Random notes on music now (searching for Beethoven on Bandcamp)

January 6, 2014

1. Beyonce’s “album” released as a set of downloads first: shrewd marketing. This is how people experience music now, as a set of digital files to be downloaded, uploaded and shared. The rhetoric of “getting closer to fans” may be not much more than rhetoric but it strikes a chord. I started uploading and listening to music to Bandcamp and Soundcloud last year. My reaction: a fleeting thought, “Beyonce is like me”. This is possibly the most ludicrous thought I’ve ever had. I am the opposite of Beyonce in every respect, as unlike as it is possible to be. But as an emotional trigger… Mind you, it didn’t make me buy any of the music…

2. CDs and vinyl are not dead. I have a pile of scratched up, warped 78s in my attic courtesy of my brother in law. But both are now less important than digital downloads with no tangible physical objects attached, niches for collectors and those of a certain age.

3. Bandcamp v Soundcloud. Bandcamp feels like it’s for serious professional and semi professional musicians. Soundcloud is a messy, chaotic experience, skews younger but has the advantages of a good app and more of a social/community/sharing feel. More people have listened to my music on Soundcloud than on Bandcamp for reasons I still haven’t fathomed.

4. I’ve discovered more new music on Bandcamp than on Soundcloud (e.g this set from Jeremy Levine).

On Soundcloud I have rediscovered music from people I already know (e.g. my favourite Moist track, and Mr Pete Marsh, who as we like to say has been “on fire” recently.)

5. The tyranny of tagging and genre. Digital distribution driven by tagging and genre. But what genre is “Bitches Brew” (or even Boom Logistics)? Jazz rock? Jazz funk? (Bitches Brew isn’t jazz, and it certainly isn’t rock or funk). Does the instant feedback loop created by tagging for genre subconsciously constrict the musician’s imagination? Particularly as most musicians will not have a team of taggers doing the job for them, so will be doing it themselves. Often the best music has been made by people who don’t really know what they’re doing, or at least don’t have a clear aim of creating something that fits neatly into a genre box.

6. #improv (hedged around as it is like every other music with ideological preconceptions of the crowd making it) is the only music where there’s still the faint possibility of hearing something genuinely new. Since all other genres can be cut and pasted from an already established set of styles and templates… Or maybe I’ve listened to too much music…

7. Classical music? Sony Classical is using Soundcloud as a shop with 30 second clips. A search for Beethoven reveals a bit of a mess. On Bandcamp it’s worse. Why? Rights? Is classical music not social? No return path?


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