Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pomo Promo Giveway Bonanza! Get one get more free! [house music is controllable desire you can have for free]

I just received an email from Bleep detailing a special promo giveway tie in with Sonar this year.

You can get info on it – not to mention some mpfreez - by simply moving the tip of your forefinger, until you hear the little click.

Pragmatically, this promo makes sense. In fact, it's very savvy. It's also not the first such example of something similar: you get the impression that this is being trialled by labels as a quasi experiment. I have a zip file on my desktop full of similiar files from ghostly,


......once you start giving away tracks, is there not the concession here that music is just data, that data is just promo, and that promo is just a marketing gadget, a way of getting bums on seats and feets on floors at overpriced gigs, where you can then be sold merchandise?

To me this email concedes that music as data is of no intrinsic worth.

It then seems churlish, even hypocritical, to turn around and charge for something 'as if' if were a finite object in space, not an infinitely copy-able simulacra.

Sites then have the temerity to charge MORE for flac or wav.

No doubt sites exist in space; every google search is coal fired. No doubt.

No doubt these kinds of promos happen because concerned and savvy record companies want to promote their artists *given* that it's almost impossible to turn a dime from recording these days.

No doubt it also makes complete sense, given the media landscape we're now in (not Kansas anymore, in case you hadn't noticed, Toto).

But: with the best intentions in the world, isn't the cumulative effect of this just the dissemination of bad copies, the further devaluation of music as music, the further transformation of inalienable human creativity into transferable data freebies (fit for desktop consumption and do-while private delectation while iUsers are on their way to work, or at their desks working), and the eventual emptying out of the time-consuming, life-sacrificing processes involved in composing, recording, mixing and mastering a recording?

I read this and I feel that everything turning po mo promo!

When everything is data, will we be the happy, profitable masters of our own futures, or the bored, jaded, accelerated husks of the music LOVERS we once were, people to lazy to even listen to the zip files full of free promos that clutter our desktops? I'm not sure.

But I'm pretty sure there's something wrong with this, that it's indicative of our committed pursuit of some pretty dodgy political decisions; and I'm pretty sure it needn't be the future.



  1. Hmmm Im not sure I see what the problem is with this tbh. Perhaps the reason is that I cant remember the last time I payed for a cd or mp3 file, and ive never bought vinyl. I have no use of singles, only being a home listener or occasional club-goer.

    I may be opening myself to abuse here but I really dont have (m)any qualms about stealing my music when it isnt already available free. My access to techno and other underground forms of electronic music where small labels and relatively poor artists predominate is usually by means of podcasts or live sets anyway, so when I do steal music its usually (thought not always) albums of bigger names in non-electronic genres.

    Ive never really set out to learn about the (to my eye) complex infrastructure of electronic music's production and distribution, so maybe im missing some extraordinary shift in this move to further adapt to a context of digitalised, piracy based music acquisition. If people are just going to steal the tracks anyway then you might as well have a bleep43/sonar folder on their desktop right?

    Your right (probably) that music is being devalued in some sense because of the ease which it is now acquired, but im not sure that that isnt a bad thing. I mean, sure people may have some nostalgia for when they waited weeks for that precious cd that they ordered for $30 from their local record shop or whatever, but isnt that simply the added value/enjoyment which wine gets when it is massively overpriced? Isnt the leveling of the playing field/democratisation of access to music which takes place in this new context one which eliminates the kind of attraction of exclusivity which I, at least, find alienating (if in no other sense than that I simply cant afford to buy the music).

    Perhaps im looking at all this from a hopelessly consumerist perspective without giving any thought to the processes of production (and distribution?) which are necessary for any enjoyment of music to take place at all, but i cant help feeling that I agree with Terre Thaemlitz
    (cant find where now) when she says that all these purported "revolutions" in the music industry are precisely not that, and unless a real one comes along wont really affect things all that much; people/capital will adapt, there will still be shit good and bad made by people and from which value-interests profit (or something like that)

  2. I don’t share the opinion of the post and @creamydairice’s comment about ‘music being devaluated in some sense because of the ease with which it is now aquired’. Having more access to all music because of new technologies, free giveaways or (il)legal MP3s makes it possible for people to engage with their music in new ways which results only in a better relationship between the listener and his music.

