeking a new way to take care of things, which is my point, long as I took to get to it.

The world of free music is an amazing one. It’s democratic, creative and liberating, in time I don’t doubt that millions more people will find they way into it and every single one of them will find something to love. But it’s not perfect, the old system is dead, our way is the future but we still need to work the details out. Firstly, distribution, by which I don’t mean physical CDs being sent out but the act of getting albums out and about online. We have NetLabels of course, as well as resources like Jamendo, but the former take up tiny corners of the net, it’s odd, but you could know a dozen NetLabels and by the simple act of shuffling over a little bit find a dozen more. And the first dozen won’t have heard of the second dozen, it’s too fractured a system to give the deserved exposure to the artists. The latter conduit, Jamendo, is centralized at least but it’s a cavernous place, thousands of albums are scattered around with no one pointing the direction to any one thing, the artists rarely know of each others work, the listeners may have their corner but nothing more and blogs like this one (and others far bigger) are just drops in the ocean of bringing what’s there out into the open. My own thought here would be to at least unite these resources, not simply to catalogue them (as I believe has already been done) but to know them and know their styles. We need an equivalent of the obsessive vinyl shop, or the music pub, we need the places for gossip and the music nerds to fill it. That’ll happen in time I hope and for now the mess is glorious so we’ll wait and see.

Next we have a far bigger problem to face up to. Money. Free music is free and that’s fucking great but as we escape the old way of doing things we need to create a new one, musicians need money and it needs to be proven that a living can be earnt in our world just as well as in that of the commercial labels. Our little sphere isn’t an amateur music club and nor is it a waiting room for those on their way to the majors, it’s a viable alternative to them, or it should be and we’ve got a lot to offer. They have commercial demands, we have absolute artistic freedom, they have contracts and dictatorial powers, we have complete freedom for the creator, they’ve created a corporate heirarchy which alienates the fans, we’re just one big cluster fuck of fans and musos loving each other up, they can reach millions of people we… well, erm, see my last point… I don’t know the answer here, not at all, I know of some of the methods being tried, donations, merchandise, gigging and I don’t see my hope in any of them. Donations will never be consistent enough an income, at least not until we create our own superstars and gigging doesn’t stand a chance of working, at least not unless the world of live music changes radically too (I only talk for London there mind). We should start trying to figure this shit out because we are the free music movement, fans and bands alike and we’re fucking awesome, so shouldn’t be any problem really should it?

Answers on a postcard to Another Goddamn Music Blog…

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