I didn’t buy a copy of the Observer.

What? What do you mean, you don’t understand? Sigh. Fine, some context.

For the last 3 years, I’ve been buying the Observer once a month – every time the Observer Music Monthly is included.

Over the last few months, I’ve found myself more and more disappointed. I predicted great reviews of the Raconteurs, Elbow and the Young Knives – all non-events in my opinion. The Observer didn’t disappoint. Ah, a new Nick Cave album sounding very much like his last – I predict a great review. And lo and behold, five stars out of five. Oh look – Vampire Weekend, my personal favourite overhyped band. Ah, four stars out of five.

But onwards, ever onwards, I plunged. Just in case. Just in case the Music Monthly gave me my next favourite artists (like it used to, so often). But maybe it had changed. More likely, I had.

And so, yesterday, I took the plunge. I didn’t buy the Music Monthly. And you know what? I don’t think I’ve missed a thing.

I deleted a large chunk of my music collection last night. On purpose.

What?!?, I hear you scream. How could you?!?, I hear you yell.

(Well, I don’t. But humour me).

Don’t worry, dearest reader. This blog will still live, and my passion for music continues. Over the last few weeks I’ve been watching my music collection grow, and discovering new music from all sides. But I’ve also been, on occasion, browsing sadly through my music collection. Why? Because I started to notice that every time I was putting albums on my MP3 player, I’d forget about two or three I really wanted to include. Because I would get so overwhelmed with the sheer number of songs, I’d load up my littler MP3 player with my old favourites, and yet regret not having Two Gallants or Griffin House or Joshua James on there….

ipods

And the epiphany hit – I had too much music. Correction, I had too much music I would never listen to. My hard disk was full of albums I got some time ago, back in the ether, where I liked one song from an album, but no others. Or where I had collected genres, not artists. And so last night, I bit the bullet. The Movielife? Deleted. Thrice? Deleted. Zwan, Thursday, Lo Pro? Deleted, deleted, deleted. I did mark some albums for reinclusion at some stage – the aforementioned Thursday do deserve another go some day. But today, I have a more streamlined music collection (still a couple of thousand albums, though), and a feeling like a weight has lifted. I’ll still probably forget to put Red Panda on my MP3 player, but at least now there’s a lower chance of it happening.

But I still have one fear – how do I keep up with the artists I love? I have a lot of artists from whom I have every album, and many more from whom I have one or two albums which I think I could learn to love. How do I track what I love most? And how do I keep up with releases and music from the newbies in my collection?

And they say music is enjoyable….

I’ve recently come across a pair of rather excellent articles on the state of the music industry today. Some people may agree with these in their entirety; some may agree with some points but not with others; while some may argue vehemently against these. However, they’ll all get you thinking….

Rob at Demonbaby.com has written When Pigs Fly: The Death of Oink, the Birth of Dissent, and a Brief History of Record Industry Suicide, which is a strong argument for file-sharing and free access to music. I heavily recommend a read.

David Byrne, a personal favorite, discusses six strategies for emerging (and current) artists to survive, outlining how the Internet has changed the music distribution model, and explaining different strategies for ownership & distribution of said music. In addition, he comes up with some interesting (and downright terrifying) numbers for how much artists make off their music sales….

elitism

I’ll admit, I do, on occasion, turn up my nose at music, and I know I shouldn’t. I can be closed-minded, only letting down my guard after a long battle, when I finally admit I was wrong: that the genre I’ve been saying is crap throws me an album that I really like; that a band I’ve campaigned against liking for a long time finally releases an album I enjoy.

But recently I joined a music discussion forum that I’m an active member of, and I find myself shocked at the comments from most of the members to each other. The forum is populated by a large number of complete music snobs, who enjoy art-rock, white noise, drone, post-rock music that no-one else knows. And as soon as one of their liked artists becomes popular, they very quickly fall out of favour on the forum. Alongside this, anyone who confesses to not liking this music, or liking other music not accepted by the senior forum members, quickly finds themselves facing a deluge of abuse. It’s a scary place to be, to see a group of people who all think they are the greatest. Phrases used on said forum include music that is “far too popular at this point for any of “the cool kids” to keep listening to”, and references to themselves as “people who know more about music than anyone else”….

Faced with this attitude, I’ve vowed to open my mind a little more, and to not judge anyone on their tastes. I may sometimes do it, but at least I’ll be aware of it, and looking to lessen the number of times it happens.

Please – don’t be like this.

You’ll notice I’ve updated my blogroll (the list of sites I link to, because I like ’em). I’ve added a large number of great sites I’ve recently come across. In keeping this blog updated, I’ve found I’ve needed to search long and hard for a lot of music – some I’ve heard before, some I’ve come across for the first time. Many of the sites in my blogroll have helped – not just for providing music, but for providing insight – these people have great taste in music, and their words have helped guide much of my music purchasing and posting over the last couple of months.

After my rant earlier about the state of music today, my faith has been restored. Firstly, by listening to more Joe Purdy – three full albums, and not a single song skipped. Secondly, by buying a large number of Joe Purdy albums for not a huge amount of money. Thirdly, by buying from CDBaby. Why? I’ll let them explain.

“CD Baby is a little online record store that sells albums by independent musicians.

[In•de•pen•dent: (adj.) Not having sold one’s life, career, and creative works over to a corporation.]

