Let’s face it, if money was no object we’d never sleep. Every album in the world would be ours, every artist would get equal airtime, but that’s where the utopian view ends. I spend an unhealthy amount of my monthly income on music, most of it from up-and-coming artists. The only way I can still be a functional adult is to have some rules, guidelines and moral codes to guide my use of currency, to keep from spending more dollars than sense.
This blog is not a work of fiction – any reference to persons living or dead is entirely intentional. If you feel aggrieved by any insinuation or blatantly obvious slight to yourself or someone you love then please, wait to throw your drinks at me when I’m not sitting in my studio because that would fry lots of stuff and then I’d have even less money to spend on your tunes. Alternatively, you could learn from your mistakes, and make the world a better place, mostly for yourself. Everything I elude to in this piece has happened to me, usually more than once, and I hope that someone can learn from these experiences.
Here are my five reasons why I will not buy your music.
#1 You've Got nothing to sell
Seriously, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a song at a restaurant, on the radio, at a party, walking on the beach, Sunday markets, let alone YouTube or SoundCloud, and I’ve gone to buy it but drawn an absolute blank, I’d be very rich! Or rather, more of you would be. How hard is it to put a song up there? Itunes, Bandcamp, even stream the thing on Spotify – I wanna support your music! I may be willing to chase you up, spend weeks waiting for you to follow me on social media so I can private message you to ask for an mp3, or beg you daily to fix your website so I can buy your album that is not available at any of the traditional digital outlets, but honestly, who else will? I don’t like to brag, but I think I’m pretty obsessive when I wanna be. If I love you then face it, there’s an exception to every one of these rules, but if I don’t, or if I can’t reach you, then exactly what do you think is gonna happen? If something’s not able to be bought now, chances are it won’t be bought ever. People have ultra-short attention spans. The digital age means everything we have is at our fingertips. “I want it all, and I want it now!” is not just Freddy Mercury pounding out an anthem mocking the youth of the eighties, it’s a reality for the digital consumer. If you’re not able to gratify right here, right now, then you’re gonna get left behind. I wonder where they are now, all the artists whose music I heard, yet was unable to get a sniff of anywhere, and are now long forgotten. I hope they’re doing well.
#2 i already bought ten of you
Brian Eno commented during his edition of the annual John Peel Lecture (celebrating arguably the greatest BBC Radio 1 presenter of all time), that in his day everyone listened to everything, because it’s all that was available. He went on to say that now we live in a world of niches, and everyone knows what’s going on in their niche, but not in anybody else’s. Thus, it is in fact, impossible to know everything, possibly not even all within each corner of the market. Naturally this is due to the ease with which one can create music. If I wanted to I could go plug in a horrible keyboard, loaned to me 7 years ago by my dear piano teacher, and in half an hour release a track of ambient electronica to the world. I have relative pitch at best, and didn’t make it past a grade 3 piano level. If somebody as talentless as I could manage that, then imagine what people who actually know what they’re doing, are gifted and have something meaningful to say could create? If you’re worse at subtext than I am at puns, there’s a lot of you out there! How many times have I listened to an artist and thought “this is great, but there’s nothing here I can’t get somewhere else”? So often I see bucketfulls of potential, yet output that can be put alongside so many others. I’m over mediocrity! I hate listening to somebody and being able to hear things that they haven’t included in the song, or wishing they had fixed a mistake, worked on a lyric, or just left it alone son! I see this from independent artists right up to mainstream people whom my family are showing me. I was introduced to a country album (one of my favourite genres) by my sister-in-law on a car trip recently, I was particularly sleep-deprived, and the music on the stereo only heightened my agony. Something about trucks and pretty girls and a lot of session players who don’t care how they sound or who looks their way so long as they get $50 per hour. It’s not a difficult concept, make something unique, make something that’s real, that channels who you are, that shows off the things you are good at. Why should I love you? Why should you be my investment of time and money?
#3 i don't like spam!
