October 31, 2004

Money and Music, Legitimacy and Recognition

I've been thinking recently about impediments that can cause new music to miss out on opportunities for getting heard. This past summer, I'd uploaded some MP3's to MP3RIA.COM, a micropayment OMD; it seemed like a good idea at the time. I also recently saw an article (and lost its reference) to somebody online writing that it was silly to charge $5 for a new music concert. You'd scare away half the audience cuz it was too cheap and the rest probably didn't have the $5! Plus wouldn't the organizers really rather get 50 people than 20?

Six months later, and watching the stats that MP3RIA brings in (rather pathetic at the moment), I started realizing that once again, I'd created an impediment to getting heard. Did I really want a few hundred bucks or would I rather have a few thousand listens? I'd spent the better part of a month re-mastering my Obliterature album (off and on) and had toyed with the idea of getting it pressed through Oasis or on demand distro like Mixonic. But I could just never get up the nerve to cut that check and thoughts haunted me that the on demand CDR pressings would be sub par.

So I started looking around for sites where I could house hundreds of megabytes of MP3's and have a lot of bandwidth too for dirt cheap. There are quite a few bargains online now in this regard. I've since uploaded 3 albums and a SVCD.

A friend of mine keeps telling me, online distro is dead. It just gets in the way for the search for 'legitimacy.' You won't get written up, reviewed, or mentioned in offline publications as long as you're focussed on online distro, he says. I think he's being naive. He's disappointed that his fame since MP3.COM days has dissipated and he doesn't see the merging between art worlds online and off.

For example, my spouse, Elsie Russell, was recently quoted in the New York Times magazine. (She only found out through clicking around the New York Times Online one day; we stopped buying the paper years ago). Why did she get mentioned? Because of an essay she wrote at her site. The article uniquely did not mention her as being an 'online artist' or a 'web writer'. It said, Elsie Russell, a neo-Classical painter, has described Arcadia as ''the anarchist state inhabited by uncontrollable misfits.''

That is how the merger of online and offline media recognition will take place. Online artists will begin to get recognized, finally, as artists. It won't matter that the artist was found online by chance or by word of mouth. It won't matter that they've never heard of the artist or that they've never been raved about by critic X. What matters is the art.

What ultimately matters is getting heard. Using arcane file formats, charging money through systems that require registration, being cheap with concerts and then not doing it for free, all become ways that you disenfranchise the listener.

It would be nice to get paid, like the big name artists do, for what I simply do. But I'll wait. I have to wait. Because with so much content, both purchased and free, legitimately or illegitimately licensed, available at once, when the listener comes by, I want to start whistling in her ear before she leaves the room.

Posted by jeff at 05:19 PM | Comments (2)