hehe…cool beanz…definitely into this kind of openendedness where things matter as much as they don’t. Where the process is as important as the outcome…where image is as important as it is not. Some people may find this confusing, i think it might as well be intriguing…to say the least.
Thats really great to hear. It seems the more we share this thinking the more we find people share a similar experience. Thats really awesome.
Yeah I totally agree, the engagement in all the releases is very different as apposed to each artist just thinking more about their own. It becomes way more supportive and collaborative we feel.
Will keep you posted.
We have found our experiments with social media and even Spotify at one point in the past all really awkward and generally not aligned with the values we might hold as creatives.
I think you make a good point about being uncomfortable being a fan as well, I think that’s a super good point and one I definitely share. I had this realisation recently that the world I thought I wanted a part of when really defined, was not a place that held the values I look for, at least not any longer. Often the genre and labels we use, the substance behind them shifts bt the label is still there and it takes time to realise that it’s no longer the thing we thought it was. I think much like yourself, its often a gut feeling, which I feel many of us are experiencing, is enough to go on and start trying something different.
Also, a key phrase “employed in good faith”, I totally agree.
Yeah I hear you on the gimmick concern. It does feel like a super nervous thing to try, and I think we just need to be careful and consider things the best we can and try to ensure we keep focused on things and maintain agility.
Also the non-marketing to be marketing is a challenge. I mean even posting on Lines was something I was a little worried about, but felt generally speaking it should be a positive response whatever the view and not a promotional stunt. I think everyone is super respectful and saying some interesting things.
There are loads of technicalities, we have thought around many, but if you can think of anything we might have missed then please feel free to share them.
thx for the support
yeah couldn’t agree more.
It is super confusing, although for the most part everyone is either trying to understand it or if confused are caught on the same things we were at certain stages, so totally understandable.
We have a few different approaches we were kicking around and couldn’t quite make it sit well, and my wife finally said something that was the missing link which pushed it forward. We were chatting about our feeling on the current formats, and typically we share our feelings and gut on something and then try to look at it objectively and see where it ended up. The short of it being, and the reason I mention it, was it’s so easy to be caught looking at something with certain things already defined and it stops you moving past it. When you change it, even if for a silly moment, all of a sudden it opens up and then it presents these interesting delivery problems that if solvable you have an idea. It went from an initial idea I think everyone has probably had and yet being stuck for a good year or so, to suddenly things looking achievable within moments. Kinda scary really haha.
I think you phrase this really well actually, “Where the process is as important as the outcome…where image is as important as it is not”.
I love this concept!
Same thing, but different… I always wondered what it would be like if, Beatles and Stones gave each other a complete album’s worth of lyrics and chords and let the other one finish the album. Without, the public knowing it was originally the other ones album. And years later, bring out, the original as the other group meant it.
Many times, I think for songs, the original is always better… would it be also in this case?
Good on you for trying something different and challenging. Major records labels have been irrelevant (if not outright harmful) to everyone except a tiny selection of industry-approved popstars for decades. Minor record labels that focus on curating thoughtful artist rosters have always been cool, but face even more of an uphill battle with the carpet pulled out from under them by Spotify and Soundcloud, both of which are basically playlist-factories and data farms that create perverse incentives for musicians whilst reducing music listening to the shallow voyeurism that industry execs always wanted it to be. So yeah the state of things is pretty dismal, but it’s definitely possible for total nobody artists who make cool music to connect to an audience, which for me is one key metric of system health.
When I read your proposal and responses to questions I get the impression of a partially-formed idealistic project that will probably create a very nice little microcosm of creativity, but with almost no appeal or benefit outside that. Your stated goal of reducing the ego and preoccupation with branding in music is admirable, but in effect all you’re doing is changing the scale of the ego-centrism from the individual to the collective. Personally if egoism and branding exists I want it to exist at the smallest level of granularity possible, rather than being forcefully removed from the constituents and transferred to the overarching system. Under your scheme, it’s all about SM-LL and everyone that contributes to it is a sovereignless ghost. Again, from the inside of the microcosm, this sounds sweet because you get to play in a bottomless sandpit with likeminded creatives who are part of this special obscure club. But from the outside looking in - all I see is deliberate obscurantism, de-personification of artists, and a black box of music output I can’t interrogate to any satisfying extent.