    Yesterday Hypebot published an essay about this subject, that I wrote, maybe you’ll like it!

    Also the question that came up with me reading the post was how you compare the mnmlssg mix series to giveaway promos?

  3. there is always a sampler put together of british music at Sonar. a year or two ago i got handed a cd with the likes of Claro Intelecto on it's an mp3 now? who cares?

    this post is indicative of some of the over-intellectualizing of things that don't really require it that goes on in this blog...

  4. @robert

    i dont disagree with what you are saying (dont have time to read that article right now), in fact i think that the "devalueing" if its right to call it that, which takes place is a good thing. Id rather judge music and hold it dear on its own merits/whatever incidental nostalgia is attributed to it based on events in my *own* life, as opposed to external constraints on its acquisition because it cost me loads of money/was really hard to find/no one else knows about it.

  5. sorry if that was a bit convoluted... in a rush

  6. "this post is indicative of some of the over-intellectualizing of things that don't really require it that goes on in this blog..." - agree. This is just a set of 8 tracks to promote both an event, and some of the artists appearing at that event, that people may not have heard of before. No different to giving away a free CD or whatever. I don't think it devalues the music at all.

  7. I agree with creamydairyrice about the podcasts and sets thing.

    Why should I bother listening to a single track, with DJ-friendly (and often listener-boring) intros and outros, when I can download something legally for free, which lasts 1-2 hours instead of 10 minutes, which has been hand-selected by a person with more listening experience than me, and which has been mixed by expert DJ hands? If anything, I'd rather pay $10 for the podcast/set than $1-2 for the single.

    But I believe there comes some internal gratitude when you pay back the artist. Whether by supporting them live (which I've been less keen on doing -- driving for 1 hour to LA to stay up till 4am to drive back 1 hour to sleep isn't my idea of fun anymore), or by buying records. I like reading Chuck Klosterman's articles, so I'll buy his books too.

    The bigger issue is this weird free duplication thing technology has brought. When everything is stored in the "cloud", and when DJs can stream music directly to their 5G-capable CDJ7000's, what then? What happened when the printing press, and movable typeface came around?

  8. There's a documentary called "The Tailenders" about missionaries who distribute the bible around the world in audio format, in efforts to convert the illiterate peoples of rural and poverty stricken areas. There was one scene where one of the missionaries explained that rather than giving the audio devices to the people, they would charge them some amount of money or trade for it so that the people would feel that the device and it's message was of value and importance. They weren't charging them to make a profit, they just wanted to spread their message effectively. It seemed to work too. These poor people would save up to purchase the device, simply because in many cases it would be the only way that they would ever have access to recorded audio, which in their eyes was a fascinating and magical thing.
    If we were all content with just owning one piece of audio, I'm sure we would be willing to dig deep and shell out a good amount of cash for it. The problem is that we have too much and we want too much and the internet provides access to it all.
    The documentary is worth seeing, here is info on it:
    I bought it directly from Adele, but I'm sure you could find a torrent download for it somewhere you freeloaders! ;)

  9. @ creamydairy: it's interesting you raise the issue of Terre, given that he was ripped off by iTunes. You can read about that here:

    @ some so far: files do not simply float in a cloud. Dematerialisation does happen in terms of data, true, but data is stored on hard drives and transferred over networks, which have a materiality and a carbon footprint which is all too real. Every google search is coal fired. Remember that. BitTorrent itself uses about 50% of the net's bandwidth. BitTorrent is extraordinarily bad for the environment.

    The shit is not 'free'. The shit is not a cloud. It's just that, because you have translated it into a dematerialised bunch of 0100101010, you do not have to pay the costs involved.

