Last Saturday I was at a friend's housewarming party in Toronto. A fellow party attendee who I didn't know came up to me and asked what I did for a living. I told him that I was a music writer. Perfect, he said, he was a musician--a keyboard player in a pop-rock band. As struggling musicians often do, this guy began to talk about how it's harder for new bands to break through nowadays because there are so many more acts competing for a listener's attention than there used to be. The implication was that there was a lot of crap covering up the good stuff.
Is this true? Hard to say. Given the surfeit of bands on MySpace and covered on blogs and the avalanche of new albums on Amazon and iTunes and CD Baby and the many other digital outlets, it's easy to believe there are, indeed, many more musicians able to put their art out into the world than ever before. But it's not as if we're all scouring all of these websites--each of us has our go-to spots for recommendations. So for bands, I'd imagine it's more important to target the locations where sympathetic listeners might be congregating online and try and get heard there. Exposure is not about something monolithic like radio play anymore. I'm sure that's a reductive and simplistic way of looking at the situation, but I think it's got some fundamental validity.
The musician wasn't buying it. His argument was basically that because the music business is struggling, the record labels just throw meaningless junk at the wall in the desperate hope that something will stick. To which this week's upcoming releases are, I think, an effective retort. (And anyway, it's not as if every record released in 1969 was a timeless classic.)
On June 8th, we'll get new releases from tuneful agit-punks Against Me!, pop diva Christina Aguilera, living legend Iggy Pop, stellar dance-rockers Hot Hot Heat, the Byrdsian Teenage Fanclub, wistful, melodic, Tokyo Police Club, rootsy Deer Tick, avant-synth devils Crystal Castles, psychedelic jamsters Blitzen Trapper, hip-hop heroes the Roots, and so on. That's in one week. Of course, we don't get such diverse, hopefully high quality weeks like that all year long, but holy moly, if there was ever a time to feel optimistic about the product put out by the music industry, June 8th is it.
Am I overly optimistic? Do you think it's harder to hear good music than it used to be? What are the upcoming albums you're most excited about? Let me know in the comments section.
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