We’re just a bunch of people in a cool Portland, Oregon, warehouse that looks like a playground. We listen to every album we sell before we sell it, so we can help you find other albums you’ll like. We only sell music that comes directly from the musicians. No distributors. Musicians send us their music. We digitize and warehouse, sell them to you, and pay the musicians directly. Cool thing: in a regular record deal or distribution deal, musicians only make $1-$2 per album, if they ever get paid by their label. When selling through CD Baby, musicians make $6-$12 per album, and get paid weekly. In business, and thriving, since March 1998. We’re one of the largest sellers of independent music on the web – 208,453 artists sell their music at CD Baby; 3,803,202 CDs sold online to customers; and $61,636,855 has been paid directly to the artists.”

And when you buy…

“Only the musician whose music you buy will know who you are.”

I encourage everyone to visit the site – recommendations of artists who sound similar. Recommendations for the mood you’re in, and how you feel. And tons of music that, when sold, profits the artist.

Guys, well done.

After purchasing the latest copy of Rolling Stone, I’ve found myself angry (as ever) with the state of music today. Looking at the charts, I really find myself feeling lost and lonely. From the Billboard Charts:

  • Keith Urban – Greatest Hits
  • Miley Cyrus – Hannah Montana 2 (Soundtrack)/Meet Miley Cyrus
  • Jay-Z – American Gangster
  • OneRepublic – Dreaming Out Loud
  • Beyonce – B’Day
  • Rascal Flatts – Still Feels Good
  • Reba McEntire – Reba Duets
  • Fergie – The Dutchess
  • James Taylor – One Man Band
  • Robert Plant / Alison Krauss – Raising Sand
  • Tim McGraw – Greatest Hits Vol 2: Reflected
  • Daughtry – Daughtry
  • Kid Rock – Rock N Roll Jesus
  • Soundtrack – High School Musical
  • Soundtrack – Hannah Montana
  • Kanye West – Graduation
  • Britney Spears – Blackout
  • Nickelback – All The Right Reasons

It’s all a bit generic, really. Ex-Pop Idol entries. Teen-pop crap. Rap/R&B where every song sounds very similar to the last, and for that matter, so does every artist. Generic adult-alternative rock that could all have been produced by the same band. Resurgent country music, once welcomed with open arms, now pervading the charts like a disease.

Don’t get me wrong – I love some of this music. I have albums by many of these artists. But where’s the originality? The uniqueness? When was the last time an album, a song, a singer, made you sit up and truly take notice? This site contains the ones that inspired this reaction in me. But I wish there were more people making these artists heard, spreading the word, and fighting against the swell of mediocrity.

Then again, maybe it’s just me. And maybe I’m just Nick Hornby…

And mostly all I have to say about these songs is that I love them, and want to sing along to them, and force other people to listen to them, and get cross when these other people don’t like them as much as I do.

I’ve had a few people ask about the intermittancy of my posting. For the last few evenings, I’ve had a long think about this I’ve prepared some old songs for posting, I’ve opened my file transfer programme, but when it comes to moving them across, I’ve found myself hesitating. Why, I head you ask? Well, I don’t. If I did, I’d be using my super-hearing powers to fight crime and earn money. But I don’t. So I’m not.

I digress. After a long evenings thinking, I realised why I found myself reluctant to work my way into my back catalogue – I want to use this site to broadcast music I find, new music for me, that really excites me (as much as some of the music on here can excite anyone…), and to post the music that really, truly affects me – whether that is new or old. So I’ve decided that I will be spending much more time posting and growing the site, but I won’t suddenly post a huge amount of songs that aren’t of the quality of those so far. The feedback I’ve received (limited as it has been) is that people are enjoying the music so far. Quality over quantity.

In addition, I’d like to open up a new avenue for music – by now, you should know what type of music I love, and what the audience of this site likes. So I encourage you – if you have a song that would be a good fit for GYMO, send it to me – contact details to the right. I’ll review it, and if I like it, it’ll be posted, with my own unique brand of commentary, and a credit to you.

Free credit!

I’ve been unfortunate enough to watch Mobileact two weeks in a row now. The second time, today,was to see if what I thought from the first time was true, or if I was mistaken.

Unfortunately, I’m not. This detestable, despicable programme is proof that the UK music scene is completely and utterly destroyed.

The promise: “This competition is about unearthing real talent – young bands that write and perform their own music. The search is led by a panel of some of the most credible experts in the music industry: Radio 1 DJ Jo Whiley, Blur’s Bassist Alex James and the head of A & M Records Simon Gavin. All the initial auditions and selection process took place on this site. Unsigned bands submitted their own tracks and photos here before the best were invited to filmed auditions. Fans were also able to vote online to ensure that their favourite bands made it through to the audition stage.”

The truth: sh*t band after sh*t band applied. The vast majority started with “The”, and were derivative of all the other crap available today – the Fratellis, the Kooks, Dirty Pretty Things, Boy Kill Boy, the Rakes, the Stills, etc, etc, etc. Don’t get me wrong – some of these guys have great songs. But only one or two. All the rest is forgettable nonense. And all these crap, crap, crap, same-sounding bands played in front of some people who should know better – I always thought Jo Whiley, of the three, would have some taste. I’m very much mistaken. And each week, a guest judge! Lilly Allen, an absolute insult to music, the first time I saw it (who voted one band through, and got the lead singer’s phone number….), and Just Jack, an absolute one-hit-wonder waiting to happen, the second time. What has gone wrong on the UK scene?

Although I guess the disease has spread further. The European Music Awards took place on the second of November. Ultimate Urban Award: Rihanna? Band of 2007: Linkin Park? Solo Artist of 2007: Avril Lavigne? Seriously – where has it all gone wrong, when absolute, cookie-cutter crap like the above can win awards?

There are hundreds, thousands, of original artists out there, just waiting for the chance to succeed, working, sweating, and breaking their backs to have one chance. Just one. Please. Use the internet to search, to explore. Expand your taste and your views. Help these guys succeed, and stop the decline.