Well, this is supposed to be a platform from which I extol the many virtues of BlancoMusic.com, how our music will uplift your heart and nourish your soul. Well, it will – good, honest music that is made by talented musicians whose primary ambition is to be musicians rather than media darlings – will always benefit the listener. Even if you don’t actually enjoy some of it, it is a deep pleasure to be confronted with challenging, accomplished music. Just knowing that there are people out there – concert pianists, folk-mandolin players, histrionic-but-talented vocalists – who play and practise and push themselves to create something so etheral and momentary that it’s gone in seconds. It’s a bit like sport: I don’t much care for curling, but I am glad that there are people out there who care about pushing the limits of the activity. It is in these areas of endeavour that humans show their true potential. We proved that we were good at the really important aspects of life – food, clothing, shelter, reproduction – tens of thousands of years ago. The fact that we still have to put so much effort into maintaining such fundamentals of life is a real example of where our species has screwed up completely. Greed and ambition and so on, make an equitable society where we can all depend on such fundamentals impossible. All the more admirable then, that despite the flippin’ constant wasted effort it takes us all just to keep a roof over our heads, that we can spare time and energy for making and appreciating art at all. It’s what separates us from the darkness and chaos, don’t forget that.
So, despite what I just wrote, I’m in a really upbeat frame of mind now, mainly because I just found a new record label whose roster is making me very happy indeed. They’re called A Future Without (http://afuturewithout.com) and the music they have on their homepage is just exactly what I hope the future for music will become. We’re losing BBC 6Music, the mainstream music channels and press are becoming entrenched by fear, the major labels are disappearing, but the music is still out there. People for whom music is more than a ‘passion’, for whom music is just so deeply ingrained a part of their existence that the idea of only noticing it in moments of ‘passion’ is alien, are putting their money on the table and using it to find some way of creating, distributing and playing new, progressive forms of music. Because, sincerely, the current crisis in the music industry has pushed the mainstream into the simplest, but most damaging reaction could have had – conservatism and fruitless efforts to make everything go back to how it was before. Major labels, print journalism, commercial radio, music video channels – none of them have any real interest in embracing the new media revolution. They are too big, too unwieldy and too frightened of losing their once-powerful grip on the public’s pursestrings by entering into the fractured, chaotic, niche-driven world of new music. There is no way that megacorporations can fake the enthusiasm and integrity of the cottage-industry independent labels. And unless you are the type who buys Meatloaf albums featuring Hugh Laurie and Jack Black, you’ve probably already realized that the big music corporations are in a panic and have completely lost their credibility. Look at the Gorillaz album. So terrrified were EMI of the album leaking at the review stage, that London reviewers were expected to write their reports on the album at a single sitting. After passing through a security gate where all electrical items were confiscated, the critics were then given an mp3 player with the album thereon, which could not be paused, fast forwarded or rewound. The leverage required to force music writers to write their pieces under such circumstances could only be achieved by a major label, but to what end? Predictably, the reviews have been lukewarm, the public’s response cooler still. The reaction most heard on the social web is one of nonplussed disregard. No-one seems able to figure out why the release of an album by a novelty side-project of an otherwise credible artist should be given such outlandish media coverage. In other words: ‘Yeah, fine, but it’s only Gorillaz’.
The indie labels are the future, no doubt about that. We’re the only ones who can provide what an increasingly sophisticated audience wants, and knows it can find. Gorillaz is just another example of how the days when major labels could create and feed demand simply by controlling the media outlets are over. Unfortunately, too much great music is not being heard right now, because the majors just aren’t quite dead yet, and can still dictate their terms to the mainstream. But the times, they are a changin’….