    Likewise, files are not simply snowflakes, they are the result of complex, time-intensive processes of making and thinking. They are made by real people, real people who need to eat, sleep, rest and, given that this is capitalism, earn a wage.

    It could be that technology as we're commited to using it also commits us to a fait accompli of filejacking.

    This could also be a world in which all music was just given away as promo.

    But then: given the absence of alternatives, given that we rely on a system in which recordings are sold as units and a portion of that sale (though often very little, historically) goes to the people who created it, what are the implications in the fact that the music is being had without some form of exchange?

    Does that mean it's free, or does that mean the costs are not paid?

    True, selling 'units' makes no sense when the units aren't units like records or CDs; and it's also true that selling recordings as artefacts allowed the recording industry to make massive profits by monopolising the distribution system.

    But then, how are creators to live with diginity? Are all musicians to spend the rest of their lives on planes flying between gigs?

    This strikes me as ridiculous and unnecessary. A world full of hard drives full of inferior copies, and a world full of strung out, stressed out artists who can't earn a decent living and live with dignity...

    but/and: don't think there aren't beneficiaries to this. Google et al are making squillions out of this particular techico-econo-politico-social set up. They're creaming it! So's the TELCOs providing you with your connection.

    Meanwhile: creative types are getting screwed. It's true. And this is the new democratising 'level playing field'?

    @ Tom D: ahh, the always requisite: you're over intellectualising it!

    Ie, let's not think!

    (cos if you don't think about the problem, it's not happening... it's not even a problem...)

    Q then: do you really think so, or don't you allow yourself to?

    And if you do think so, doesn't that mean you're thinking?

  10. "When everything is data, will we be the happy, profitable masters of our own futures, or the bored, jaded, accelerated husks of the music LOVERS we once were, people to lazy to even listen to the zip files full of free promos that clutter our desktops? I'm not sure."

    I'm not sure, either. Free music data is a double-edged sword.

    On the one hand, there is huge potential to discover something new, a kind of entry point to searching for more music from an unfamiliar artist. (This recently happened to me, when I discovered a piece by Ation on Rob Booth's podcast and had to search for the record for quite some time.) Some promos and podcasts like ssgs shed light on new directions on music and introduce relatively unknown musicians to a wider audience, which I find to be beneficial to both musician and supporter/listener, and I would like to be clear on that point. And some of these even pace the release of the episodes, whenever there is something worth sharing.

    On the other hand, convenience and regularity has made most of us lazy, maybe myself included. "Oh, another podcast/promo, okay, maybe after my lunch break," etc. Basically, it's dumped in our laps or downloaded with a click, and after maybe a couple of listens, it gets forgotten on some sector of the hard drive. (userABC: "This will be on heavy rotation for a while!" Bullshit. Two weeks, tops.) We always know the next one is on the way.

    Worse--the steady stream sometimes doesn't give enough space to fully appreciate the mix, or the details in the music, appreciation for something not understood at first pass, etc.

    Deleting "free data" is easier that throwing away or selling the record you heard, identified, and hunted down. Music is beyond the format on which it is carried, and yet that format--maybe even the *way* we interact with that format--still adds value (the nostalgics like me still love artwork, the smell of vinyl, talking to the shop owner, etc).

    None of what I said is new, of course. To bring this semi-coherent ramble to a close (sorry), let me just end with the optimistic point that those who are still listening closely to the free things will probably venture into seeking and supporting the artists/music they love. It's still tough sifting through all the crap, but maybe it's not unlike spending time in a record shop searching for the one record worth keeping.

  11. I am quite happy to pay money for a FLAC/WAV download of a quality track, but when stores like beatport charge $1 per track for wav handling fees I feel like there must be someone on the other end of the transaction who has a good laugh every time suckers like me shell out the money. If it's a release with 3 or 4 tracks, it can be more expensive than buying the actual vinyl. Is this not just begging for illegal downloading? Hopefully more artists/labels will follow the examples being set by people like PVH and offer direct sales from their websites while having full streams of the tracks available. If I'm paying a reasonable price, and I know most of the money is going directly to the artist, I'm way more likely to pay. BTW, does anyone know what percent of a beatport purchase goes to the artist?

