24 February 2011

I Listen What I Like

Pardon the title pompously paraphrasing Steve Biko; hardly a creative approach I am fully aware, but for long I have been trying to articulate what informs my music consumption. Hence I listen what I like. It sounds like a truism, no doubt, but why do I end up listening to the things I do? One can’t but start from this obvious; what sounds good to me. Fair play, but then, I can never be able to sample all the music in order to be able to dissect which are the songs and artist that I like. I can only really like the music I have heard. This is part of the basic idea of buying music: we hear it, we like it and then we buy it. Not for instance we buy it, we hear it and then we like it.

So, it becomes a question of where do I find music to hear and then possibly like. From the Internet is the answer. Instinctively I almost typed mainly from the Internet, but the truth is that I find out about music exclusively from the internet. I can’t remember when last I learned about anything meaningful from anywhere else. In theory it could happen, but to me, it hasn’t in a long enough time to say that it simply doesn’t. I follow recommendations in Twitter, I subscribe to several blogs and then just see things around while wasting time. Besides a vague sense of adventure and exploration which, while important, isn’t easily measurable, the key in finding music is the source of recommendation. There are people and blogs that I trust and who I know to have enough overlapping with my preferences that they are worth checking out. So a loose and ever-changing hierarchy of opinions is at play, but of course only to a point that I sort of give it a go – I can’t like something on command.

It’s not that exciting though. Who cares – we all have a taste for some kind of music, some artists and so on. It’s all aesthetics. What I find much more interesting are the social, political and economic factors that make us like something. 

The major label recording industry has only a slender grasp left on the cool in Hip-Hop and even they have created a system of small labels to achieve any credible positioning in their own industry.

Regardless of the field, the corporate industry has one aim – to make money. They are on the extreme end on the spectrum between the culture and industry which I have been writing about earlier. Note; not necessarily all of their artists, but their corporate structures are. Their artists aren’t innocent victims of oppressive abuse necessarily either, and by the way, there is no judgment here. We all need to pay the bills and I am generally not very interested in dwelling on this kind of moral questions; it would be too futile, but I am generally not very interested in the products of these artists and their ‘supporting’ business structures either. Nuff said. 

So the way to my ears, and wallet, goes largely through independent labels or independent artists with some, ideally functional web presence and good music with content substance that makes me nod my head. 

Only these things are needed for me to part with my hard earned money for music. I’ve come a long way from spending a lot more – really, a lot more – money on music. Well, the climate of the industry changed also dramatically, but still, I can see why the easy access customers are more desirable for the big business which needs to buy its own cool to begin with.

But the cool cannot be bought really, only a sense of it, and I am much more inclined to be a customer if I am considered a person first. 

One of the reasons behind these thoughts has been the fact that as I look at my blog, there seems to be a limited pool of artists and labels I mention. Some of them I know personally, but all of them I like musically and in all these other ways. Hence when I recommend one of them again, I am not stalking them, nor am I paid by them – only I am a fan of them from all angles I can imagine; or at the very least from enough angles to give them my support. For whatever it is worth since I am not sure how I rank at anyone’s hierarchy of online opinion of music to be given a go.

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