I was struck recently by the blog entry: “The Scene is Dead” by anamericangod. It received a lot of attention, hitting the news screen and prompting 182 people (so far) to, for the most part, agree with what was said. The writer was eulogising the ‘scene’ he had grown up with and, eventually, seen the end of. The obituary he wrote was moving but wholly pessimistic, lamenting the end of his favourite bands he proclaimed: “very little music that is being made today compares to any of the early work of said artists”. It was, said he, the fault of MTV for mortally wounding the scene but the internet, and more specifically Myspace and the Myspace generation, that finished it off.
I am not going to waste my time trying to defend what he far more ably criticises, as for the most part, I agree with what was written. There is something fundamentally different with the way music is ‘consumed’ today. I, at 4 years younger than the author, was that much later to the scene than he was, so presumably I am less qualified to talk of it. Perhaps more pertinently I live in the UK so the DIY ethic, the basement shows, the 5 track self-produced EPs that went round the local music shops were all lost on me. The scene I was involved with was wholly conducted on the Internet, yet I still felt a part of it. Has this died? Yes, probably. Will it, like Lazarus, eventually rise again? Probably. Shall I try and crowbar in a phoenix rising from the flames reference? Why not.
Despite the pessimism in the original blog, the fundamental truth is that the scene cannot die out. It can die, but soon it will be resurrected, like a phoenix from the flames, it will rise again, potentially better. The point is, it is up to us to ensure this happens. The author talks of the kids who haven’t yet had a chance to listen to music yet, how they won’t, or are at least less likely to, have their lives changed by music as he was. Well, I think that isn’t pre-determined.
While it seems I am simply debating semantics so far, I felt that the seeds for the preservation/resurrection of the scene were already prevalent in his proclamation of its death. It is easy to blame the internet as killing music; it sure as hell has been responsible for some horrific music. But it has revolutionised the music industry, the scene is now global. The scene I spoke of, the one conducted on the internet, now more closely resembles the scene that existed in 2003. Those 5 track demo EPs still exist. They are no longer just handed out at shows, but uploaded on the net for everyone to get hold of. Kids are inspired to record their music and put it on the net. This medium is completely levelling the playing field. I am not saying anything new here, but the ease of which music can be put out into the world is astonishing. This undoubtedly leads to a lot of chaff surfacing, and “making it”. I don’t have to name names. Everyone here knows a band that they feel haven’t earned the success they have, or perhaps don’t even deserve success. But think of the other bands you have found, who do deserve it. The only people who can give them that success is us.
The record industry as we know it is dying. The time when record companies dictate the musical taste of the masses is dying out. Cheap 4-track recorders, a myspace page, and free downloads have seen to that. Bands can release professional sounding records themselves, the middle man has been cut out. When anamericangod talks of Thursday being told to be the new Nirvana, that is far less likely to happen now. A new band can sound how they want to, because they control their own destinies. If a band is willing to put the work in, it will be rewarded. The scene has changed but the ethic hasn’t. Yes, some bands will gain instant success, but that has always happened. The chance for success has been increased by the internet, and what is considered success has also changed. Getting a record contract is no longer the ultimate goal. It is all about the fans now. It is all about us.
I will draw attention to a band I discovered on the forums on this site: Snowmobile. I listened to the songs on his myspace page, and downloaded his albums. He is not massively successful right now, but he could be. He has fans, he has got his name out there and he has the chance to really make it. The scene that exists now takes place on sites like this. His music is not fashionable in the sense of what is “popular” right now but that hasn’t stopped him developing a fan base. He has released two albums on his own, the success he desires is not solely getting a record deal, it is just about getting more and more fans.
However I describe the current situation one things remains constant; it is ever-changing. Anamericangod calls it “a revolving door”, I could label it a Hegelian dialectic, a merry-go-round, basically anything that is cyclical and constantly re-inventing itself. Just as the current trend is popular for a while, it will soon lose favour. Grunge, rap-metal, nu-metal and nu-rave have all had their time in the spotlight in recent years. Just like previous trends, dancecore/brocore or whatever the current “thing” is called will fall from grace. The record companies, in their moribund state, will hang their hat on the next bandwagon and artificially generate a new trend, a breeding ground for commercially successful, but wholly divorced of integrity, bands. The internet has sped this process up, but it has also created a new process. One for those of us willing to put the effort in.
I remember days trawling mp3.com and purevolume.com, trying to find my new favourite band. Those days haven’t gone, in fact the process is far easier now. The infrastructure for finding new music is constantly improving. Forums, full of our peers, exist solely to give recommendations. Once we find our Thursday it is up to us to make sure they get the popularity they deserve. We buy their records (as well as, or instead of downloading them), we go to their shows and we buy their merch. But more than that, we write about them, we recommend them to friends, we promote them, we interact with them in forums, we tell them not to stop. In what is an oversaturated market, I can only imagine how many hurdles a new band has to overcome, but we, as fans have to do our bit.
When anamericangod laments his scene, he is contributing to the new one. He is in it right now. We, the fans, have the chance to save, revive and reinvent the scene. Start making music, start reviewing CDs, start promoting your favourite bands, start searching for more music on the net and keep listening to music. The moment we stop, is the moment the scene truly dies. There is good stuff out there waiting to be found amongst the tonnes of pure garbage. The ‘Thursday’ moment that anamericangod experienced is still possible. It might not be in a pick-up truck, in fact, chances are, it will be at your lap-top, through your headphones. Chances are it will be from a band from somewhere halfway across the world. Chances are it will be a bunch of kids playing music inspired by the scene anamericangod called dead. And chances are, that band, could end up being made up of the people who will read blogs like this and go out there and try to do something about it.