When Good Blogs Go Bad, Spring Break Edition

13 05 2009

You’ll have to forgive this updates stench of self indulgence I’m afraid but, like the red nosed old drunk lounging in the corner of your local Wetherspoons* I find myself staring into the watery abyss of my cheap, fizzy lager and contemplating the nature of the universe in which I find myself this week. ‘What’s bought this about?’, I hear no one in particular ask. Well now, it’s about the state of this glorious Creative Commons nation of ours, both in the present, in the future and in what will soon be the past. Vague enough? I certainly hope so.

It’s hard to keep pace with events within the CC world, not that things move particularly quickly for the most part, but because the crawling state of progress that does occur is undertaken by an ever more hulking behemoth of a community. Like the most Darwinian of bacterias, or the most lowly of DJs you just need to turn away for a second and suddenly where there was one, there’s now two. A never-ending process of sideways expansion which, should my calculations prove right, will result in every man woman and child producing Electronic music full time by the year 2050, although that’s a side point which we should learn to fear at another time. The point stands though, the CC music world is growing bigger and bigger, quicker and quicker, which is absolutely excellent of course; more free music, more people making music, more people listening to music and more people finding themselves in desperate need of young and hip reviewers to give them the down-lo on the latest topical acts to be busting a move in the ethereal wastelands of the world wide internet. That’s the nature of our beast in fact, we do everything and we welcome everyone whilst the commercial world forever attempts to define and control the boundaries of what can and should be done for no other reason than it makes things easier to sell if you have some idea of what the majority of people will be buying that week. It’s a beautiful setup, no doubt and one which has dragged an awful lot of people in to devote their time and attentions to what’s happening around these parts, both as musicians and the myriad unknowns who support them.

Wait though, as the immortal (until he dies) Peter Falk (aka Columbo) might say ‘there is just one more thing’. In this ever expanding world of free music where the number of artists and albums out there is truly mind boggling we find ourselves triggering the demise of one thing which we’d do well to save from the burnt out husk of the old industry, we’re losing History.

The History of Music is a beautiful thing. For decades music has offered one of the best reflections of the world it comes from and one of the most elegant arcs through its own evolution and change. There’s a joy and a pride in looking through the progression of something as relatively recent as Delta Blues through to Jazz and Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rock and Hip-Hop and a million other genres which came from the same roots and the same generations of inspirations who, in turn, came from far earlier styles which in turn did the same, on and on back to the first moment when a human cracked another human over the head with a heavy stick and liked the sound of the thud. There’s recognition and respect carried in the fact that traditionally, when you first get ‘into’ music, you explore what came before and pay your dues by knowing how that altered what came after. You can pattern entire generations on the emergence of certain bands and you can map entire genres on where those bands came from themselves, it’s important stuff in my opinion because it offers up a foundation that’s actually worth building on rather than breeding the type of people who sprint out having heard the latest poster boys of NME and deciding that they’ve invented a whole new style which to any wiser ear sounds just like last weeks Indie sensation only duller.

Elitist? Possibly but without that sense of understanding somewhere the musical world would be a poorer place. And that’s a poorer place which the CC world has yet to find a way to avoid. For now and perhaps forever the mainstream media aren’t willing or able to act as monitors for the evolution and change in the free music scene, in fact given the gargantuan quantity of releases and artists it’s unlikely that it’s even possible to do so. Lowly bloggers and fans like myself might carry memories around with us but it’s generally in isolation and generally without realisation because we still lack what I consider to be an essential keystone for the shift that CC music is fuelling, a central hub around which to gather and quantify the awesome scale of what’s happening in this little cultural revolution of ours.

Before the advent of mass musical mediums like radio and magazine a mind boggling amount of bands and artists were lost, entire genres perhaps went extinct through lack of exposure. Even Blues, which stands as arguably the most influential force within modern music since its time, played host to a litany of musicians who’ve disappeared into the woodwork without ever being recognised for the impact their work had on everyone and everything. And even if those mass mediums have habitually been lazy, imperfect and corrupt over the years they’ve been better than nothing. We currently have nothing, or next to nothing, which can protect our future heritage both as a movement and as a collection of near infinite different genres and sub-genres. We save the music digitally, fortunately, but when there are 10 million, 50 million or 100 million albums floating around the internet is a single act or artist going to be any more alive and accessible than those dead Bluesmen who never had their work laid down? Random chance aside who’s going to find that music when the next generation comes? Who’s going to be able to say that there was a strand of quality running through a certain corner and a certain style which needs to be heard again? Chaos is beautiful but it’s not everything.

It’d be impossible, as far as I can see, to ever chart musical developments as cleanly as they have been up til now again given the massive volume of music available. There’re no massive media outlets devoted to mapping history, there’re no PR men devoted to making stuff heard and there’re no charts even hinting at the way the tides are turning. But there are things that can be done, measures which can be taken to keep the idea of a greater musical community alive. And for me those measures start with something like Jamendo.

Jamendo is probably the biggest devoted CC music outlet at the moment. It got in early and it’s gained a reputation which carries around a fair bit. To be honest it’s often a fairly crap resource, big in scope but incredibly rough around the edges in execution. It gets the music out but it misses so many tricks when it comes to making itself a truly useful site that it’s depressing at times but the intent and the potential is there for somewhere like Jamendo to become the core from which all things can branch off. A solid community could be built around it, trends could be mapped through it and musicians could be remembered by it; it could be a glorious hybrid of AllMusic’s encyclopedic knowledge of music, it’s own wealth of free music, Wikipedia’s interactive curatorship and realities sense of localised musical community. It’s a vast idea I admit but in 20, 30 or a hundred years time I think there could and should be an archive and an understanding of CC music and the effects its present is going to have on the future of all music as opposed to the Blues-effect striking through half of the artists active now and leaving them unknown despite whatever effect they may have had.

One person or a handful of individuals remembering a band or an artist won’t keep them alive in history, a hub with everyone involved and a sense of community tying Creative Commons music, to some small degree, together on the other hand might make a difference.

*Wetherspoon’s, for my less English readers, is a chain of pubs famed far and wide across these fair isles of ours for being the retirement home for drunks and the habitual haunt of poverty ridden students. Much like the left-bank of the Seine back in the day its outlets are indeed hotbeds of intellectual radicalism and deep thought.




One response

23 05 2009
Catching The Waves

It’ll all come out in the wash.

Jamendo is fast becoming a behometh; it recently made Cnet.com’s WebWare list of the world’s 100 best websites:


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