File-sharing and downloading is just the tip of the iceberg. What’s really happening is that the old-style, RIAA-approved music industry is on the slide for a good old capitalistic reason: it’s losing touch with its best customers. There’s an extraordinarily perceptive article by Laura Barton which explains how guerrilla gigs, the Net and fan-friendly bands are enabling music lovers to reclaim the charts — and the industry. Excerpt:
This has been the year fans have increasingly taken music into their own hands, rejecting the over-processed diet served up by many major labels in favour of something a little more homemade. In the process they have notched up numerous high-profile successes, including Arctic Monkeys, Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Spinto Band and Nizlopi.
Enabled largely by the internet, bands have been able to record and promote their own music, and fans to revel in it and pass it on – without the aid of major label backing, stylist and towering billboard advertisements. Furthermore, fans are finding it ever easier to interact directly with their favourite bands, rather than seek nourishment from the insubstantial publicist- approved quotes given in interviews. The result, of course, is that the charts in 2005 have become imbued with a rather joyous and friendly anarchy.
Arguably, it was the Libertines who set the pace; the baton then passed to Babyshambles and imminently to Carl Barat’s new band, Dirty Pretty Things. Characteristically, Libertines gigs (and those of their circle) eschewed the overpriced ticketing, over-priced ale gig-going conventions that had become standard in the Clear Channel era, and instead guerrilla gigs were played ad-hoc in bizarre venues, such as rooftops, farms and the London underground. Fans were informed of the “venue” hours before in a flurry of emails, website postings and text messages, and would travel from all over the country to congregate at the elected hour and see their favourite band play inches from them (and probably go to the pub with them afterwards). Pete Doherty allowed fans to bed down in his flat if they missed the last train home.