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Saturday, 19 March 2011

Don't Be Swindler (My two cents ((or pence, really) on the physical format debate)

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A few days ago I was reading this post on the gold-standard of grind blogs Grind & Punishment. For those how have not read it I'll sum it up: the author has finally acquiesced to his music no longer being in a physical format due to the prevalence of digital media.


Now this little old nugget of worms caused particularly strong feelings in me gulliver, and I immediately posted up a comment what where I spoke my brain.
And then it occurred that mayhap Grandpa Oram's outlook on this might be, heaven forfend, informed by a different set of experiences than yer average kid who knows how to fetch music down a series of tubes.

So let's begin by stating my gut feeling, and then I'll try and expand upon it.

I think that digital-only music basically harms music, in the long run.

GOSH! WOW! WHAT!? etc etc...


I also must make it clear that I download a fantastic amount of music. BUT WAIT! How can I possibly find a moral perch between these two seemingly opposed aspects?

I consider it pretty straightforward: downloading music in order to find what one likes is much like listening to radio, or getting given a mixtape. In many cases I will never see a real copy of whatever-it-is in front of me so stealing it from the electric ether is most likely the only option.
And taking that as a given I don't think many will opt to actually pay for that privilege, not really. Be honest about it.

And here we arrive at a bit of an issue, powerful enough to warrant discussion despite it's obviousness.

Someone has paid for that music at some point. These days that person is probably going to be the band themselves (especially if you like grindy old bunk like I do). So the underground musician is paying to entertain you: that is my first objection.

Greetings earthbound readers of unpopular music related entity 'Grind to Death'.
This is a communique from far-future Humans (now called Hoomanz) that have colonised the universe, sort of like in your contemporary film Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure only different enough to avoid copyright infringement.
Anyway we are just intervening into what our futuregoogle stats has termed the most negative post on the primitive early web to point out all the obvious logical flaws that 'Luke Oram' (real name, Luke Dram) has made in this post. He needs to big-time get over his starving musician bullshit and grow at least one pair. Here in the actual future us Hoomanz enjoy universally free information, and file sharing porn and music was it's inception. So good work.
+++++++++OVER AND OUT+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Now personally I don't have much issue with making music for free, christ knows I have done it enough over the years (all music available free online, countless trips around the country to play gigs for no pay) and I very much doubt that will ever change. But I do see a odd perspective creeping in: many will say such things as 'but it's your hobby' or 'other people are willing to do this for free so why should I pay for your crap music Luke?' and those observations are of course correct- if I turn down a gig someone else will indeed take it for nothing, and yes, I do this because I enjoy it.
I consider this to be a fundamental risk to music however.
You see these days the only currency in music is attention. There is no money actually in the act of creating or playing music, only in the cultural capital created by doing this which is leveraged against tertiary sales like tshirts. I believe a band should be first and foremost a band, making music and playing it. Merch is fine but is not the reason why I bothered to learn all the riffs.

So us bands find ourselves in the somewhat narcissistic position of paying for that attention by funding everything with no return ever; I wish music could be more than that but I can at least accept it. But here comes the next problem: little old band saves up their cash and records some music, plonks it online and waits for the interest to come rolling in but it never comes. Or maybe it does, very hard to tell how many people have your music once it's proliferated across the mindbending multitude of P2P networks.
Unbeknownst to them hundreds of people download their music, but because they don't know about it little old band assumes no-one cares.
Gigging goes just as bad for them alas, the interested audience have no direct relationship with the group and aren't in the same location so no-one turns up. Six months later little old band calls it quits because they think there is no interest and as musicians they owe rent and shit.

Ok ok, so far I am being a bit glib and pessimistic but let me assure you this is from experience.

Well my young apprentice, there are a few ways available to the enterprising chap or chapette.
First and foremost music like grind is a community, and if you claim to love it you need to be supporting it somehow, this could mean chartering a team to find a record shop still trading and buying some music, or it could mean actually going to see some bands play live, right in front of you!! This way you'll be giving the music you consume not only some money from the gate, but the actual manna of attention! A good gig is what keeps a band going, what makes them bother to release that cool ep you swagged from soulseek yadda yadda yadda.

Dear humans of the 21st century, we are actually from the future unlike the previous interruption. We are very sorry we didn't get here in time to prevent it. The news is grim, here in the far future we are ruled by a race of heartless robot masters, sort of like your contemporary film Terminator only different enough etc etc. We urge you to stop file sharing right now- the computer virus that spawned our digital overlords began as a corrupted song in a Metallica album that was being fileshared. We replaced Metallica with agents in an attempt to stop the initial spread, but this is the second film now and things have gotten worse. Please heed the warnings of Agent Luke Oram

You can also improve your own experience of the music by appreciating it's finer qualities, and by this I mean not listening to everything through the inbuilt speakers of a laptop. Bass-less tinny zero dynamics crap is not music, it's not how that music actually sounds at all- it's like being a Botticelli enthusiast but only clicking 'save images as' from a google search. DOES THIS SOUND LIKE THE TYPE of person your child-self wanted to grow up into? A dull, disengaged collector of not-even-real music files? Thought not.

Having said all that I do not like the elitist record collector fallacy either, but it is a different kettle of oranges so just take it as read I don't mean become one of those either. Hah, good luck avoiding my judgemental wrath on this one buster you have it stacked the fuck against you, I've been backtracing your internets and you've totally downloaded the entire slap-a-ham catalogue, AND DELETED THE COVER ART TO SAVE HDD SPACE you philistine, the art is part of the album! Which brings me to another point:

When I was a child, running in the night I saw a cool album cover in a shop. I won't mention what it was but it had a awesome looking well-know monster on it and 23 years later that is why I like the sound of guitars, because I bought that album. uuuuuuurrrrRRRGH I AM NOT LIKE YOU, I COME FROM ANOTHER and eventually forged a life-long relationship with vinyl as a music ritual. It could be any form of physical format however, it doesn't matter so long as it completes the proper fan<>band transaction.

So anyway, as you can all tell I'm against everything now with no real solution just like everyone else. Whoooope.

Right you lot, this is the actual future here, not like those other two imposters. Let us tell you this, here in the future no-one cares about your weak problems- we got space invaders, mole men and twelve different Zombie holocausts to deal with so do you think we give any thought about how some 3000000 year old spoilt chumps listened to long-dead formats of something I'm informed was called music? Hell no buster. I'm called LUUUUK ORRAMM, distant descendant of Luke Oram as it happens. Basically we believe he started this post as a genuine moan about the state of music but got worried it was boring and somewhat pointless. Anyway I'm the last human alive and I'm just about to finally defeat the Crawling Terror from Dimension Zogg by exploding all the universes. Good day.