  12. does not mnmlssgs give away music for free?

  13. this is an interesting discussion... i read PC's original comments as being rather ambivalent. i don't think there are any easy answers to these issues, which makes discussing them all the more important.

    as for SSGS, yes, obviously we do have mixes, though we've never had tracks (either legally or illegally). the justification i'd give is twofold: (1) we do try to give value to them through the kind of mixes we do. we do our best to make sure that our mixes last on hard drives longer than 2 weeks... and (2) a central purpose of the mixes is to promote artists and sounds. this is one of the main reasons why we often try to focus on people that don't have any/many mixes available online.

    but of course there are contradictions. still worth thinking about.

  14. @CT--WAV/FLAC files tend to be roughly ten times the size of a 320kbps MP3... Does that change your opinion at all? I mean, there's bandwidth, storage, etc. to be paid for, and actually I think only $1 extra is not that much.

    If that 1$ went straight to the artist, then even better, but my feeling is that the business model doesn't reward the artist *that* much...

  15. i dont mind paying extra for lossless, but when it makes the release double the price - and basically the same as a physical CD or vinyl (which is often the case) - then i have an issue. it shouldn't cost *that* much. beatport seems the least reasonable in terms of wav 'handling fees' (how do you handle something that doesn't physically exist anyway?). saying that, the thing i constantly hear from artists is that beatport makes them money. i don't like beatport, but, but if it is actually helping artists - and it is from what i've heard - then there might be something to be said for it. hmmm.

  16. Good to know about Beatport making artists money. (Of course, it's making money for a lot of crap artists too, but that's beside the point...)

    I've never purchased WAVs/lossless files before, for two reasons. The first you've mentioned: the cost would be roughly the same as purchasing the physical artifact, and that's what I buy if I need that quality. The second is that I'm never sure if that lossless format is the "original" file, or simply a recording of a recording (i.e. a lossless recording of a record playback, CD, etc.).

  17. @ CT: I actually think that labels that care about music should charge more for mp3, or less for FLAC, as a way of encouraging the dissemination of better copies. Mind you, if it's for a pod, it probably doesn't make much difference... ...but once you amplify it or play it through good gear, or, shit, if you're exhibiting it to an audience who wants to hear something amazing... shit, well, imagine if cinemas showed .avi files!

    @ bhbognar: yeah, I think you put your finger on something really important. You have to constantly screen/dredge/sift through so much data (first world problems alert!). But it's true...

    All I want is acknowledgement of two things:

    1) music is not just a commodity, it is a creative artform

    2) the creative process requires intense focus, time, sacrifice etc, by humans who need food, who need rest, who need to sleep etc...

    ~ the contemporary media landscape seems very parasitic on this. Given that my primary interest is in music and allowing the best possible situation for music and its creators and listeners, the paths that we appear to be committed to are... questionable at least.

    It's like the motor car: cars are dreamy, but when everyone is dependent on them, they don't work (traffic jam, 1 hr to go 15km), and in the meantime, our kids and our planet are choking on the side effects of our desire for a frictionless, smooth world where we go where we want, get what we want, and never feel the cost, the pain, the sacrifice involved in that.

    Recall that oil is the by product of an unimaginable catastrophe, an extinction on a grand scale... ...but we don't feel it. Just as the taste of your breakfast tells you nothing about the conditions under which it was produced, the back pain of the Mexican woman who picked the corn that made your corn flakes, or your biofuel, etc...

    ...we are connected, no? We are involved in relations with each other, although it's impossible to say very often precisely what those relations are.

    But: when you're exploited, it hurts.

    ...and if the pay off in this case is a bunch of easily downloadable/disposable packets of music-as-data, was it worth it?

    How little have we gained
    and how much have we lost?

    I'm not sure.

  18. Also: the issue on pricing and beatport.

    I approached beatport, ostgut and M Dettmann about the pricing of one of his releases on Beatport - the files were negligibly less than the vinyl EP purchased in euro from hardwax... which seemed very strange to me.