“We’ve got spam, bacon, eggs and spam, spam, spam, sausage, baked beans, spam, tomatoes and spam …” Monty Python wrote that sketch four decades before it would take on a concrete meaning in the world. It was vaguely prophetic, as were many artists of the sixties and seventies (Billy Joel’s Miami 2017 anybody?). I am over #checkout #rt #indie #music and all the rest. I am so over seeing a thousand tweets telling us to go listen to "@<insert_persons_name>" when they have an account you can tag for goodness sake! I’m over seeing everything you say and do with everyone in the galaxy coming across my desk at warp speed! Have you got it yet? Ease up turbo! Social media is here, whether you like it or not, it’s how we communicate now, get savvy or get left behind. How we use this tool to engineer our lives is the sole responsibility of the individual. “Views are my own not my employer’s” or some derivative thereof, is probably the most common line in the bios of professional people throughout all platforms. I’ll reflect on how we should best manipulate socials in the music industry in a future article, but for now my pet hate - spam! If you’re an artist who’s recently followed me and I’m seeing your name a thousand times a day for no reason other than I should “check you out”, chances are I won’t. Why should I check you out? Why do I need to be told fifty times about your song? And most of all, why do you or your minions demand that I share this, thus compounding your repetition? And while we’re here, why must I see everything somebody says to you? Why must I see fifteen people telling you and yours to have a good day, when it’s the same folks wishing you niceties all the time? I could set a clock to it and have actually been known to realise what time of day it was by a barrage of this in a contrary timezone to mine. This is likely the nastiest paragraph I’ll ever write on these pages, but I’m absolutely fed up. The more you tell me to do something without reason, the less I’m gonna do it. I don’t like spam.
#4 You don't need me.
Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but it is the sad truth. I am not made of money. If you’re pumping out piles of albums, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars on your crowd-funding campaigns, following 20 people and being followed by 20000, you really don’t need my help. My money is gonna be a digit on your statement, not food on your table, or a guitar on your shoulder. Of course if I love you enough I’ll do anything for you, but at the end of the day your life goes on without me. And face it, not everybody is Amanda Palmer with the gift of gathering millions with personalised perfection. Either become her, or accept that you’re starting to make it in the world. There’s a version of you who’s just starting out who will benefit more from my support, it’s really nothing personal.
#5 You Don't want me.
Now I don’t like to stroke my own ego, so I apologise to myself for the following portion. Basically, supporting the lowest rungs of the music industry should make you feel pretty good about yourself (I know I do). It’s a community where creator and consumer are equals, and mutual love is shared. But some of you, the artists with their feet on this rusty old step, either don’t know or don’t care what you are. There is a certain kind of indignation that only comes from being ignored on social media by somebody who you know you can help, who has a small fraction of the following you do. And it’s a certain kind of rude not being followed by an artist, somebody who is supposed to be famous or headed that way, who is following loads more people than do them. If you don’t want people, if you’re gonna be rude or plain ignore them, then exactly how are you gonna entice anybody into giving you their hard-earned? If I gush over you, give you detailed, positive feedback, and all you can do is reply with 1 word “thanks” how do you think it makes me feel? I spent at least 5 minutes listening to you, composing my thoughts about you, writing them down in a semi-intelligent manner, and you literally acknowledged it with a single word. If you were Kanye then maybe you’d get away with that, but then again no amount of being nice to me would clear that debt! Sorry bro. Telling a radio guy who’s willing to pay for your music that he’s a fraud who just wants freebies, and people listening to him won’t give you sales which is the only currency that matters, is probably going to hurt someone’s feelings very deeply. Telling somebody to go support your Kickstarter/Pozible/pledge campaign, and then not including their country in the list of shipping places is offensive. Dismissing somebody asking you why they can’t buy your music in their country because, “well it’s on Spotify just listen to it there” is utter madness. You just cheated yourself out of a sale and condescended to a potential fan in the process, making you look about as bad as they feel! Sell your product, be personable. Last I checked, artists still need to eat. Is it really hard to give people a little kindness? Is it really hard to present yourself in a way that will bring fans to you? If someone’s enthused, be enthusiastic. If someone’s moved, cry with them. You have the power to change people’s lives, use it.
So many people do make the most of that influence and opportunity. Not a day goes by where I don’t have some interaction with a musical friend who I think is pretty amazing, and it’s real. I get free things in the mail, I get text messages and phone calls and I’m showered with love. It is a particular kind of warm and fuzzy when you can connect with an artist you admire. It’s a bond like no other, and I’ll be writing more about that very soon. If you are personable, interesting, promote yourself with tact and a bit of personality, and make music that sounds really good, then I’ll give you everything I can. I really do want to buy your music – make it worth my while.
Chris West is an up-and-coming music journalist. He has had radio in his blood from age four, and has been in internet radio since 2006. A lover of all music with a passion for finding the next new star, Chris wakes every morning with the thrill and hope that today he might discover his new favourite album. The fruits of this search for greatness can be seen on his radio show The Tripwire every Tuesday evening on www.the-phoenix.net