Best of luck with your project and I am genuinely curious how it pans out.
It seems SM-LL is best called a band then.
It’s curious what turns of this.
I think it’s a curious point. I often wonder what a record would be like if the consideration isn’t the stye up until this point, or perhaps the pressure to fit in with a artist name or expectation. I wonder how we would organise music and share that creative output when we are not the obvious author, a bit like The Invisible man.
Would it better, that’s always subjective and up to the listener of course, but as a way to create and collaborate, there is always ways that can be explored, and that’s definitely a part of it.
Personally, i’m all for obscuration in the domain of releasing music - there is so much potential here and starts many conversations. So, yeah, I’m fully behind your ideas here! Somehow it reminds me of something @neauoire said in another thread that i appreciated a lot… i hope its okay to quote here:
Ask more than you answer.
In my mind, a label doesn’t need to be any more than something that publishes documents in some form - it does not have to be a source of information. It’s up to the artists who wish to align themselves to what you’re doing.
Thanks for comment, really great.
You make some really interesting points, some we find very familiar to us.
I’m still before my first coffee so…haha.
I think your’e take on the data farms is definitely a familiar conversation. They deal in data, and it just so happens this data is largely music. Much like the music industry that eventually could see how to make money on scale, these new platforms are generally speaking, extensions of that same thinking. I think belongings this relationship is agreeable between artist and farm, then that’s ok. I can’t comment really on what might appeal to one person, group over another. Although I totally agree with you, it is not the world I want to be in. I think it’s very clear what the objective is with many of these platforms. I don’t think we need to feel forced into these unbalanced relationships. We simply don’t have the relationship. I always felt it’s like the equivalent on feeling bad because we are not invited to a party, but the party isn’t for us anyway. It’s a bum deal for the most part. I agree, that part is pretty dismal, but I think that is not the area that should be the focus, it’s almost like a different industry or an industry that no longer has a face that we want to look at. So let’s position ourselves somewhere else.
I think your impression of a partially formed idealistic approach is partially correct for me. It is partially formed. We don’t know what will happen or how certain things need to be adjusted as we go. I believe in Agile, and shipping early, working in the open, and don’t agree with top down hierarchy. So, I think the idealistic part but be fair, should there be a desire to have an outcome, which in our case is basically the focus shifts more to the creativity of the music itself with a more collaborative approach with roles shared. The label is both label and artist, the artist both artist and label. Can we begin to find ways to promote together? Can we share sounds, tracks, directions? All these things. I think we already know the answer to these questions, we do it in other forms all the time, so this is really about shifting the mindset of how this can work.
No appeal outside is a super curious one. I presume you probably mean for the bigger picture, career progress or similar? as obviously there is clear appeal there in some forms. I think this is a super interesting area. So I would ask, does a label need to provide a career, if we say that is what we are talking about, that fits into an industry model that we already recognise as problematic? If the desire is about gaining popularity, then that can be found elsewhere. If it is about gaining money, then there is always the potential to earn money credited or not. If its about say getting work elsewhere based off that work done with the SM-LL label, and how do you provide that proof to a potential employer or new label? Well, i’d say at that point, as with every point along the way, the artist isn’t forced to not take credit, it’s just not announced by us. There is an ambiguity around it. This does also leave the possibility of someone else taking credit for work that isn’t theres, but then I would say they should, as it isn’t anyones. I think that will be super curious.
I think also, unless I was unclear, I don’t want to reduce ego or branding, at least not generally. I think ego and branding are great tools. I think with SM-LL, there is an interesting tension around brand for sure, one mentioned a little in another reply, but ego is always there in some form of course, but when credit being a method to connect creative output to ego is compromised then I think that shifts things slightly, although that’s probably after the fact. During the creative process things will be a bit different. There is a sense of working together to make a good record, not purely a snapshot of someones artist brand/name. I appreciate this is a tricky distinction and overtime maybe we will get better at articulating when we explore it.
