Last time I posted something on my blog I was trying to make a point about where the music business is at circa 2010. Of course, it got long and rambly, veering far from the point as is my wont. I promised a return to discuss the true value of music in a digital environment so let's discuss the following ideas, ones which either value or devalue an artist's music.
Many independent artists are under a deluded mindset that sitting on their ass while gigging all the time and building up the intangible cool factor are enough to sell music. In the old label days it may have been enough to create that illusion of a brand while A&R and the 937 other folks who worked for an artist's label did all of the real work. Well those days are long gone and the idea of serious ass sitting and focusing only on the music is dangerous. Today every indie artist must be their own artist manager, book agent A&R, and label rep which is considerably more work than any artist from 15 years ago would be used to but 15 years ago most indie artists struggled to even get any of their music heard - most quality tunes were blocked by a cabal of questionable aesthetics, economic concerns, and label politics. If I had a dollar for every time an artist told me they were being screwed by their label (or some other bottom feeder in the food chain) back in the olden days I'd have enough money to pay off the US national debt. The fact is that artists now have the power and yet so many are afraid to exercise their true value in an open marketplace - most claiming that it's too easy to download music illegal, no one cares, shoddy distribution, etc. Just as when Curt Flood challenged baseball's reserve clause back in 1968 opening the door to free agency and ever escalating pro sports salaries, the same thing is happening in music. Artists are now free agents giving them unprecedented flexibility. A few are taking advantage of this opportunity and really making it big. Why? Because they never doubted the value of their music and are constantly exchanging it for something of equal value - whether it is an email in exchange for a free download or selling of parts of a track as a sample pack. The idea is that unrestricted artists are free to talk and work with whomever without fear of legal reprisal and as such can create infinite amounts of income streams as a hedge against any particular facet of the market experiencing a slowdown or downturn. Next time we meet, we will discuss specifics about building these income streams.
Anyway, the wheels started turning in my critic's mind about what makes music endure and I came up with these thoughts.
1. Release a full length, this is still one of the best avenues out there to indie musicians in terms of building brand legitimacy. Good case in point is techno producer Limaçon, a great DJ and producer who took his act to the next level after releasing his debut full length Tarry Not earlier this year on Thoughtless Music.
2. Work hard not only to promote but to make good tunes that you've exposed to ridicule and criticism to those closest to you before releasing. This extra layer of quality control can make all the difference between a mediocre album that no one will talk about and a decent one that can create some buzz if you get off your ass to promote it.
In that spirit, here are 25 albums I checked out this Spring that fit the bill:
TOP ALBUMS SPRING 2010
1.Christian Prommer-Drumlesson Zwei (K7)
2.Juan Maclean-DJ-Kicks (K7)
3.Pezzner-The Tracks Are Alive (Freerange)
5.Agoria-Balance 016 2xCD (EQ)
6.Psychonauts-Songs For Creatures (Gigolo)
7.Applescal-A Mishmash Of Changing Moods (Traum)
8.Scuba-Triangulation (Hotflush Recordings)
9.King Britt - The Intricate Beauty (Nervous)
10.Jahcoozi-Barefoot Wanderer (Bpitch Control)
11.Loscil-Endless Falls (kranky)
12.D-Bridge & Instra:mental pres Autonomic-Fabriclive 50 (Fabric)
13.Cobblestone Jazz-The Modern Deep Left Quartet (K7)
14.Signal Deluxe-A Morning With A Billion Suns (unsigned)
15.Clara Moto-Polyamour (InFine Music)
16.Technasia-Central (Technorient Music)
17.2000 and One-Voltt Mix (Planet Gong)
18.Dan Curtin-Lifeblood (Mobilee)
19.DJ T.-Fabric 51 (Fabric)
20.Louie Vega-@ dragon-i Collections (King Street Sounds)
21.Ian Pooley-Pooled 25 (Pooled Music)
22.Robert Babicz-Immortal Changes (Systematic)
23.Deadbeat-Radio Rothko (The Agriculture)
24.BT-These Hopeful Machines (Nettwerk)
25.Keb Darge & Paul Weller Present-Lost & Found: Real R&B and Soul (BBE)