    Ostgut and Dettmann were *very* cagey about addressing the issue, but the beatport rep was extremely helpful and informative. He explained that the pricing structure is as it is because very few people buy EPs anymore. Most people buy tracks, and that pricing has to reflect a fair deal for the artist and beatport.

    That's his point of view, I'm not stating that as a ssg fact, but there it is...

    ...maybe the common factor from this point is that we have to stop treating the world as some kind of cornucopia, you know? A horn of plenty.

    There are costs, there are limits - and this is true of EVERYTHING. Just because something is dematerialised as data, doesn't mean it isn't real, that there weren't people living in space-time making it, people whose living in spacetime involved eating food, burning fuel, breathing air, flying in planes, etc...

    ...there are costs, there are limits, so there is always a sacrifice involved, a decision... we're making those decisions, but, in the case of data, the sacrifice takes place elsewhere, offscreen, offsite...

  19. Is it really true that Bitorrent uses 50% of the net's bandwith? Do you have any more info on this? Really interesting comment!

  20. I believe we're in a transition phase in the tangible versus intangible music format war. I think in ten years, these discussions will be irrelevant.

    I can't deny the engagement that you get from walking into a shop, picking out some vinyl, listening to it, chatting to the guys behind the counter....all of this means that when you take a record home, you have a connection to it. It MEANS something because of what had happened when acquiring it.

    However the illegal filesharing/promo culture does mean that it's easier for people to build up collections of individual tracks, EPs or albums with which they have no connection, no emotional engagement.

    But didn't we all know someone who'd go to HMV/Tower and regularly drop 50 quid on a few CDs that they would never really listen to, that they would never engage with enough to appreciate or genuinely like/dislike?
    The proliferation of music as data files means that it's easier for people to disconnect from the music they're consuming. But I feel that the people who really cared and sat up and paid attention are still going to care.

    I feel like I sit on the fence between both camps (i.e. the importance and relevance of vinyl and "real" music formats and the simplicity and cost effectiveness of digital music) because, as a full time working professional and aspiring DJ, I chose the "semi-digital" path: I own Traktor Scratch Vinyl and a set of decks because I wanted to be able to really mix, not use Ableton or automixing software to do the work for me but I do not have the time, money or physical storage space to embark on a record buying obsession.

    I regularly hand over cash to Junodownload, Beatport, Boomkat, Whatpeopleplay for WAVs/FLACs and 320k MP3 for tracks, EPs and albums both new and old to feed my appetite for new music (btw the integration of Discogs and Junodownload is a fantastic innovation for the digital cratedigger) and I think that with the right mind set, it is possible to build your own connection with the music. I agree handing over your cash is an essential element in engaging with the piece of music but yes, I recognise that it's not rounded out with the tangible effect of taking the record out of its sleeve and laying on the platter, taking it in the colour, remembering which side of it has the killer track you know will get people whooping.

    I feel that I can't give myself over to the vinyl route but I don't want be to an aggregator of meaningless, emotionless individual techno tracks that have as probably even less significance to me than the people out on the dancefloor.

    Boomkat have done a commendable job on giving the customer enough information on releases to attempt to replace that guy standing behind the counter telling you about some record he's handing over to you to listen to.
    Beatport on the other hand is woeful: it's cold and austere with lower quality samples than most of the other sites. It pains me that certain artists or labels only distribute digitally through Beatport (e.g. FXHE, Omar S) as I would rather listen to and buy the tracks from a website that puts that little bit extra into making customers feel like they're buying SOMETHING, instead of just handing over cash to a faceless data distribution machine.

    Not everyone who buys digital tracks gets the Beatport Top Ten and automixes on their laptop. Some of us are unwillingly caught in this limbo hoist upon us by the introduction of groundbreaking technology and distribution methods but is simultaneously steeped in old school thinking of record labels and "keep the underground underground" mindset of the electronic music record collector and we find it hard to be taken seriously by certain fans because of this.