I think you also raise a super good point about “your scheme” and being “all about SM-LL” is definitely an area we struggled with. So I have always had to correct people in the past, when referring to me as a label boss or similar, or as your label. I’ve alway referred to it as “the label” and encouraged artists to help evolve it and play a joint role. This has often been really difficult as typically artists expect those more traditional roles. I think it’s worked best when working with Software Developers who are used to working in Agile methodology as they are comparable.
I think what SM-LL ends up becoming is everyone, with roles being blurred and being taken on as temporary, not fixed. I don’t decide whats what no more than anyone else.
I think your point about everyone contributing as a sovereign-less ghost is actually kind of correct. I think I will definitely use this so explain this more So, I have a dislike for hierarchy and have anarchist beliefs. I think the idea of SM-LL being at the top and artists below and uncredited is a scary one if assuming we take credit for everything and claim ownership of SM-LL. I think it’s fair there will be credit attributed to people wether they want it or not, we can’t control or would want to control listeners, but I would say that applies in all cases. Do we acknowledge it or utilise in problematic ways, is the distinction. If everyone involved in SM-LL has a shared role, then everyone benefits in the ways we set out. So it becomes less about our system and everyone else under it looses out, and more a shared system, ideals, and we work together to understand how to iterate on these ideas.
I think the likeminded minds is very key and I think this goes to the other point about being forced. It seems being forced would have to ensure likeminded or not, you have to, but then of course, that falls apart a bit like as mentioned previously about not being able to attend a party you don’t want to be at anyway.
Obviously this is probably more concerns about if this was a model for all, that we should all be like this in some idealistic vision we all should agree on, but we shouldn’t. A world that was all in agreement sounds like a dictatorship regardless of the ideals and aims that fuel it. I think this is more about providing balance and options and using a methodology that enables beneficial ways of working. We couldn’t force someone to remove credits, as there would have been doing collaboration to begin with or any credits to remove. Nobody would be working together if the belief was to then expect a different output with regards to credits, at least within the SM-LL output. Obviously they can take credit outside, but then that is always a possibility anyway.
I have found your comment super useful and challenging. I love it It really helps us work out these sticky areas. It’s definitely not a simple thing I feel so I really value this immensely and to consider for a moment that others might also read this and think about these areas and create interesting methodology is super exciting.
the current terrain is questionably not for us, speaking as someone who makes music and wants to share it and pay for things, so the more creative thinking around finding other ways the better I feel.
Band is a term I never considered applying, but definitely will look at the ideas around what a band is, when applied to this, and see how it shakes out. There are definitely similarities for sure.
I think I’m generally disturbed by the oversaturation of music publication, in general. (I’m complicit and contribute to this oversaturation, surely. But, why is oversaturation undesirable? Because it delimits the emergence of singularities and the means to determine them as such.) Perhaps there is too much music being published and I don’t think it would necessarily be “bad” if the means for publishing music were suspended entirely, even if temporarily. This does not entail the suspension of recording music, of course. Though I do find it a bit strange that the production of music, at this point, functions primarily to be recorded and subsequently published (i.e. stored) and distributed independent of the conditions from which it was produced. But this is a tangent that perhaps isn’t that germane to the current discussion.
Relatedly, “anonymity” seems merely a cute utopian ideology under our current condition of oppressive recognition and identification. Using Bandcamp to distribute an impotent ideology seems to further accentuate this problem. If one would like to escape institutional capture, there are several more effective means for doing so. For example, perhaps not starting from the condition of disavowing institutional capture under the conditions of institutional capture. If one performs disavowal under the conditions of institutional capture—e.g. publishing music through Bandcamp—then such disavowal is self-refuting due to its already being a mere capacity of the system itself. The means of disavowal are the means of that which is being disavowed.
Ah I love this
Asking more is so true. I think often we get stuck in trying to define a thing, which of course keeps us based on what we already know that falls into that definition and less about what it could be.
