This past week I had the honor of interviewing Shawn Stern, not only a member of one of punk's influential bands (Youth Brigade), but also co-founder of BYO Records, an imprint that has been around for 25+ years, and one of the first labels to come up after the so called "death of punk."
One of his answers really stuck out:
You couldn’t “Google” your questions, as the Internet didn’t exist. [There were] no cell phones to book a tour. So we just pounded the pavement, asked questions and eventually figured it out by doing it.
I sometimes wonder if we all have it too easy. If this isn't hard work, but life led by a handicap. Then I wonder how much more adventurous and exciting this whole music thing would be without the laments of technology.
As someone who is all for hearing an album with the least amount of anticipation as possible, the "plausible" new system would be the plug in the leak.
Like print, with the advent of the Internet, buzz seems to trump contemporary print reviews. Why pick up a paper, when you can instantly get an idea in a forum or on a messageboard.
But, let's not forget how the hype machine started. It started with advances and song clips showing up weeks before releases on sites like this, and countless blogs across the Web. Some embrace it, others want to get it shut down.
Honestly, there was a time when I got excited off a single, or listened to a few free MP3's that I found until I could save up to get the CD. Now it has turned into a full blown hoard and digital impatience for many of us.
There was a time when we worked, and sat patiently for our just desserts. I think it'll come around again, because the system's starting to look like one big game of Jenga, and someone's about to pull the wrong piece.
"...sub-question: is it better to die out, or to fade away?"
I write this, mind you, while an infomercial for Monster Ballads is on the television. Maybe we just don't know what we've got, until it's gone.
Remember the entry where I shed some details on my conversation with ex-Refused drummer David Sandström? We had a small tangent of a conversation concerning the "death of the album."
Well, it would seem appropriate that the band we all love to hate to love may be putting that idea into play. Brand New, rumored, are about to take this idea into play.
But let's face it. We brought this upon ourselves. Case and point: Drew's entry that the new Thrice album has leaked three months prior to its release. This shows that the majority no longer longs for the days where we waited in anticipation for new releases, rushed to the store to grab it and flipped through the pages of the album's booklet while the first song off said album blasted out of our car stereo.
No, no...those days are gone.
Back to Sandström and mine's conversation. He believes that single will possibly make it's way back into the system. Get rid of filler, and constantly spin the killer, right?
Well, that's good and bad for artists and listeners. Artists will be able to release music instantly. Record a song, or two, release them digitally, and boom, instant gratification! Listeners will no longer have to beat the system, never have to wait impatiently again, constantly updating their MP3 players daily with new music from their favorite artists.
Win-win, or not?
Some of the best music is a full album. Ranging from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon to Refused's The Shape of Punk to Come. These records work best as a whole, argueably containing great stand-alone tracks though. The shape of music would change, and I would bet the major's would lose more money because they are shelling out less of a product. If the market is flooded already, can you imagine an increase in songs, since the new way to create art is in singles, not in albums. Well, I guess someone like Ryan Adams or Sufjan Stevens would like this idea, but there are exceptions to every rule.
To see music being created one block at a time would be tragic. By producing a full product, artists create something on a full scale to be judged as a whole, instead of incriments. Singles and demos are fine when it comes to selling and creating interest, but the idea of creating songs at a time in an already flooded market seems too much of a bad thing.
Two incredible albums are released today: Portugal. The Man's The Satanic Satanist and Rx Bandits' Mandala. Both these records would not work as separate tracks, and I'm stoked that they came together as a whole.
To Brand New, you may mean something along the lines of what I'm speaking of above, or possibly moving to a completely digital medium, since it would seem the public doesn't care about money put into tangible products of your art.
Whatever the case be me, I hope that your band and Sandström are wrong in the end.
Pitchfork:The record leaked online before its release. Was that a disappointment?
ED: Well, it happened, literally, maybe five days after we mastered it. That was a really huge shock because it came from a really sort of shady-- no one ever confessed to it, but something sketchy happened. It was a really huge bummer that it happened so soon. We knew it was gonna leak and we were prepared for that, but really, the biggest bummer for us was that we spent a lot of time and put a lot of effort into making sure that it's a really rich recording-- recording it to tape and doing all these nice sonic details-- and then it leaked and I remember listening to it and it sounded like an underwater YouTube stream or something. It was really, really bad. And so it's just a bummer to think of everyone's first impressions of this album being this horribly compressed, terrible-quality version of the album.
But that said, the excitement behind it and everyone's reaction was really encouraging and exciting for us to see. I think people find their own way of showing support, whether it be through an album sale or coming to a concert or even just telling some friends about it. Obviously, the leak didn't hurt us because we debuted in the Top 10. You've gotta be sort of Zen about it. I would never be angry at someone for downloading the album. Sometimes people just wanna listen to it first to see if they like it and that's totally fair. I'm as guilty of that as anyone else. The only thing I find a little strange about the download culture now is that people have so much music at their fingertips that it's really easy to dismiss an album quickly. I'm speaking from my own experience, where I've caught myself downloading a bunch of albums and then I sort of listen to one and I'm like, "Eh." And I wasn't really giving it my all or listening to it in the right order. I caught myself one day where I was like, "What am I doing? This is so not how this artist intended it to be."
