A word from matthew:

I've done a lot of research over the past few years, both through reading
and through conversations with peers at varying levels of success, and all arrows
seem to be pointing in a similar direction.

The big-time music industry is now largely a succession of focus groups trying
to determine what people want to hear before they get a chance to hear it.
The independent, club-based industry is largely scene-oriented, which is
to say that it focuses on popularity far more than quality, which is as
good as saying it's crap.

So whither the free spirit?

I find that to be the question most on the minds of those I admire, and
I suspect that the next few years will be those in which we, the oddballs,
begin to forge that space for ourselves. Naive Music is a part of that.
There must be a space where the question is neither "Will it sell?" or "Is it hip?"
but instead, "Is it good?"

I see it on bulletin boards and hear it in casual conversation all the time.
We of the MTV generation have had music presented to us as a commodity
for so long that we speak of it that way. Armchair and barstool critics
debate the merits of music by either how well it's selling or who's into it.
There's nothing wrong with music making money or being liked by Thom Yorke.
But there is something wrong with that being the measure of its value.

I grow weary--no, blind with rage, upon receiving the dubious look in the eye
of someone to whom I've just mentioned an artist they've never heard of.
Is it okay to like someone who's not on the radio? Or would Jim O'Rourke look at
me askance if I mentioned this artist? The lines are well-drawn.

But here's what gives me hope: Those who don't know. Or don't care.
To whom music is a private delicacy, not a committee meeting. I know
these people exist, for I've met them. But they're very rare. Nonetheless,
the advent of the Web has given us unprecedented potential to find them.
And we have found many in exactly that way.

So what precisely is it that I'm saying? I guess I'm saying that a page
has turned. Upheaval among those who create and use music is at such
a pitch that I believe we are being forced to make a decision:
What does music mean to us? And what is its role in our lives?

Natalie Merchant recently released an album called The House Carpenter's Daughter.
It's a collection of folk songs, most of which predate the modern music industry.
I urge you all to listen to those songs. What did they mean to the people who first
heard them? In the absence of a monetary or modish measure, what drew people
to value music?

I often feel that it's the same thing that drew me to music as a child. It's an
undeniable part of us. It's both a document of our pain and a salve for it.
Which doesn't mean it has to be dirgelike. How often have you danced
to a song about heartbreak? There are, or should be, as many kinds of music
as there are musicians.

What bothers me, I suppose, is the way I see music treated. It's like a razor blade;
scrape it too much until it appears dull from overuse, then throw it away. And perhaps for
that reason, it has become the way music is created and marketed.

I guess what I'm doing here is formalizing a mission statement I actually
developed long ago without realizing it: To make and promote music for those
who aren't afraid to get close to it. Who don't fear that eliminating the
emotional and ironic distance the industry and the scene have created
makes them naive. And if it does, then let's be naive together.

And so to battle.

 

 

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