Saturday Summary 017

This week, Myspace gets humiliated again, and lots of people have thoughts about new models for the music business. http://blancomusic.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/whats-all-this-about-spotify-again/ An enlightening perspective from an independent label on Spotify’s business practices. While there is an undeniable parallel with radio, and presence on streaming services may be of real promotional value to some of the smaller players, unless you’re a major then the paid streaming model is essentially based on theft: someone other than the rights holder being the financial beneficiary of distribution.

Monday Musings: Technique and Creativity

There are some really skilled musicians around with very little to say: there are also some players with a very rudimentary technique who are able to stretch it into work of huge creative ambition. There are many more whose artistic strategies are too dependent on their technical aptitude to permit them to range very widely, or to produce much variety throughout their career, and on the other hand, there are those whose artistic vision outstrips their technical capacity to realise it.

Monday Musings: Aesthetics And Meanings, Or How To Value Any Sound

Looking back at the variety of reviews I’ve written in the past few months, variety is the principal thing that strikes me. There are stylistic tendencies, but they have come about through natural enough processes, such as artists who know one another sending me their music to review: as far as my own proclivities are concerned I’m almost freakishly eclectic. This is a tendency I’ve noted in myself for many years, going back to when I was a young punk rocker who also enjoyed listening to the George Benson records I’d inherited from my dad, and it’s become more and more pronounced with time.

Saturday Summary 015

Freemium, and streaming models that offer entirely chimerical value are struggling this week. Which is nice. Pointless middlemen are finding it harder to get by in a market where they can no longer control access, and where ideological control structures are slipping away (or are starting to reflect a reshaped power structure). Oops, did I sound Marxist? I’m not, but the industry’s travails give the lie to the line they peddle about the nature of the business.

Monday Musings: What Do Musicians Mean, And Does It Matter?

Music fans very often want to know something about the author of their favourite sounds. It is a widespread assumption that details of an artist’s biography or personality can provide an insight into their art: while this may or may not be the case, it is undeniable that the idea of the artist, as it exists in the mind of the listener/ viewer/ reader, has a significant effect on the way that they interpret the work. Artists may adopt a variety of strategies to make the author a greater or lesser presence in the work, to make it more or less impersonal.

Monday Musings: Canons and Mainstreams

How often does someone say ‘you must listen to/ read/ watch cultural artifact X’? How often is it assumed that you are familiar with a particular album, or does someone express shock that you are unfamiliar with another? This week’s topic concerns the cultural canon, and the idea of a mainstream. Certain artworks or artists can uncontroversially be described as canonical: in popular music, Elvis, The Beatles, Madonna and a number of others are likely to have made an impact on more or less everybody’s awareness.

Monday Musings: What’s So Good About Music?

I’ve been thinking back recently to my abortive attempt to train as a secondary school music teacher, and the furious bout of self-examination it induced. The process, which was not a positive one, but from which I learned a great deal, forced me to question, and explicitly articulate the value that I place on music. This is a very interesting question: most people will not be able to provide you with a coherent response, and there is clearly no single answer, any more than there is one single music.