Friday, 29 May 2009

Writers as musicians...

In the eighties, a revolution occurred. For the first time recording artists where able to cheaply and easily record their own music, with the advent of ‘tape’. As well as filling sixth form common rooms across the land with the Dolby hiss of bad Cure and Sex Pistol covers, the real impact was the new ability and freedom for musicians to produce their own content. Record producers may have disagreed that this was a good thing at first – For every tape they received in the mail that was worth a second listen, hundreds merely added to rapidly climbing C90-Mountain’s. No longer did the A&R man have the power to go to a concert and simply walk out after the first few bars. Now, the content, the musicians, were knocking on his door – not with a guitar and eagerness, but with a tape.

Then a second revolution took place- that of the internet, and the Myspace band. Now bands don’t even need a record producer to distribute their music in meaningful numbers. Anyone with a PC and internet connection is able to produce, perform and record their own music to a high standard, before uploading it to their Myspace site, whilst collecting hundreds of fans who in turn become ready made gig audiences, and eager consumers of their first CD.

The world has gone full circle, but transplanted from a local to a global stage. From the days of a blues musician gaining audiences from one small town to another through word of mouth, to the Math-Rock band who, also by word of mouth now have over ten thousand fans on Myspace, and an equal number of downloads of their music.

The Gatekeepers, the record company executives, have been removed.

It is easy to juxtapose this to the world of the modern writer. By the word ‘modern’ I imply the writer who is ready to embrace the new technologies available, whether it be a blog, a Myspace site, Digg, their own website, indeed anything that will get their work into the public domain and noticed.

With the availability and relative cheapness of Print On Demand publishers, the freedom offered to musicians since those dark Thatcher years is quickly becoming available to the writer. No longer is one who is publishing his own work need to remortgage the house for a print run of five hundred copies that will sit in their attic collecting dust. Instead, the writer has available, thanks to Print On Demand, the ability to order only as many copies as is needed, as is demanded by the public through Amazon, say.

Of course, this doesn’t stop the work having to be good. The cyber hinterlands are littered with thousands of redundant mp3s of terrible teenage bands, in a grossly unfair proportion to those who have made it. Along with the work, is also a new talent for the writer to learn – that of marketing and self-publicity (although some would argue this is still required for those writers with a publisher)

The Gatekeepers of the industry can now be sidetracked. Do you see this as having a democratising effect on publishing??

1 comment:

  1. The answer to your last paragraph is absolutely YES. As you say the work still has to be good and be wanted otherwise demand will be nil.

    As a writer I want people to read my articles. Yes I write for the love of it, but having someone else enjoy it is special.