New Music Digest: Spring 2011

The seasons turn and spring has come to Canada once again. As is my custom, I have annotated a list of thought-provoking articles about the state of the music industry. If you would like to learn a little more about what the future might hold, read on.

Everything popular is wrong: Making it in electronic music, despite democratization is a tremendously good read. A bit myopic, perhaps, but it captures the electronic music industry zeitgeist better than just about anything else I have seen.

Everyday White Noise

Industrial is white-hot funky dance music, squeezed out of everyday white noise. The sound fragments and fluffed up news of our lives provide the back beat, over which are added lyrics of domination, control, and disaffection, usually sung by a demonic-sounding narrator singing from a distance. Post-Industrial dance (like early Industrial) is built around the sounds our culture makes as it comes unglued.

Gareth Branwyn, Factories of Deliberate Decay, 1998

Some Advice About Unsolicited Demos

Most label owners are overwhelmed with demos. Speaking as someone who has, at times, attempted to actually get to every demo arriving in my inbox, the vast majority are not worth looking into, and I don’t blame any label owner who ignores unsolicited demos—sorting through what might be worthwhile to release is actually a full-time job known as A&R in the industry! I happen to handle A&R for my fledgling netlabel group so I have a lot of first-hand experience reviewing unsolicited demos. My rate of release based on such demos is non-zero but it can’t be much higher than 1%, and most of that would be established veterans calling on me, not new artists.

BitTorrent Is Not a Universal Solution

One of the most common suggestions I receive from Ektoplazm visitors is to open a BitTorrent tracker for free music, ostensibly to decrease hosting costs. There are a number of problems with this suggestion, however, and given how frequently it is mentioned, I figure a full post might be helpful to explain why BitTorrent is not a universal solution.

New Music Digest: Winter 2011

Every season I try to gather up some of the more interesting music-related articles I’ve been reading to share and discuss. Much of this comes from subscribing to various “music 2.0” blogs, though I will admit to feeling uninspired by much of what I have found in the last few months. Is the movement running out of ideas? Not exactly. It is just that hype brings in traffic—and I have become rather allergic to hype! I criticize a few pieces of hype in the text below but I have also taken care to round up a number of posts containing solid advice for musicians new and old. I will start on a good note.

Finding An Audience In An Age Of Saturation is a great article about music discovery. The issue: pretty much anyone with an Internet connection has more than enough music already. How are musicians supposed to gain the attention of potential fans? Not by spamming people randomly, that’s for sure. The author provides a simple outline of what musicians need to be thinking about if they wish to earn the right to be heard.

New Music Digest: Fall 2010

Continuing my quarterly habit of rounding up some of the more informative and thought-provoking content in the new music literature…

First off, Cory Doctorow shares his views in The real cost of free, a fantastic opinion piece summarizing many of my own views about copyright, piracy, free content, and creativity. Required reading.

RiP: A Remix Manifesto

I recently had the pleasure of watching RiP: A Remix Manifesto, a documentary about culture, copyright, and creativity in the 21st century directed by Canadian filmmaker Brett Gaylor. The main focus of the film is Girl Talk, a mash-up artist, though you will also hear from Lawrence Lessig, co-founder of the Creative Commons (and a huge inspiration of mine), and Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow. Copyright law might seem like a dry subject but the visual presentation of this film is positively electric—you won’t be bored!

Eliminating Atoms

The ultimate cost reduction is eliminating atoms entirely and dealing only in bits. Pure digital aggregators store their inventory on hard drives and deliver it via broadband pipes. The marginal cost of manufacturing, shelving, and distribution is close to zero, and royalties are paid only when the goods are sold. It’s the ultimate on-demand market: Because the goods are digital, they can be cloned and delivered as many times as needed, from zero to billions. A best-seller and a never-seller are just two entries in a database; equal in the eyes of technology and the economics of storage.

Chris Anderson, The Long Tail, 2006

New Music Digest: Summer 2010

Every now and then I gather up some of the more provocative or informative articles I find in my travels in order to compile a digest post such as this one. What follows is an assortment of music-related content I’ve been reading in the last couple of months.

Revealing Shakespeare’s Inner Pirate takes a close look at how culture reinvents itself with bits and pieces of the past. Copyright law, if it respects the public good, should allow for meaningful reinterpretation and outright copying of existing cultural products in order to maintain a healthy creative drive.

This Is the World of Peer Production

This is the world of ‘peer production,’ the extraordinary Internet-enabled phenomenon of mass volunteerism and amateurism. We are at the dawn of an age where most producers in any domain are unpaid, and the main difference between them and their professional counterparts is simply the (shrinking) gap in the resources available to them to extend the ambition of their work. When the tools of production are available to everyone, everyone becomes a producer.

Chris Anderson, The Long Tail, 2006