Monday, 1 August 2011

New Weird Europe (New Weird England)

I've set up a moderated SoundCloud group: "New Weird Europe (New Weird England)". Obviously it responds to 'new weird America', 'freakfolk' and similar recent genre definitions.

I'm hoping to bring together some quite personal music, perhaps with an insular, cultish feel, but which still acknowledges a bigger cultural or political world. I'm thinking of music that confronts ideas of 'tradition' 'identity' or 'belonging' – easily associated with folk music in general – with a kind of disaffectedness.

There are some formal, technical aspects to this, but nothing is fixed. For instance, acoustic instruments and non-studio or field recordings might play a part in establishing an intimate scene in the context of a wide natural or urban environment. Totally synthetic studio creations probably don't do that, as a general rule. However, as a contrary example, I often think of 1970s German experimental rock as a kind of folk music made with electronics. This is because the music evolved, to a varying extent, as a set of grassroots projects expressing a German identity unlike any previous German-ness; and today an aura of clannishness and mythology remains around some of the groups and cities involved.

A lot of current weird- freak- and psych-folk is being made in America by artists reworking folk, rock, and psychedelic forms, especially from the 1960s. Some of these forms were heavily commercialised. Others were not, and so can still stand for a sense of marginality, oddness, and even a kind of authenticity in the face of homogenous, industrial pop. New music makers seem to be temporarily reclaiming these earlier forms and some of their associated ideas for quite personal ends.

My SoundCloud group is a place to collect together some current European music and audio related to the ideas summarised above. I want to keep the group focused, more like a selected compilation than a wide-spectrum new folk list. I do appreciate reasonable production values (even if it's 'lo-fi') but I'm more drawn to things which are strong in themselves rather than being preoccupied with trying to be good in any conventional way.

Suggestions of or from artists active on SoundCloud are invited.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

What is an Online Fan? What counts as Interaction? (later: pictures!)

It's obvious that online music fans engage in a variety of ways with the music they 'fan'. As a music producer putting my work online, I'm interested in the quality of interaction there, and the difficulty of assessing it. Take listening, for starters...

A few seconds' listening on Myspace, Soundcloud, or ReverbNation counts as a 'play'. Bandcamp distinguishes between "full", "partial" and "skipped" plays. On a track has to play up to somewhere between halfway and two-thirds through to be "scrobbled" and added to listener statistics. However, because can't or won't pay the royalties incurred in running a play-on-demand service (like Spotify) all plays are part of partially randomized radio streams. Tracks are usually not chosen by the listener. Instead, users try to personalize their radio streams by limiting the contents of their profile libraries, or listening to artists grouped according to much-contested "similarity" or descriptive "tags". In general, I think, listeners are quite likely to have listened to entire tracks... but how do I judge the value of a full listen from a user who's had my track pushed to them by the algorithm, as opposed to a half-listen from someone skipping through the tracks of my album, in order, on demand, on Bandcamp?

The big variation in what counts as a 'play' in different online environments is one of the more obvious ways in which it is difficult to make sense of the quality of listener interaction online. This surely ranges from cursory to meaningful, and it might be meaningful in terms of, say, mutual appreciation between musicians, or between musician and fan; or meaningful commercially; or meaningful in terms of crude numbers of Listeners, Fans, Friends, Likers, etc.

All this is bound to impact on how a music producer regards their online fans. The question comes to mind as I get to about half-way through recording Mister Salmon's second album. In lieu of finishing it, I made some images for each of the tracks on the first album, to try to enrich your online experience of it, friends, fans, followers, listeners...

Mister Salmon Yorkshirama

A Tale with Pictures
by Mister Salmon

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Salmon spooked by Duchovny, bossed by Burgess

For a long time Mister Salmon's 'Similar Artists' were dominated by earnest-looking hip-hoppers. A very disappointing association, probably, for all concerned. This was because Mister Salmon's music was tagged with the term 'producer' and on this means 'hip-hop producer'. Getting everything re-tagged more appropriately took a few weeks. In February 2011 the effort bore fruit.

Funny fruit.

After a recent update, there are one or two almost relevant Similar Artists. And a whole new set of wild cards.

At no. 8 in terms of similarity is actor David Duchovny, who is tagged as 'thinker' and 'slept with winona ryder'. Of course, Mister Salmon is a 'thinker', too... but poor Mr Duchovny has only 47 listeners to Mister Salmon's 200. He may have spent too much time sleeping with actresses and not enough making sure his two tracks on were meaningfully tagged. At no. 23 is Lynne Truss. I like her book about being a sports writer, she's funny. I'm almost sorry that, with 167 listeners, she too is trailing Mister Salmon. However, literary titan Anthony Burgess, with 685 listeners – at no. 40 in terms of similarity – has Mister Salmon whupped. Respect.

You'll have guessed that one of Mister Salmon's new tags is 'writer'. None refer to liaisons with actresses, but he did watch a lot of the X-Files and quite likes Gillian Anderson.

Spooky (see what I did there?).
Snack food advisory (tweaked Kit Kat 2010)