Just use your ears

As some of you might know already, BlancoMusic posts a new tune every Thursday, stripped of all non-musical data, rendered secret and virginal by its anonymity. We do it partly to drum up some interest in the label, partly to publicise tracks and acts that, in many cases, don’t even have names yet. There is a side-effect too though. By not releasing anything in the way of information about the act, the music is given the chance to be heard without prejudice. I mention this because, on coming to work in the music business (a mere six months ago), it became obvious to me that there was a whole layer of value-judgment that I put onto music, that doesn’t belong there. Being suddenly surrounded by musicians whose talent and ability were self-assured, it became clear quite quickly that a lot of my critical approach to a new piece of music was informed not by what I heard, but by what I had read about the act, what they looked like, what they had previously released, and a plethora of other factors that somehow determined, in my mind, the act’s ‘cred’. The musicians I work with here at BlancoMusic don’t do that. It became clear quite quickly that if I were to establish a role for myself in the label that had any authority in terms of musical direction, I would have to change my methods of appraisal. I walked into the office on one occasion to encounter a colleague listening to a Led Zeppelin album. ‘Oho’, I remarked, ‘guilty pleasures, eh?’ The chap in question just fixed me with a withering look, and I realized right there that the concept of anything other than the music in its pure form means nothing to that real musician. As someone around whom a great deal of hype and ‘credibility’ and ‘underground guru’ status has accumulated over the years, it was obvious that such status means nothing to him. Certainly, it can help sell records, but if those records are not good, what use is the surrounding image?

So, bit by bit, I’ve changed how I look at music. In fact, I’ve stopped looking at it at all, and started listening. There are no more ‘guilty pleasures’ (although Zep are only marginally that anyway). I’m not a teenage girl, terrified that her ringtone will be scorned by her ‘friends’, and I’m less of a fashion victim than I was before, no longer jumping at acts whose PR effort has brought them to my attention through just the right pathways to somehow attract me to them. That approach has filled my shelves with CDs that I never much liked. None of what I’m pointing out is illogical, and in fact, we all pride ourselves on having great taste in music. Problem is that there’s a huge mechanism in place to cloud our judgment and to make us buy records that, if they were just played to us Thursday Tune-style, stripped of everything but the audio component, we’d probably pass right by.

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