Saturday, 24 January 2009

Music and the Internet

By way of an Introduction

I've been thinking about this blog for some time and I'd like to open the debate with anyone interested in what seems to be a subject that is increasingly closer to my heart. To put into context and make it easier for me to get my point across I'll talk about something that I am more familiar with. The musical genre that is much ridiculed by many and loved by few, namely Progressive Rock. Although this is the genre I am a fan of, I love many areas of music and I would argue that this debate relates to many forms i.e. Jazz, Punk, Ambient, Metal, etc...

I've been a working musician all of my adult life, playing in many bands over the years. I grew up listening to Genesis, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes and many more. I aspired to be in a band like those guys. I recently read the book "Pigs Might Fly - The Inside Story Of Pink Floyd" by Mark Blake, which I would highly recommend, the detail is superb and the book is so well researched.
One of the many things I learned from that book was, how much time bands were given to develop their craft. By their own admission Pink Floyd were not the most accomplished musicians when they started, but they were given time to develop their craft, time to experiment with new ideas and sounds and more importantly they were able to take risks. Okay its may not be everyone's cup of tea and you might find some compositions difficult to listen to from the early days, but you would always find some piece of inspiration on one of those albums, something that would either make you think or make the hair on the back of you neck stand up. After that development they went on to produce 2 or 3 of
the classic albums of all time with "Dark Side of The Moon", "Wish You Were Here" and "The Wall".

I may be biased, but particularly in the UK we are fed the kind of music that seems to be the same format repeated over and over. It may be tweaked for a particular artist or to fit the genre, but it is essentially the record companies and artists settling on a song formula they know has worked in the past and believe will make them money. Check out this video if you don't believe me. In my opinion far too much emphasis is put on fame and celebrity. Also we have lost sight of what is most important, namely the music. Hence the idea of Pink Floyd building a Wall between themselves and the audience.

This is where the internet can be the saviour of music. No longer do bands need to get a record deal, or book expensive studio time. Now with a limited musical knowledge and skill and the right software, you can create a great, well produced song or piece of music. With the advent of the iPod and other mp3 players it can be distributed throughout the world in a matter of minutes. There are no production costs and the music is free to be reproduced, endlessly for the rest of time. The only thing missing to some extent, but a requirement for the working musician /songwriter is the changing hands of a little cash to enable that composer to carry on doing what he does best. How we solve that problem is still open to much debate and not for today!

I must say I do not blame the record companies, they are in the biggest music revolution ever, possibly since music recordings began. They have to adapt and develop to this new world order of file sharing or crash and burn. No longer can they give an artist such as Pink Floyd 3 or 4 albums to develop before they hit profit. I'm sure they will find a way to move forward and I am certainly not going to feel sorry for them.

What the internet allows, is that any true artist can now take time to develop and make the music he or she wants to. They can release as many pieces of work as their creativity will allow. They can digress into other genres, experiment with new ideas and sounds and hopefully find a niche, which will allow them to exist and continue their chosen art.
The negative side of course for the true music fan is that the internet abounds with an endless volume of music, some good, some bad and some indifferent. Whereas in the past the record labels would edit the wheat from the chaff, we are now forced to trawl through many, many sites to find the cream, but that is not such a bad thing. What is considered crap by one is a gem to another.

Finally I'd like to say, I hope that's given you something to think about. There is some fantastic music out there, being made by some very talented bands and individuals,.Music that you're never likely to hear on the radio or see on MTV or the like and as I remember from my school days, (many moons ago), there is nothing as good as finding a new band , no-one else as heard of and championing some great original music.



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Robert Karasek said...

good read! I agree. have a look at my

Paul Heyes said...

I recently read Pigs Might Fly and it was indeed well written and interesting. RIP Rick Wright

Col B said...

Hiya Chris. I'm glad you started a blog. This is an interesting read. I will follow, however, as you know, my expertise lies elsewhere, but there is a distinct parallel to our chosen 'ambitions' as trying to make a breakthrough writing fiction is also creative...and just as frustrating!!!

I agree that there's loadsa talent out there as yet unfound, but there's definitely luck involved and an element of right place right time. I guess when you see some untalented musician on TV you must curse just like me when I read a shit book and throw it across the room!

Leisl said...

I agree broadly with what you've stated here. I'm not a prog rock fan, but the feeling of being "fed up" with cookie cutter music - regardless of genre - is widespread. You are not alone in this (as I suspect you already know). I love discovering new music, even if it's just new to me, and I love that the internet has come along to feed my desire this way. It is frustrating, however, when I find something that I LOVE, something that totally turns my world upside-down, and I can't get it because it's not available in my country. In most cases, I can track down something that I can order (thanks, again, to the internet for that), but I do have to make sure that it's formatted for the correct region. There is nothing worse than getting a new CD and not being able to play it because it's not compatible with my player.