Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Music For Free

Imagine for a moment if no money whatsoever could be made from making music. Do you think this would be a good thing? Imagine no record companies, no A&R men, and no adverts on T.V dubbing Jack Johnson "the Bob Dylan for the 21st century" or KT Tunstall as "the new Janis Joplin". Imagine no promotional leaflets, no buskers, no spotty little emo kids trying to plug their shitty band on myspace. Imagine no possessions, oh wait that's been done. But seriously imagine. Who would make music?

Have a look at your CD's/Vinyl's/Tapes (does anyone still have tapes?). Do you think any of those artists would have made that music if they hadn't been aware of the promise of getting big money for doing so? I'm sure there are some. Some people just can't help writing songs, even if they're not that good at it (I speak from personal experience). But does doing it for the money necessarily make music bad? You'd have to say that the truly best artists are the ones who really do it for the love of the music. That's why the 1969 Beatles are better than the 1964 Beatles. In 1964 they were still writing songs to be big hits. Don't get me wrong, they wrote some fantastic songs, but they couldn't have written 'Tomorrow Never Knows' or 'a Day in the Life' then. By 1966 they had started making music predominantly for themselves. Now the problem is if it wasn't for the early pop stuff, the Beatles would have never had the chance, money, reputation, balls to have become what they did.

So it seems music being made for money is actually a good thing. It certainly pushes people to experiment in order to find the next big thing. My only concern is the record companies and their seemingly complete lack of any imagination or adventure. The trend at the moment doesn't seem to be finding something new, exciting and original (at least as original as is possible). The trend seems to be to find another Coldplay or even the new Strokes. Why do record companies distrust listeners so? The Beatles are the prime example of how rewarding experimentation can be for a band and record company. Imagine the equivalent of Sgt. Pepper… coming out now. It would never be released due to record company apprehension. And yet it's probably the most successful album ever. All guitar music seems to be produced by the same bloke nowadays, using preset sounds in an identikit studio. Why is there no adventure or experimentalism at the moment? It's so easy to be in a band that sounds just like the Libertines or the Arctic Monkeys (who are incidentally just the Libertines but Northern), and due to there being so many of them its pretty much pot-luck for the record company who they actually sign up. How do they pick? Hair styles? Fashion? Who knows? Does it really matter?

So… music for free then… it would certainly get rid of all the Libertines wannabes, trouble is it would probably get rid of the next Beatles as well. Maybe by 2010 the Strokes will be releasing a genuinely great concept album about New York traffic wardens. You never know… I wait in anticipation.

Dan Matthews