Complaining About “Having To Be Commercial” in the Time of Digital Democracy

Norway’s largest newspaper had an article yesterday featuring Christer Falck where he complains that indie music (in the form of music that has a more narrow public appeal) is not getting the attention it should from the major music television networks. Here in Norway that means The Voice and MTV (and a few shows at NRK), which mainly is considered with RnB (The Voice) and a bit more general commercial appealing music (MTV).

The reason why Christer is in the news now is that he’s launching a new artist on his label, Hilde Marie Kjersem. VG provides him with amble news space where he’s able to provide a link to her fresh music video. This is of course a shameless promotion stunt from Christer to be able to get his newly released artist out on the front page of Norway’s largest newspaper, but his complaint is still interesting.

The problem is that it’s an invalid complaint. Yes. The major music tv networks is prioritizing music with a broad commercial appeal more than niche music, but after all, they’re commercial entries. If twice as many people see the commercials they run between the music if they play certain songs, they’re going to play certain songs. That’s probably no surprise. But what Christer seems to forget, is that it’s NEVER been easier to actually make a buzz by yourself and to get your own music out to millions of people without having an enormous budget. Just a couple of years ago we’d never be able to just upload our video to a site which would host the video for FREE, which works with almost all available file formats and which allows you to embed the video on your OWN PAGE. We have myspace where thousands of unsigned and signed artists share their music, where you can listen to huge amounts of good — and even more — bad music. If you decide to create music that you want to share with the world, the possibilities are there! You don’t NEED the music networks to play your music to make it known to people.

I’d certainly download and listen to an album distributed online, and I’d happily pay a couple of dollars to get the 192kbps MP3s upgraded to lossless FLACs. Make the MP3s available for free, set up a playlist with your album hosted on youtube, on myspace or make your own service. Just make it available. If I can send a link to a friend and ask him or her to check out a new album I just found, I’d be more than happy to share good music.

So here’s where we’re going to say something that never will happen:

Make the entire album available online for free. Host the download through a bittorrent network, most people are more than happy to contribute bandwidth to legitimate issues. Make it possible to pay for a simple lossless download for those of us who treasure music quality (and while I’m probably not going to hear any difference between 320kbps mp3 and FLAC, the size difference isn’t worth a degraded copy any longer), and let us pay a REASONABLE amount. The $20 that an album costs in Norway today isn’t reasonable. I’ve never bought more music than when allofmp3 was still available and you could buy whole albums in FLAC for $2-3. I spent more money then than I’ve done ever since.

There are ways of getting huge amounts of publicity when you’re doing things the reasonable way.

I’m actually thinking about the concept of setting up a site where people can make full album downloads available in good quality. Imagine if you could get your music into the vast amounts of media centers available in the world, without a single distribution cost. Together with a simple “buy this in lossless quality” link that charges a few dollars for the service and a specific hosted version of the file. Bandwidth is a commodity that’s getting cheaper and cheaper.

So Christer, while it’s a good tactic for getting some attention for a release, I dare you to instead take on the fight to the complete established music industry. And if you’re going to make it without the help of the networks, you’ve got to get a better website for C+C Records than what you currently have.