Alright, here is the third and final part of my stream-of-consciousness reflection on music, my (partial) perception of it, my affinity for music & movies, whether music is losing its “worth”, and stuff like that!
I’m not claiming to have a solution, as the issue is as wide as the world’s population, and as long as the internet…
Just like fashion, music and movies follow trends where the public is spoon fed something that is mostly just a regurgitation of what came before – and the people gobble it up…
Even Prince recently proclaimed that it’s “a bad time for music” – but, it depends where you look. If you try to find it on the commercial and mainstream airwaves, then it’s been fucked for ages!
Sometimes I feel all the best music has already been written, and out there to be discovered and collected – the rest is just filling up time and creating money making impulses. You can only listen to that much music in one lifetime, or not?
If you break down the route music takes, it’s quite an extensive process, where (almost) everyone gets paid for their services along the way – The short version is: various biological organism (us humans) crawl around on its habitat (planet earth) > within the minds of some of these creatures, beats, notes and melodies formulate, influenced by their personal experiences, other sounds and songs they hear or images they see, an emotion bursting forth in notes and measures > from here these need to be expressed, from whistling to singing, to banging and twanging it out on instruments created from raw materials like wood, metal and carbon pulled from the earth, processed, molded, shaped and cobbled together into guitars, drums, keyboards, saxophones, processors, valves, transistors, hardware, speakers and a million other components > pointed at microphones or plugged into amps linked to mixing desks and computers, captured on magnetic tape or a digital timeline in I’s an O’s, translated and mastered into a file like a wav > then sent off to a factory where it is transferred onto a CD or vinyl, or compressed into an mp3 file for the end listener, sent off to brick & mortar shops or on-line download stores (and illegitimate ones)… at the end of it landing in the hands or music folders of people who choose whether this long process is worth paying for or not…
Do musicians create music as a career, for personal enjoyment as a hobby, or play the role of a philanthropic purveyor of entertainment? Which of these should you support?
Some of the biggest artists in the world say they got into music to impress girls, others to be rich, many to be famous.
Twitter, Instagram and other applications have made it possible for anybody and everybody to become “famous” – It is no longer for the elite, but a vacant selfie stare with nothing to back it up is an empty jpeg of a generation.
Fame is never something I’ve found appealing, and I create music for its cathartic expression, its content, potential emotional impact and effect it may have on a listener to enrich their lives in some way, even if it’s fleeting. It is also an artistic expression which we fuse with music videos and photography, as a whole. If you don’t like my creations, no problem, move along to something that speaks to you, or go make your own. (If you haven’t heard what I do, check out our most recent Terminatryx album “Shadow” below)
YouTube has also created a new kind of celebrity directly linked to it – granted, far too many of them are mind-blowingly stupid like Cutie Pie…
It’s a great platform for bands to get their music and videos out there, but some also have the perception that if it is on YouTube, it’s a free for all – Where someone uploads a band’s music or a director / producer’s movie in its totality without their permission, those who find it on YouTube believe it is now a legitimate free product. Not so. I’ve seen on-line publications that are deemed as reliable and legit, but their reputed contributors are not exactly clued up – For example, I came across one with a list of “free documentaries” to watch on YouTube – half of these were missing because the owners of the work got wind and had it removed. If Slayer’s new ‘Repentless’ album pops up on YouTube the same day of its release and the band didn’t post it, it’s not legitimate.
Some would feel music is integral to our existence, just like food, oxygen and sex.
It sometimes feels as though musicians are expected to fulfill a public service… Free prostitutes as it were?
Fast food servers don’t do their job for free (and most musicians earn less than they do, if they don’t have a day job to pay the rent… no guaranteed hourly rate I’m afraid).
I find it interesting how almost daily I see people publicly proclaiming on social networks where they grabbed a new release for nada, and where others can do so… Or a friedn offering to bring around their terabyte of movies and music… I find it strange, since we think career criminals are idiots when they pose & post pics online with their stolen goods – is this any different? Is it such a victimless crime? Jay Z and the Rolling Stones don’t need more money, but the indie band from Chicago, Durban or Tokyo does…
I like to have my media collections (CD, DVD, Blu-ray, Vinyl, PlayStation, X Box etc.) visible on a shelf, like my books. I love libraries and accessibility of my favourites – being able to see these collections, various bands, artists, authors, directors, genres grouped together… And I love box sets!
Perhaps many of us have more of an organized hoarder affliction than others. Thousands of songs and movies lying hidden on a hard drive makes you more detached, forgetting about their existence. Walking past your shelves and spotting something you love to revisit, or another you’ve not heard or seen in a while and relive is a great experience. Due to space restrictions I have hundreds (maybe thousands) of DVDs and PlayStation games pulled from their boxes and stacked in 200-capacity disc folders. I forget what’s in there, so like a geek I have to alphabetize them in case I’m looking for a specific flick(!) Getting rid of a chunk of these is pointless, as the second hand resale value is pitiful – I’d rather hang on to these as part of my library. An album that was sold for the top value on CD yesterday drops to 10% of its value the day after – almost like a new car driven off the lot.
Like movies having to open big on the first weekend to capitalize, not everyone has the marketing muscle to let every corner of the world know about your latest album and sell enough of them quickly, before they’re littered on every free download site…
I’m also a completist in the sense of I want to own all my favourite’s, like all the movies by David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, all the Metallica albums, Slayer, The Prodigy, Rammstein etc. It feels as though the collector mindset is dwindling and the fast-food music grab and discard – Hey, we wrote a song about this on our debut album: “CONsume”!!
