I was fortunate enough, to speak with Perth producer Ta-Ku recently. He has 128,000 followers on Instagram, offering enormous leverage to promote his music- yet he still has a frictional relationship with it.
Whilst it offers him a platform to express himself creatively through his photography, Ta-Ku has a love/hate relationship with social media. A great eye and mind for a caption means, he is the guy responsible for social media across all of his projects. It consumes not only his morning routine, where he labours over the various accounts for an hour and a half every morning, but he admits to considering posting again later in the day if he hasn’t gotten enough likes.
As an outsider, reeling in thousands of likes for a photo seems incomprehensible, but for Ta-Ku it isn’t nearly as dazzling. In this sense he says it “becomes its own monster”, where you are left investing more time in your image than your material- in a constant tussle between mass appeal and creative expression. This is a crossroads that many artists face, commonly expressed as ‘staying true’ or ‘selling out’. There is as an astute consciousness about him, as if he knows popularity is good for him, but he wont let it control his material. And from a holistic sense, he sees Instagrams days to be numbered.
“The creative content is too fat. At some point, someone is going to come along and trim the fat”.
At first it may seem a staggering suggestion, especially from an artist who has ridden a wave of popularity through Instagram- but his prediction draws parallels with the unravelling quality of Facebook’s content. He diagnoses Soundcloud to have reached the same point of oversaturation, that last year it became so hard to find to find the quality content.
Society has this habit of making outdated fragments of culture relevant. Just look at the vinyl record, or the ’50s combover making a resurgence.
Earlier this year, rapper Kanye West released Only One and FourFiveSeconds written with Beatles icon Paul McCartney, leading a flurry of teens to Wikipedia who this Paul McCartney fellow was.
A few weeks ago A$AP Rocky released the single Everyday, which he lifted both lyrics and arrangement from the 1973 Python Lee Jackson song, In A Broken Dream. The original features vocals from UK super-vocalist Rod Stewart, who A$AP lists as a contributor on the track. He used Miguel to sing the hook and Mark Ronson to produce the track.
Both Ye and A$AP are using these guys because they have the power and connections to reach out to any musician they want to. They are also trying to expand their fanbase beyond the realms of hip-hop and challenge who those who see hip-hop as a one-dimensional industry. Using producers and influencers outside of hip-hop has long been seen, but never has the talking point around the track been as prominent as it is with these two collaborations. Now these guys have done it, with great success- it is surely going to become integrated into the genre more often.
You could almost guarantee that neither Rod or Paul are doing it for the money, but they would be enjoying resurfacing in the public arena.
Below I have linked Rod Stewart and Python Lee Jackon’s track In A Broken Dream:
And of course here is A$AP Rocky’s single, Everyday:
The digital disconnect was an interesting exercise in self-awareness.
The snapchats piled up. The Facebook notifications came in. Not surprisingly, no Tinder notifications came in. Each app flashed that inviting red number in the corner, flagging someones interest in connecting with me – and my obligation to check the notification.
Beyond those awkward moments between class where there wasn’t anywhere to look other than down at your phone, being disconnected from social media was so refreshing. I was completely aware of all those times I would ordinarily be checking to see if something dramatic had happened. I even extended the 24 hour lockout by another three hours, in a smug act of defiance against social media.
Music is probably one of the few legitimate reasons for me to check social media. One week ago, Kendrick Lamar released his second record a week early. Social media blew up about it. The internet, in general, blew up. It was a rare moment where I validated my persistent checking of social media. But other than taking suggestions from music publications on the latest underground to check out, I should really try and find excuses to disconnect more often.
Sharing content on ‘Who’s On Bass’ engages the fans, or the consumers of particular artists.
The blog is mode of creative expression, that converts very derivative forms of music journalism such as album or gig reviews, into 100-word snapshots, sharing forgotten music, or expansive artist features. In just under 12 months, the blog has had over 3000 hits. The location settings tell us we have small bands of followers in the USA, Canada and Western Europe.
It’s difficult to measure the influence the blog has on the reader and the artist. Hopefully being a penchant for local music- and exposing those artists to overseas readers, there is the potential for those artists to benefit from the blog.
Sites like change.org provide an almighty platform for the consumer. In days gone by they would hush the consumer, and sweep the issue under the carpet. They often justify their power, because they believe all the power is monopolised by government and large insititutions.
The digital age has savaged and revived the music industry in the last 20 years.
However, music has been in a constant state of re-invention and transformation for longer than 20 years. Vinyl became cassette, cassette become CD before CD gave way to MP3. Vinyl has had life breathed into it, by audiophiles searching for the warm wholesome quality it gave the music but that is a limited segment of the market.
The latest transformation of the music industry is the transition from MP3 to streaming. An innovation aimed at reducing the illegal downloading that plagued the MP3 age, it has divided the public, with some championing it, whilst others like Thom Yorke calling Spotify declaring it “the last fart of a dying corpse”.
For upcoming artists, they don’t enter an industry where their music will by those they can physically reach (with the exception of giving the EP to a radio station), but a digital environment where a single Soundcloud track upload could land them a record deal. Already established artists have released themselves from the traditional methods of releasing music in album formats, to developing elaborate marketing campaigns to generate interest. That is an aspect of the landscape, with infinite opportunity and one I would like to pursue in my professional career. The power now belongs to the listener, their expectations have changed. They want to treated like individuals instead of being told what is current. It’s difficult to envision an era where universal phenomenons like The Beatles or Michael Jackson could ever exist again. Whilst some artists may try to reclaim the power, or deny that it was ever transferred to the listener- the successful ones will adapt. Listeners aren’t restricted to only listen to the music they can afford to buy on CD or MP3, but they can find their next favourite song on YouTube before sharing it with 450 friends on Facebook.
With prolific databases like Spotify now freely accessible online paired with suggestion radio services like Pandora now prominent, it raises questions about what the next chapter of the music industry has in stall. Do we listen to fewer or more artists than the pre-digital era? Will the innovation continue to lead the listener, or will the listener lead the innovation?
Music plays a major part in the digital narrative, and the digital world plays a major part in the narrative of music.