The days of High Fidelity are long gone, replaced by the record store of the new millenium: the Internet. The good news is that it has brought the library of the entire planet to our computers. Where we once were at the mercy of music magazines, whose focus was almost entirely on the U.S. and Western Europe, bands from Moscow to Pakistan are available to us through a variety of applications on the Web.
“I remember years ago I’d go to the record store each week to pick up a copy of NME and Melody Maker to keep up on bands from the U.K. and Europe,” says influential Detroit DJ Cristina from the radio station 89X, discussing the changing nature of music. “Now, bands from all over the world are available to DJs and music fans,” she adds.
Thanks to websites like SoundCloud and BandCamp, adventureous music listeners have the opportunity to search for bands from all over the world. The once fledgling sites of the ’00s are now the purveyors of choice for music fans.
There’s an avalanche of choices on the Internet — and listeners have turned to blogs and DJs to sort it out for them. Shoegaze band //orangenoise hails from Pakistan, but that didn’t stop them from being noticed by writers in the U.S. and DJs in England — thanks to the Web. It also has provided them with an avenue to make money selling their music through websites like BandCamp in a part of the world where those opportunities seldom present themselves.
“Our tracks were played on XFM in England by Mary Anne Hobbs, who found us on Soundcloud,” says band member Talha Asim Wynn. “She’d left a message in our inbox saying she’d play ‘Getaway’ from the our newly released LP. That was quite unbelievable — until we actually heard it on air!”
“[The exposure] provided us with an opportunity to profit from record sales directly,” the musician says. “In Pakistan there are no record labels that would go for something as experimental as our sound.”
The Web also provides people with the ability to listen to bands from previously restricted areas, like Russia. As a result, bands like STCS and pinkshinyultrablast have the opportunity to connect with an audience that would never have heard them 20 years ago.
“99% of our fans come from the web,” says pinkshinyultrablast guitarist Ivan Kostin. “The overall number of people who’ve seen us live here probably doesn’t exceed 500 people.”
The Costa Rican band Las Robertas has also benefited from the exposure they’ve received on the Internet, leading to articles in Nylon magazine and airplay on BBC Radio.
“What gave us a lot of exposure was BandCamp,” says said band member Mercedes Monserrat. “From there the blogs noticed us and started to write about us, and because of the blogs, our label (Art Fag Recordings in the U.S.) found us!”
Are there more bands in existence than there were 10 years ago? Not necessarily. But thanks to technology there are thousands of bands at our fingertips who would never have gotten our attention in the past.
As Cristina from 89X says, “It’s an exciting time for fans and bands alike.”
Todd Cochran is the managing editor of the music blog The Dumbing of America.
Image courtesy of Flickr, joamm tall