I opened up an interesting can of worms on Facebook today:
“I think I’ve decided that I’m too ‘close’ to music and have been for too long to offer any opinions on what is good and what is not. I need to shut up about the ‘quality’ of music and just differentiate between what moves me and what doesn’t. Unfortunately, the more we live and experience, the harder it is to ‘move’ us, so the search just becomes more challenging. I need to rise to that challenge and become the proverbial squirrel rooting out gems and not just a big lazy dog waiting for my bowl to be filled.”
The responses to this post and indeed a number of blogs and posts I’ve read recently are all pointing to artists / musicians / fans all trying to find ways of getting hold of music that they can connect with in the new marketplace that exists. The old ways are gone – they’re so far gone it’s not even worth complaining about.
The process when I was growing up was restrictive, uninspired and above all, simple. You heard a song on the radio, saw something on TV (on one of 4 channels) or were played something by a friend.
You could listen to a radio show or watch a TV programme based on your preferences. For example, I used to listen to the Radio 1 Rock show with Alan Freeman / Bruce Dickinson / Claire Sturgess every week. I didn’t like everything they played, but I LOVED a lot of it. I remember first hearing Dream Theater, Megadeth’s Youthanasia album, Iron Maiden Live, Blue Murder – lots of stuff that just took my head off.
I’d also watch Later with Jools Holland every week. And tape it. And watch it again and again. I’d read the reviews and interviews in Bass Player and order albums from the US to feed my burgeoning inner bass-nerd. These were my ‘trusted sources’.
Trusted sources are important – they cut through the sludge.
Now, there are so many channels, so many avenues, it’s dizzying. Hundreds of TV channels, radio shows, internet radio shows, podcasts, youtube clips, facebook posts… and it’s all coming at you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
For those of us who lived and worked through the rise of Myspace, we can all remember the promise of it – the level playing field. The open space where everyone can make music, be seen and heard and have a real chance to raise your ‘profile’.
It descended, as these things often do, into a club that stopped being cool when everyone decided to join. It turned into a spamfest with people using my wall to post adverts for their gigs and releases. As it declined, Myspace became purely about the number of friends you had, regardless of the quality of what you did. It was more important to be seen as being something than to actually be that thing. (Although that is the illusion that fuels contemporary celebrity culture all over.)
My Facebook is an eternal list of invites to gigs I wouldn’t want to go to (Glasgow is a hell of a trek for me to come see your band ((who I’ve never heard of)) play…) and is probably going to require some tweaking of settings for me to not continue being bombarded with unsolicited requests on a daily basis. (Fuck you, Farmville.)
Compound this with the fact that as a professional musician, the basic process holds no mystery to me – I’m no longer excited by ridiculous technique or bombastic production, (unless it is in the service of a great composition) so I’m now looking for a very narrow and difficult to quantify experience when I hear new music.
I’m looking for something that resonates with me in a marketplace where there is too much to choose from and most of it is shit.
Add to that, the fact that I honestly don’t have the time to go trawling through the legions of tedious dullards making music bereft of any emotional connection… in an age of instant and seemingly unlimited access, I’m finding it harder to discover anything I like.
I need some help.
As my friend (and fabulous musician) Steve Lawson commented in one of his Blogs:
“…..What I find interesting is best represented by the people I allow into my life, the ones I’ve chosen to filter ‘in’ – my friends, my peers, the people I follow on Twitter, the people I’m (good) friends with on Facebook. If I get a recommendation through them, I’m roughly a thousand times more likely to act on it than if it comes through any other channel. If one of my friends who I trust puts out some music, I’ll listen to it……”
I suppose if I’m honest, I don’t know who my trusted sources are.
I have lots of friends who love wildly different music from me, but whom I trust as switched-on people. Unfortunately, they seem to post more about their kids, something funny they saw online or some football manager they’d like to see hanged in the street.
Facebook is a reflection of what you’d like to share from your life with others. I love seeing all that stuff (don’t really care about the footie though…) but it isn’t helping me find good music.
Interestingly, when I post my frustrations about my struggle to find good stuff, people are quicker to label me a moaney old fart than to send me links to something great. The good stuff is out there, I just don’t know where to look. It would appear that the base cause of my dissatisfaction with modern music comes from not being able to properly engage with people that I believe would become trusted sources.
I honestly think this comes from my approach being negative from the get-go. Negativity attracts negativity. This is something I need to change and the first step needs to be ‘unfollowing’ a lot of people whose posts are of no interest to me. The reasons I haven’t done this so far are:
- I didn’t know that you could ‘unfollow’ without ‘unfriending’ – you can.
- I don’t have lots of time and this never felt like a priority.
- Surely, the wider the net, the more fish you catch? (By now, it’s gotten so big, I can’t get the net back on the boat.)
Alongside that, I need to ask people for recommendations – to engage those kindred spirits and see what they’re listening to.
Google targets your tastes based on what you’ve been listening to, so all I ever get is some slight variation on what I already had. This goes for everything you search for, and you only realise how active this process is when it starts continuously recommending something that you searched for but hated.
Spamming, cold calls, invites, Google recommends, Facebook targeted ads – they’re all bollocks. It’s all just a haze that makes it hard to see anything beyond.
Trusted sources, people.
Figure out who your trusted sources are – they become your radio station, your TV channel, your targeted ads. And keep the filter on, because there is just too much out there and most of it isn’t worth listening to.
The internet’s level playing field is a dream-come-true if you’re making music, but it can make quality harder to find.