Check it out here, track 2:
This connection to material objects may seem weird, but within these plastic constructs lie moods, experiences, emotions, memories, notes, scenes, lines and lyrics that touch you in profound, fun, entertaining, or frivolous ways, and owning it holds a certain attachment. Mere throwaway entertainment to some, but a connective force to others, especially if you have a deeper interest in film- and music.
It’s also a case of the practicality of formats, cost effectiveness, demand and durability. It took large factories and plants with thousands of workers to produce tapes, albums, video cassettes, CDs etc., even more in the chain to distribute and reach the stores around the world. A digital file is almost unfettered, all that labour and those costs stripped away (yet still sold at the same price…?). And did all those factory-, transport-, admin- and retail workers land in the unemployment line when these antiquated formats fell by the wayside?
Some sound purists would love all their music on reel-to-reel tape, some would dig to have their old 8-track tape player again and let the nostalgia flow back…
But unfortunately the production of all these formats is not practical, or economically viable. I’d love it if you could have the format you like – hell if you prefer VHS, why can’t you have that option? Alas… (PS. I still have a ton of my favourite movies on VHS! – New formats also enable companies to cash in on the same content over and over – and if the quality is still good on one format, no way in hell am I going to buy it again on DVD… and again on Blu-ray… and an HD download… or whatever else they may have waiting in the wings).
The digital world has drastically jacked up audio and picture quality, however, to the ears of many, music recorded on analog tape, printed to vinyl is the only superior way they can truly feel the warmth and reality of the songs captured in time.
Back in the on-line domain, free tracks made available as a promotional tool seems to have spiraled out of control, in that bands started to dish out their songs and full albums for free wherever they can (some of excellent quality, some atrocious) – but the mindset of the listener and consumer has made a shift for many, in that they now begin to expect all music to be free of charge. We regularly create special free download occasions, but also don’t want to sell ourselves short. Then the argument flares up that bands now have to start relying on playing live to make a living. Why? What about recording artists that don’t always play live, or bands that simply don’t play live as often? And in South Africa, anyone who thinks an alternative band can exclusively tour and play regularly for a living is gravely mistaken.
When it comes to musicians in the live environment, the norm is that everyone else is sorted first, from the sound engineer to the barman. The catch-22 is that without the band, the sound guy wouldn’t have anyone to mix, and without the sound guy, the band will sound like shit…
But hell, who doesn’t like something for free? Although, a gift from someone is far more gratifying than grabbing it on the sly, isn’t it? So if a band makes a track or an album available for zip, directed at you, it should mean more, shouldn’t it? Then, if you like it, is it not fair to then pick up the entire album for a reasonable price?
Millions upon millions get their music legitimately via iTunes and many other platforms like Bandcamp, CD Baby etc. – but even more do so the sneaky way. Spotify and similar platforms pay ridiculous royalties compared to radio with only the huge commercial bands cashing in down the line.
Sure, we all know how the economy bites our asses, but if you budget your food, cigarettes, beer, video games etc., shouldn’t your music consumption be rationed accordingly? Again (not all of us) walk into a bar and leave without paying because the booze companies make enough money, do we? (man, these analogies can go on for an eternity!)
A friend of mine has no qualms in proclaiming that he buys his music, but rips the movies he wants to see…
Once you’ve paid your monthly data fee to M Web, Telkom, Verizon, whoever – you want to get your money’s worth and download whatever you can to get the most out of your allocated data… In the end the adsl and broadband providers may be the only ones profiting.
The other day Sonja mentioned that we’re one of the last generations to grow up without the internet – so naturally we’ll see things a bit differently to kids exposed to an iPad in stead of a book, an mp3 file in stead of a CD…
Somehow music has become this public domain entity floating around the web which we demand to access and have when we want it. With a CD it is a physical, tangible thing you can keep, study, page through and listen to all at once (or get autographed by the band if you get to encounter them – further expanding your connection with the music). To a great extent the invisibility of on-line music has removed that realness, and perhaps its worth. You don’t get to stack your favorites on a shelf anymore – it’s listed on a hard drive, a phone, or floating in the cloud…
Do we want music to lose its worth? I don’t believe so.
I was reminded about this recently when we set up an Indie Go Go crowd funding campaign for our latest Terminatryx album – having no expectations. We were truly surprised how people from around the world saw the value in supporting something they like or believe in (even before its completion!), with contributors from South Africa, the UK, USA, even Japan, Switzerland and Australia backing part of the recording cost (not charity, but receiving albums, downloads and various other perks). While one can often get despondent when you’re unsure of how people value your work, this was a big reminder that all is not lost.
If I had a solution, I’d slap it right at the top of this piece and make it one quick and easy paragraph (and if you’ve reached this far, thanks!)
So, all I can do is try and remind everyone reading this that whether you love the music of a specific band, or even if an act does not exactly fall within your taste confinements, or a specific album does not meet your expectations, every band puts their heart and soul into their music, and for the most part, do so out of their own pockets (again, even more so here in South Africa). So when you’re poised to grab that track illegally, keep in mind how the accumulative compound effect of many people doing the same thing may have on a band and their future.
Supporting bands by physically being at shows are great – even though the R20 – R50 entry fee is often scoffed at (that’s under $2 – $5! (while R500 to a grand get pulled out without flinching for a touring international act), but buying local music as opposed to ripping it, you place a value on it, something you want to keep and in the long run it will not only make it easier for the bands to continue creating music you love, progressing and evolving, but also have you value it more and appreciate that product you acquired legitimately, knowing you’ve invested in the advancement of artists who will never get backing from the Arts & Culture department.
We all love music – but don’t always show it….