Being an amateur music hoarder, one of my favourite pastimes is finding out about records that were once forgotten, but through the wondrous information exchange of the internet, have been rediscovered. Little pieces of history that have taken decades to make sense, like the soulful proto-punk of Death, or morsels of immense beauty that were victims of circumstance, such as the tragic folk tale of Jackson C. Frank. When I listen to these acts I feel as though they have been validated, through all of the struggles and strains, the fact that I am able to talk about them now makes it seem like their efforts were ultimately worthwhile.
Now, technology has allowed culture to be democratized; everyone is given their due. Within hours a Soundcloud stream can reach an international audience, bloggers clamber to be the first to know and forward their own careers; everything is immediate, if you’re a day late then you may as well be a month. Albums are aggregated on a myriad of top 100 charts and those lists are then compiled to produce aggregate lists of lists. When everything is so hyper-exposed, is it possible any more for something to slip through the cracks?
Surely, this is a good thing, you may be thinking. Yes, it’s now highly unlikely for a musician with genuine talent to die without some form of recognition. There is no longer a stranglehold on critical opinion; in ye olde days to publicly express a viewpoint you had to be published in a magazine, or, if that failed, put the effort in to start a fanzine. Now, everyone is free to set up a WordPress account and start writing how they feel; there is no governance on consensus. Furthermore, while the conventional methods of label PR are still crucial, they are no longer the be all and end all. Back when record companies were less clued up in the mid-00s, it seemed as though labels could be done altogether, with groups such as Arcade Fire and Arctic Monkeys gaining their initial exposure through positive Pitchfork reviews and MySpace plays respectively. However, through major labels and social media companies mutual love of money, record companies have been able to retain their dominance, not only snapping up promising hype acts but utilising the techniques that were at one time rumoured to defeat them; nurturing artists in the shadows for years and then releasing them discreetly to the blogosphere as fully formed packages, sending the online world in to frenzy (i.e. Lorde).
While this is a fairer world it’s also a more boring one. All the questions have already been answered, there is nothing left to be found. Everything is assigned a value from the instance that it comes in to being. How is it possible to reclaim that element of surprise? That moment where something connects with you, and you want to share it with the rest of the planet? That feeling that you hold knowledge and it’s near enough your moral duty to spread it with as many people as possible? It’s something which we have sacrificed in our rampant desire for information, from henceforth we experience culture in a near-enough linear fashion.