How I Think About Music

I heard a song on the radio this morning. By the radio I mean Triple J, as despite its shortcomings, it’s still my first choice.

The artist was Mercy Arms, whose debut is currently feature album of the week.

I liked the song. I made a mental note to check if it was available for download yet. By download I mean torrent, or Soulseek if I was really desperate.

I can’t remember the last time I bought an album without downloading at least some of the artist’s music. Try before I buy. I bought Violent Soho‘s debut from a record store without listening first, but I was already reasonably familiar with their work.

The exceptions to this rule occur when I see bands live. Most of the albums I’ve bought this year have been directly from the artist, after they’ve finished playing.

Example: Pivot.

I was first made aware of the band around May 2008, though they’d existed since 2005. They were featured on MySpace Australia; the accompanying text raised my ire. “Australia’s answer to Battles!” or something similar. Two thoughts crossed my mind: “what a shallow comparison” and “surely, they can’t be right?

I probably made a negative comment about the band to a fellow Battles-fan friend, without having heard a note of Pivot’s music. Props to the MySpace marketer who was able to create an impression on me, brief and negative though it may have been.

The band disappeared from my radar until they were announced as the headliner of the penultimate monthly Wolfgang event, at Alhambra Lounge in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. Huh. Looks like I’d have to give them a listen.

Their gory stop-motion In The Blood video was pretty cool, but I wasn’t convinced. Crappy YouTube-quality audio didn’t sway me. I needed the album. So I asked a friend who had access to a secretive, exclusive torrent tracker. Album acquired.

I listened to the album – O Soundtrack My Heart, their second – over and over, in the weeks preceding the July 31 Wolfgang show.

I brought a bunch of friends to the event. We drank. I bought the album after the show. Without bothering with specifics, that’s a couple of hundred dollars to the venue, and, one would imagine, a percentage of that revenue directly into the band’s pocket.

I reviewed the show, which may have influenced a few readers to follow the same ‘discover, download, listen, enjoy’ cycle. Or I can stop imagining that my words provoke others into action. Although

I downloaded the band’s fucking album. So what? I liked it, I brought my friends to see them perform live, and I bought the album at the first opportunity. I supported the artist directly.

Sidestepping the initial musician funding discussion – which is another conversation entirely – is there a problem with the series of events I just discussed?

To me, it’s a fine example of the current state of the music market. I won’t pretend to be familiar with the correct terms and concepts, but this is how I think about my choice to listen to Pivot:

  1. Initial investment – listening time and bandwidth usage
  2. Satisfaction with product – ongoing listening time investment*
  3. Opportunity to witness product in live environment accepted
  4. Friends referred – further interest in product created, perhaps maintained
  5. Initial investment paid to producers – $25 for the album and x percentage of door/bar takings on the night
  6. Potential ongoing referrals and value creation as a result of my positive product review

* Opportunity cost of listening to any other artist during this time is foregone

Cool, right? I found and enjoyed a band based on the initial time investment. The band didn’t see a cent until we arrived to see them in person. Again, discounting the discussion of how an artist affords equipment, travel and promotion in the first place – if there’s a problem with this model, I can’t see it.

O Soundtrack My Heart is one of the better albums I’ve heard this year. Listen on MySpace or watch on YouTube and let me know what you think.

Comments? Below.
  1. Matt says:

    good post cuz – kinda puts my thoughts of the download/buy process I go through into sensible words…


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