Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Regress by Erik Burg
It’s a question I’m asked all the time, from band members and label owners alike:
“How do I get coverage on the major blogs?”
But my answer is usually riddled with pauses and stammers, because I’m not sure there is any advice to give on the subject. What I wish I could say, with an honest conscience, is that the music just needs to be good. Yet in 2011, the only way to get coverage, is to have already been covered.With Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Spotify, Pandora and a myriad of other options for discovering new music, why are we all recycling the same ten bands? Yes, of course there are new artists and tracks circling the web, being touted as the next so-and-so. But therein lies the problem: new acts can’t escape the shadow of independent music’s first generation, a world where Nirvana is still cutting edge and Neutral Milk Hotel b-sides are actually rare. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for preserving and honoring the past, but not at the expense of modern music. For as much as I obsess over The Beatles, Depeche Mode, Pete Rock & C.L., I can only listen to them as filler in 2011 — as something to listen to in between discovering new music.
I always thought that was why music journalism existed in the first place, to discover and champion new music. The best, most important bands and records would always be decided by the fans and the general public. No matter how awful the top 40 might be, the cream always rises to the top (for evidence check out this past year’s Grammy winner). But the going trend now is to rely on those bands that first made independent music slightly popular, as opposed to looking for the next wave of twenty-somethings with a chip on their shoulder and an 8-track recorder in their basement.I cannot bring myself to get excited about a Lou Reed and Metallica collaboration, no matter how storied their careers have been, because it means ignoring the new Dumbo Gets Mad record or not blogging about an undiscovered band from a nowhere city. People seem to feel a strange obligation to these artists. They flock to the seventeenth Radiohead remix EP that month instead of picking up a record by a band they’ve never heard before. I’m not advocating a shot in the dark, but for bloggers and journalists, a little digging into their submissions box might help, and for curious listeners, a navigation past the main banner on Pitchfork.But how did we even get here?
The blame certainly isn’t shouldered by one artist or outlet; it seems to stem from the nostalgia and reverence that so much of the blogosphere has for the group of “original” independent acts. Glued to my Twitter feed, I read daily how many music writers feel “old,” and think most twenty-two year old fans and writers alike have zero taste. I can flip through my RSS feed and read the same rumor about a Radiohead concert on forty different websites, but maybe two stories on a new band. Are most of today’s tastemakers jaded? I would wager against that, but it does appear as though they have a certain bias.The musicians are not guiltless either. Bands that once thrived on intimate catalogues and secrecy are now releasing content at ridiculous rates and touring for the first time in years. New albums and reunions are great, Guided by Voices proved that this year, but there are instances where this idea of catering to fans goes terribly wrong. The Flaming Lips were once a compelling band; their new albums were an anticipated event. But their release of a six hour compilation on a USB stick, inside of a gummy candy skull, was one of the hokiest and silliest ideas for an album. It was a strange and grasping push to wrangle applause from an audience that seems all too forgiving.The pandering doesn’t stop there, though. If the idea of a six-hour song wasn’t desperate enough, the Flaming Lips will also release a twenty-four hour long track. Wayne Coyne might as well scream into his megaphone, “Oh god, pretend we’re still relevant! Please pay attention to us!”
As a fan of music as well as a writer, I find innovation and discovery on both fronts a discouraging topic. I don’t know whether the artists themselves or the journalists are to blame, but I hope we deviate from this pattern soon. It’s easier than ever before to create and market new music, but for some reason, these fledgling endeavors end up relegated to dive bars and cassette tapes
The music is out there, but the coverage is not. So I urge you all seek out local music, scour Bandcamp pages; listen to what other people are not listening to. You don’t have to be subversive and anti-social, but you do need to search outside of the media’s current constructs, and in doing so, I promise you’ll fall in love with music all over again.