Whilst the majority of the UK slept or was late night socialising, new music blogger Josh Dalton from Crack In The Road blog was practicing his (some would say obsessive) passion for finding and consuming new music with what he describes as his ‘daily bandcamp trawl’. On this particular search Josh discovered a newly created Bandcamp album purporting to be from Jai Paul, the mysterious singer and producer signed to XL Recordings who has received widespread coverage on music blogs since he first uploaded his inventive demo BTSU (streaming below) to the web, which led him to being one of the long-listed artists on the BBC Sound of 2011 list. Up to this point Jai Paul had not released an album of any sort.
Having listened to the Bandcamp, Josh was reasonably convinced that the tracks uploaded were indeed by the man himself and tweeted about it. The next few hours saw music bloggers and web sites go into hyper drive as they discussed the release on twitter. Having never courted the press or having rush released material Jai Paul’s persona and music have taken on levels of unprecedented buzz for an artist yet to release an album. Was it possible that he had just dumped these tracks onto Bandcamp without his labels permission and caught the music industry napping?
It was the unexpectedness of the release that frenzied up certain parts of the music related parts of the internet. Not because the music was great / good / bad or indiferrent but just because it was there. This truly was the hype machine in action.
It seems that in 2013 the release event has actually become more important than the music itself. It’s the same with certain larger gigs and festivals; once people are there they seem more concerned about talking to their friends throughout artists performances and documenting their attendance by way of Facebook and Twitter than soaking up the actual occasion. We seem to have lost the ability to actually pay attention to what brought us here in the first place – the music.
Two examples of these release events are David Bowie grabbing huge attention and surprising fans earlier this year with the sudden unexpected appearance of new single Where Are We Now on his sixty-sixth birthday. The day it was released our twitter feed flowed with people all tweeting the same simple news that Bowie was back. A second is Daft Punk’s forthcoming album which is being greeted with levels of outrageously impossible excitement in some quarters; a recording of an advert for a new song shown at this weekend’s Coachella festival filmed on a mobile device by an audience member has already picked up nearly half a million views on You Tube by early Sunday morning. Yes a video advert seems to have been the best thing to witness at a live music event; doesn't that strike you as a little strange?
Yet once these releases are finally out it seems that everyone quickly moves on to discuss the next big release. One high profile blogger told us he very rarely listens to albums that have been out for more than a few months. This is our concern - not the big release as such but what happens after.
But these increasing levels of hype / big release events only work for established, heritage or hype acts that can generate sufficient online anticipation through established fans, blogs or the traditional media. The average mid-level or small scale musician is finding themselves increasingly forced out to the margins and also records that we’ve adored in the past get forgotten.
The UK singles chart rules are even being changed to reflect these new event releases. It’s now becoming the norm for these campaigns to issue a ‘self-gratification’ track prior to the release of the album. These songs are single tracks given away as a ‘free’ download on pre-order of the album. Such tracks didn’t used to be counted to the end of week charts but now they will. So artists that have an established fan base who traditionally wait for the long-player to be released rather than buy individual singles will be able to make their pre-order count for the singles chart as well as the album chart, increasing their chance of exposure via radio play and media interest and hence further sales. Meanwhile smaller artists or those who have yet to receive hype will find their releases having smaller chances of exposure.
We’re not sure where this big event / release culture is going to end and what its full implications are for music both in terms of its creation, culture and business. However, we have a genuine concern that it’s creating a here today gone tomorrow fuck-buddy relationship with music that is going to leave us all spent and exhausted and that’s just unsustainable. As ‘lovers’ of music, is that all we really want? Once the romance period for an album is over do we jack it in? Or should we be spending a little more time in cultivating long term lasting relationships that we really value?
So today why not download and listen to the Jai Paul tracks if you are excited about them, but also listen to something from your collection from 2, 3 or 10 years ago that you love? Keep the fires burning.
Jai Paul - BTSU