New Robot Ears
Recently in a conversation with Tom Oldham, one of the people behind one of London’s best independent labels, No Pain In Pop, about how they used to scout for bands, he mentioned they’d simply scroll through the Myspace friend-lists of bands they already liked and listen to what they found. Almost gone are the days of the A&R scout, roaming the country, expense account in hand. Now armed with the internet they microscope in on various places linked through digital networks; flicking browser tabs between LA, New York, Manchester, London; digital sonic-exploration in search of some indescribable moment of musical epiphany; panhandling in the computerised riverbed for nuggets of gold.
The internet is often credited with destroying the business model of the music industry; in a new world of abundance, with everything there for us, for free, it would seem to be the Tesco mums, fifty quid dads, vinyl nerds and advertising money that’s keeping the whole murky enterprise afloat. As far as business models go, the ideal of web distribution on the surface reflects the early ‘80s US Hardcore scene’s ideal of band-to-fan directness, enterprises like Bandcamp would seem to confirm this, and long time DIY exponent R. Stevie Moore recently made most of his catalogue of 400 records available online on the site. Obviously the new model doesn’t work for everyone, but the shift in profitability has had an effect on what we listen to, because it effects what gets made. It’s probably an alright time for the hobbyists, doing it for the love; an alright time too, for the djs, raking in money from playing records live, their fan base still buying records too; a good time if your Radiohead and don’t have to worry about actually selling records for money any more, the rest of the middling Indie bands probably thankful theirs still Vodafone ads that need music to be synced too.
Our socially networked world relies on sharing; we accrue life online in a stream of likes, posts and comments, developing our online presence, that evapourates quickly once the public interaction stops. Much has been written about our obsession with retromania, but maybe it boils down to this supposition; we feel compelled to share online, and after compulsively sharing the new, we, via a swift bit of research or a potluck dive down a promising looking link, work backwards, and start sharing the old. What this leads too is a weird temporal glitch where the past is always constantly re-evaluated and re-contextualised in the present. We end up with blogs catering to the hyper-specific little scenes, reintroducing them into the contemporary wild like almost extinct creatures nursed back to health under careful eyes. An old world given a new life online because of our desire to rediscover and share it, social networks as cultural Jurassic Parks.