In my day job I am constantly faced with the challenge of asking the questions to reframe conversation, problems and mindset and even though I get that practice on a daily basis it’s still not habitual. I think the way many of us are brought up in school, this idea of learning, retaining and delivering information often comprises us on different ways of working, different values, different outcomes.
I think “Ask more than you answer” could be a track title. Something I think we will probably keep should there be a need.
I think your approach to what a label can be, is very similar to my own. It abstracts things slightly, to allow us to understand the components and to then see what a reconfigured version of what we may have already defined can look like.
The source of information and how it is retained is something we have been playing with for some years. Our Batch format, has digital information which we could, and have edited, yet the vinyl comes with nothing on it except a catalog number and a side and even that we are refining. If the digital information is altered or removed, the data on the vinyl is really all that remains. To add to that, originally we have colourful spots as our “covers”. At the time we were experimenting in using Facebook as a promotional tool. It was actually our biggest way to gain traffic to our Bandcamp, which was when we pulled it haha. The values were simply not aligned and we didn’t feel what it brought us in value was useful. I mention this as the colourful dost where an attempt to stand out among a sea of blue and pictures of cats and typical social stuff, which seemed to work. After leaving the dots served no purpose, so we remove them all and turned everything to no cover. Although of course, we have to add something to Bandcamp, it’s compulsory. So we picked black as this seemed one contender for our best shot at highlighting the cover/no cover challenge. Our website, of course, has no covers. All our promo documents and when we share with Boomkat they require an artwork. They all get a black square called artwork.jpg
I think your last point is totally true. It is up-to the individual to be either involved or not, but I think we are hopeful it’s not just someone who makes music only, but perhaps people with other values want to be involved and help shape things.
Nice concept. It resonates with the questions of value of the art as commodity. Also the question of the presence of the artist and the (illusory) control we can have over our work is the interesting one to explore. My music is released by the label that is recycling/upcycling old cassette tapes. They would erase the existing music and replace it with whatever they feel appropriate, also printing new labels and covers. I hope one day, when there is no-one listening anymore, they will do the same with my tapes.
This is really good.
I think your points are really interesting and I feel the areas you mention do tend to lean towards the tension around an ideal, or a proposed model for the future, almost a manifesto and here-in lies some issues with that. And I totally agree with you on all your points on this.
I think the perspective I find myself leaning towards is more about the tension that occurs when within the system as opposed to an ideal to remove from it. Also, I don’t think we understand the situation at hand enough to be so bold to make some idealistic vision we should all operate under, as we should probably more ideally operate under whatever means we want, which obviously creates tension there also as we are all different, and I think that’s a given and should/will maintain. At least that’s how I feel at the moment.
I don’t think over-saturation is undesirable per-se, it only compromises the search for specific music or being searchable perhaps, if that of course is the aim. I would challenge it has to be. There is something in being discovered, even if only to an individual.
Also, your point about the desire to be the publishing of music is quite a challenge too. W have certainly questioned this. I think at this stage we are thinking about more as sharing with consideration to the constraints on which creation is made and how much that is reflected in the publishing. An obvious one being how much should it cost?
I think I totally agree, anonymity, especially when dealing with the innovations and tools we use today is a hard one to sell. I need to look into that more as it’s not something I have been particularly interested in. I think there is a distinction between being, anonymous and credit taken or being attributed to some creative output. I mean, for one I am posting on Lines, and many of the artists we have worked with post on Lines. I don’t want to be anonymous personally, but I definitely don’t like the idea of being popular or famous either. However, often this isn’t entirely choices we get to make on our own.
I agree with your point about using Bandcamp if trying to distribute an ideology, I think your probably right, it falls over in thinking of the purest form. I think the aim is not to do that. It’s less about ideology and more about the option of alternative conditions and how that might feed something we have perhaps yet to see or work out.