Pitchfork:There was time to develop that relationship. Now I feel like it's so hard to develop a relationship with anything because music moves so fast.
ED: There are so many more releases that people have access to. I don't know, maybe there were this many releases when I was growing up and I just didn't know where to look for them. That's probably very much the case. But it just feels like there are a billion [new records] every year. A lot of people are curious and excited about stuff, and one of the great things about the Internet is that people are excited about music and wanna hear a random album from a band somewhere in Romania or something, and to listen to all sorts of stuff from around the world. They have access to new stuff that they would have never had access to [before]. But sometimes I feel like it's a total overload. Where you're like, "I can't even focus anymore." You know?
Pitchfork:Sure. Everything feels disposable.
ED: It is definitely much easier to feel that an album is disposable-- to dismiss an album or delete the tracks you don't like or to just throw it into shuffle or whatever. But that being said, it's a case-by-case situation and that's the way it is and there's nothing we can do about it. People digest and process music differently, and I'm sure that was the case even when I was a kid. I'm not critiquing the general public, I'm speaking from my own experience of being guilty of deleting a track that I didn't like. Then I'm like, "Wait a second, that's not fair. Why am I doing that?"
I raised the font of the points that hit my thought process the most: (a) supporting artists after downloading (pre-post leak) (b) not spending enough time with a particular album and (c) having such a huge library of music, that like a Wikipedia page, it's disposable.
I agree with all of Droste's points. I wonder if the last point will weed out the first two, or if it contradicts why we hate the major Top 40 industry to begin with? If we can critique music quickly, the public could in fact dismiss good bands, and the elitist might not let others grow.
Droste's point of using a leak as a judge is a good one, but with artists changing their Myspace pages to allow for complete streams of their album, the idea is still an illegal one that can be gotten around. I'm listening to the new Poison the Well album right now, but still understand that I can't just take it with me on the go, and maybe that's one of the main points to obtaining a leak.
Another thing I've been thinking about is criticism and avid opinion judged against a wide critical panal of tradiotional magazine reviews and niche blogs and Web sites such as Pitchfork and Absolutepunk. I think we're getting keener as readers to say, "Well I like indie music, so the new Sunset Rubdown must be one to check out," or "I really like post-hardcore, and Drew says he really likes the new Devil Wears Prada album, so it must be worth checking," and so on.
I think we should all take advice from Droste and really sit down with the albums we hear a buzz about. We should sit down with new albums from our favorite artists and try to understand their progressive ways. In the end, maybe it'll change our view on music as we knew it, and open us up to something new, instead of disposing of a new creative direction.
Those iPod gigs are getting bigger, but how much music do you have that's just there taking space? Go, listen, and see why someone told you to check it out. You already got it illegally, at least make the best of it.
Today the world was rocked by losing a legend to this industry, our entertainment and popular music around the world. Micheal Jackson, through all the personal matters, you gave us funk and pop that was adored right before it imploded on itself, and processed to our new "tween" generation.
Not only was I shocked by this, I was also hit by the words of John Gourley today. It would seem that the band's new album has leaked, just like their three previous records. Are we surprised? Was Gourley? Well, no. But with age comes new wisdom and a new shine on life, and it seems without changing stance, Gourley has cemented his thoughts on the subject, and articulated them well.
Here's the deal. I downloaded the leak of Water: "You Vultures! and fell in love with the band. Their releases have made my top five list every year since they've come out, and with the exception of "The Pines/The Devil" 7in, I own all their albums on vinyl, including two copies of Censored Colors (pre-order and Vinyl Collective exclusive), as well as have ordered the deluxe package and the VC exclusive color for their new album.
I fucking love this band. Yet, I have not heard the new album. And at this point, I will not intend on downloading the leak.
I think Gourley covered 99% of both sides of the downloading issue in his blog. I must agree with his support issue, especially for a band like Portugal. The Man, who tour their asses off and I see them not get the same respect I see other "lesser" bands get. Portugal isn't the only band suffering this either.
But, music is still arguable at best, and with that being said, I hope that if you really love music, you do go out and support the bands you love. As for the money issue, I completely understand that point. I am right there with all of you on that, but if it came down to priorities (covering needs first of course), I would for sure put back into that which brings me so much joy.
Once that value is reciprocated back, our favorite bands can grow and reach a larger audience. The business has changed, and I think with the Web giving everyone easy access at a shot on stage, and hookers and blow in the back, we tend to fall into the image, and the 1, 2, 3 and then the 4.
Micheal Jackson helped shape pop music into a joyous, danceable thing, and he sold 750 million records doing it. I'm not saying that some of our favorite bands will ever reach that status...well, maybe Nickelback...but I hope that we can support them after taking a sneak peek, and possibly work together to weed out the crap.