  21. I think it is an issue, but it has been an issue since Napster started in the late 90s. you could also argue that the devaluation of music began in the 80s with the advent of the CD. All of a sudden, music went from being a format that was solely presented in a usually elaborate format to one that you could fit in your jacket pocket. The fact that the ‘industry’ chose to reissue all their back catalogue on CD, thereby making huge profits, makes it entirely reasonable to claim that the devaluation of music was just as severe then as it is now. I feel that this is an issue that has been central to art for hundreds if not thousands of years - from the disco sucks record burning, to the Nazis burning books, to the Inquisition burning certain painters. It’ll always be an issue, just is presented in a different way…

  22. @ Lachlan: this stat was taken from a very, very, very interesting talk that I'm planning to make a post out of, so please stay tuned.

    @ Brian: it's true what you're saying, and especially if you're a touring/gigging DJ, who the hell wants to ruin her back by shlepping round with rekids the whole time? No thanks.

    But: being ambivalent about data doesn't *necessarily* mean engaging in a fetishistic/nostalgic engagement with vinyl.

    I guess the point I wanted to get to but didn't say clearly was: given the net and all its benefits, how is it that creative types are getting screwed around? Can we imagine a net in which creators were the primary beneficiaries?

    ...but/and the point about Tower/HMV is so right! Remember when CD came out, and I think records were about 18 here, and CDs were over 30 AUD. This was justified in its being high tech - you know, LASERs and shit.

    I think people figured out that we were getting bilked when, by the late 90s, we could 'manufacture' CDs of our own for a dollar or so...

    ...but yeah: the record companies embraced CD because it was a data carrier, because it was smaller (more units per same bit of shelf real estate) and lighter (reduced fuel costs for distro/freight).

    But/and: in the current media constellation, it is ALL about distro. If you can sit on a distributive choke point and charge a mediating fee - witness finance brokers and how well they did, or hedge fund managers and their wild computer-based algorithm proprietry software - then you will fucking MINT it. it's not as if it's a brave new free world, it's actually a free kick to the peepz who have distro choke points...

    @ Frequencies: yes, it is always contentious given recorded music and the lives that come to rely on its reproduction, BUT: we're being presented with a whole bunch of technological faits accompli, and... well, when was the last time those affected by these decisions actually had any real say in shaping them?

  23. Most interesting thread in a while imho!
    @PC "Can we imagine a net in which creators were the primary beneficiaries?" I wonder. I remember a while back when Stephen King released a book online chapter by chapter. It was free for download but the condition was that the next chapter wouldn't be released unless a certain percentage of people paid for it. It was successful release. I realize that he had the popularity to do something like this, and that online distribution methods have changed since then (blogs, torrents etc) but is this something that could be built on? Tony said earlier that he'd rather pay for a podcast than singles. What if DJs/Labels sold music subscriptions, be it mix, ep, lp, or whatever, in high quality for a reasonable amount of money? As has been discussed here before, with the amount of shit podcasts and music out there, I would happily pay for high quality ones (for me this would be FLAC) just to save the time of going through garbage.

  24. I would love to see some graphs that charted physical sales for a bunch of different majors and big minor labels, from say 1970 to now, with digital sales taken into account from whenever they first started (when WAS the first instance of the legal purchase of digital music over the net? Last decade or the late 90s? That shit happened before iTunes for sure)

  25. @ Frequencies: yes, it is always contentious given recorded music and the lives that come to rely on its reproduction, BUT: we're being presented with a whole bunch of technological faits accompli, and... well, when was the last time those affected by these decisions actually had any real say in shaping them?

    PC - you could say exactly the same about the transition from mass market vinyl to CD during the 80s. None of those artists had any say whatsoever about their work being sold in a new format and it involved a technological change and a fait accompli. same too with napster - it opened a pandora's box that no one has yet contained (and never will I feel)

  26. @ Frequencies: Pandora is *exactly* the word for it, I think... but we love Pandora!


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