The Internet – Too Much of a Good Thing?
In the last couple of months, you may have heard the distinctive sound of the music media scrambling to be the first to name the Next Big Things for 2008. It’s the time where the acts to be pushed in the following year are panic-picked from the squalor of ordinary folk like you and me, given their own stylists and thrust, blinking, into the spotlight.
Of course, this is not a new phenomenon. But in the last few years there have been interesting developments in this annual occurrence, namely, the rise of the blog. Music fans are now circumventing traditional media and finding new music to champion at its roots. The extent of the influence this has had is shown in that now the tastemakers are looking to the bloggers to inform them: The BBC’s Sounds of 2008 list included Vampire Weekend and Black Kids, two acts whose fame is based on their internet success. This has generally been regarded as a positive thing, giving bands more opportunities for exposure and creating out-of-nowhere sensations like the Arctic Monkeys and Arcade Fire. But perhaps there is another side to the story.
If 2008 was 2005, no one would know who Black Kids are right now. Having formed in Florida in 2006, they have yet to release a proper single; their currently available material comprises an amateurish EP given away on their website. The four sub-Shins generic indie-pop songs it contains are clearly the result of a band taking its first, obviously shaky, baby steps. In the past they would currently be developing their sound on the ‘toilet circuit’. Instead, they are supporting Kate Nash on tour.
The immediacy with which people now expect new music to be made available to them, coupled with shrinking attention spans, has created this bizarre situation. Black Kids are a mediocre band, heaped with superlatives due to the insatiable and uncritical lust for fresh meat. If they have the potential to become something better, the chances of them now being able to fulfil it before people have moved onto the next flavour of the month are minimal. They have been expected to emerge fully formed. With so many sources to find new music, the window of opportunity for bands to make a lasting impression is shrinking. By the time it comes to a second album their 15 minutes will probably already have run out, see the collective yawn fellow bloggers’ favourites Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s second album was released to last year.
Of course, this isn’t to say getting excited about new music is bad, or that all bands should be forced to play in their town hall for 5 years before being given a license to Myspace. Rather, it’s merely another perspective on the changes in the way we consume music. Perhaps a little more patience and a more critical eye is now needed, the music press has the responsibility to put hype into perspective, rather than sycophantically pandering to it. Of the potential Next Big Things of 2008, it could be most have already been designated as mediocre passing diversions, rather than given a fair shot at longevity; perhaps even greatness.