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Tech by VICE

Dear Musicians, More Apps Please

Here's a quick, somewhat obvious thought: musicians as a body (imagine it exists) let technology dictate itself. Not like production and sound technology, but all of the other stuff -- the websites and blogs and streaming services. All of this other...

by Michael Byrne
Nov 13 2012, 9:18pm

Here’s a quick, somewhat obvious thought: Musicians as a group (imagine just one exists) let technology dictate itself. Not like production and sound technology, but all of the other stuff — the websites and blogs and streaming services. All of this other stuff, when you take a few big steps back, seems almost bizarrely exterior to the people and conditions that produce music itself.

Think of the progression from MySpace to Facebook to Bandcamp to Spotify — these are things applied to, or handed to music to make the best of. Another way of saying this is that they are made for consumers, not music producers. These things are not so much of an organic growth from music, but more of a handing to or forcing upon of distribution/promotion technology to music. No wonder indieland is miserable.

Bear in mind, this is a quick thought. Part of it stems from the old notion of some new band (in the kids in some garage sense) making a MySpace before their own website. Which is weird, in a way: so much is handed over in terms of identity and audience-fan relationship. There was, and is, an increasingly quaint notion of social networking as a vehicle to massive audiences (though there’s still enough Rebecca Blacks cycling through as to keep said notion alive), but also a more general sense that this is just how you had/have to do it. Same with Spotify. It’s known well enough that Spotify is a terrible deal for artists, but you just have to do it. It is what’s been given. Strange enough, given how much music distribution (slash-promotion) is joined with music production at the skull.

These thoughts are brought to you by news that Mouse on Mars (pictured above) is coming out with its own app. And the realization that this is only the second app I can think of off-hand by a non-mainstream artist. (I assume that every pawn signed to Universal these days gets some cookie-cutter app.) The other is fellow electronic music forward-thinker Dan Deacon (by the way, watch our Experimental Music episode with Dan here). Besides Bjork, that’s only two. That’s kinda odd, given apps seem like the promised land of interaction between artists and fans. Deacon’s app is literally a zone for live audience interaction. That’s brilliant. The MoM app is called WretchUp. It’s the same hardware-inspired instrument that the duo’s been using lately on recordings and live shows. They’re raising money for an open-source version right now on IndieGoGo.

^Dan Deacon, with apps (via Impose Magazine)

There are some more barriers to entry in the app world as far as development compared to, say, a Bandcamp page — note that the relationship is complementary — but as far as open spaces go, it’s amazing. Music has been told how to interact with fans (crucial key words there: “for free”) since it’s been a commodity. While it makes a lot of sense to have the listening of recorded music central locations — but more than one — that’s just a single aspect of digital musical interaction. Right now, it’s still the main one, but music is a lot more than listening to albums, even if it doesn’t realize it yet.

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dan deacon
Mouse On Mars
The Future of Music