Opinion: How Good Is the Internet for Music? [Part 1]

Given the vast expanse of time I now have being on my summer holidays from university, I’ve found myself spending more time than usual in front of a computer screen, and I started to wonder as I browsed the web and listened to album upon album – is the internet revolution a good or bad thing for the music industry? In the next few Opinion articles I want to talk about the internet’s effect on the music world, and try to come to some sort of conclusion as to whether we should welcome the change with open arms or if I’m being a cynical bastard. So the next few Opinion articles are going to be exploring this issue in a lot more detail, and I’d really welcome any opinions reader’s might have on the whole thing, so leave a comment.

Music is not averse to changing its shape, as seen years ago when shiny, alien CD’s pissed all over crackly, worn cassettes, and right now we are in the transitional period of a whole new era of music production and distribution, and whilst on one hand it is genuinely exciting to see new boundaries broken, like your first awkward but somewhat enjoyable sexual shenanigans, there is an unmistakable air of anticipation and doubt as to where things are going to go next.

Things used to be so simple...

There was a time when all the music chiefs had to worry about was someone recording the Top 40.

With websites such as Myspace and now Facebook, there is a newfound outlet for otherwise unheard of artists to shout and scream about the music they are crafting. One popular example is of course Arctic Monkeys, who went from zeroes to heroes in the space of a heartbeat and haven’t looked back since, all thanks to their Myspace page. However, the reality behind the likes of Myspace is a sobering thought for any aspiring rock stars. How do you stand out when there are thousands of other bands vying for prospective listeners and (I suspect most importantly for the bands) record labels? Suddenly this golden opportunity has turned sour, with most bands participating in the art of ‘whoring’ in order to just gain a shred of attention, sacrificing any self respect.

How does one know if any of this effort pays off? Often when writing a review an artist’s Myspace page is my first port of call, as it provides a great deal of information about the band. Often I find myself scrolling down to the band’s comments, left by people who consider themselves ‘friends’ of the band and usually what I find is a plethora of advertisements for other bands, gig nights and promoters. Other people, struggling to keep their head above water in the cess pool of music who use other people’s pages to scream for attention. Ultimately it begs the question: where are the fans?

One other major problem this whole Web 2.0 business brings up is the issue of quality control. Let’s face it: a lot of what is out on the internet is either a carbon copy of the radio’s most popular band at the moment or music that is so devoid of any talent or insight that even the wordiest of music journalists would struggle to define it as anything other than shit. I don’t for one second advocate the idea that we should all listen to what we are told to listen to by the press and I think it’s important to retain that sense of individuality that music offers us, but at the same time I can’t help but feel it is wrong to offer frankly terrible bands an opportunity to throw their hearts into something they’re honestly no good at. On the other hand however, some might argue that there will always be someone out there who enjoys it, and personal opinion is just something that cannot be accounted for.

There is a danger with these websites that music could sort of swallow itself up, in an impenetrable wall of similar sounding bands with poor recordings and lousy ideas that begin to see the creative aspect of making music stagnate. Furthermore, I believe people are too keen to overestimate the importance of the likes of Myspace in giving a band an opportunity. In fact if anything I would be willing to say that it makes standing out among the crowd a whole lot harder than before, and you’d have to be something really special. But perhaps in that instance that is the internet’s greatest prospect – if you are really that good, then the opportunity is there.

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