I think also we aren’t thinking about this challenge as disavowing institutional capture but more the affect this has on creative output, collaboration, ownership etc
Bandcamp isn’t a perfect platform for us, that’s for sure. But it does provide a stepping stone and restraints for us to challenge what we think we know and also test some ideas and share that finding. We do this a fair amount actually. A good example was a recent record we spent nearly £3k on manufacturing, artist fees, promotion, mastering etc and although there were many reasons we felt this was an expense worth spending, we often had the same conversation about getting money back (we didn’t haha) or how is this worth it etc etc. We always reminded ourselves what we are getting is a better understanding of these systems and how we feel in relation to these, and this knowledge is just how much that costs in our case. This was incredibly valuable for us. We already felt these systems are not for us, but we spent time and money to challenge our beliefs and we were certainly challenged haha
As I say, there is a tension that I think is super valuable that we prefer to harness than step out of. Ideals typically end badly and imposing a model of doing something simply doesn’t fit all needs, the music industry is an obvious one. I think it would be a mistake to approach it in the same way with the belief that the new model is the way and follow us.
You use some complex words and I am not the best with vocabulary so I hope I understood what you were saying or at the very least added something of value
I think a mind like yours is going to be great to bounce of.
What’s the context? It’s very different if it’s ‘people grooving in an underground club under a single strobe light’ vs ‘empty white room in an art exhibition’.
With my own stuff I started with ‘a single picture of my instruments which got image processed 1000 ways’ so it was always the same image but made different to relate to what the music was. Got bored of that and have been doing ‘xstarfish generated colorful or grey abstract images’ for a while, partly so the imagery could keep up with my music output. Also my stuff gets dates, not names
Is this listener music? Dance environment? Functional? Secretly Richie Hawtin the whole time trying to see if it was his muse or his image driving celebrity? If it was him, I think he’d find that it was the image that drove the celebrity, but the functional value of the music (as something he wanted to hear) was unchanged and no less effective. It does seem to me that social qualities are totally orthoganal to questions of function or value. But knowing that changes nothing: the work will be the work, whatever it is, and it’ll be popular or not, so it comes down to what you want to exist and how you want it to exist.
So again: what’s the context? My own is ‘I spontaneously extrude music in as sophisticated a way as I can, every Tuesday live on the internets, then let people download hi-res of it free’. I’m intentionally not thinking about popularity, and so it has none, even when it’s good. Is your stuff meant to be a trend, or meant to serve a function, or is it more of a grand conceptual experiment going deeper into that minimal space?
I want to articulate further but for now I’ll just say thank you for the charitable reply.
I should also say that the affordances of Bandcamp specifically—maybe others, I don’t know—offer some interesting possibilities into ‘problematizing’ (for lack of a better word than I can think of right now) the operational ‘stability’ of a music release. So, I’m not dismissing it outright, though I do wonder if it’s ultimately more convenient than salient for this particular project (“Bandcamp” is no different than a performance venue/environment, in this sense. What is the optimum environment for the diffusion of this work?). Speaking to the ‘affordances of Bandcamp’: For instance, SM-LL could technically only release one album and just emend, elide, and do whatever to this one release on a minute-by-minute basis. The authorship could change and eventually get to a point where even the supposed contributors don’t know who is doing what. And whomever downloads or purchases this release could potentially have a totally unique ‘copy’ of the release that perhaps doesn’t exist subsequent to their download, inverting the issue of ‘unique authorship’ (“individual”) here to whomever ‘consumed’ the work rather than produced it. Others have done this and I’m convinced that this can be a sustainable route precisely because it is statistically exhaustible and thus prone to dying off.
Thanks again and I look forward to further discussion.
Value is definitely something we have played about with. It reminds me back when we started I got an email from an artist who I admire massively, and they enjoyed the music but had issues around the cost. The digital was £15. They explained they could buy a physical cd for that price and found it hard to justify. I was obviously over the moon to get an email from this person and about the very subject we were challenging. We talked about it some more over email, and I explained that it is interesting that we are more happy about spending £15 on a piece of plastic that holds the music, than on the music itself. I forget how I phrased it, but it suggested I could just send some plastic in the post and it would be of value? haha obviously I was provoking this challenge, but it does poke at where value exists, as you pointed out.
This conversation actually formed the beginning of the Batch format. We decided on a look that fitted a few considerations, cost, visual, format and went into having hand-cut 12" made for people who wanted them. The cost has gone up over the years, and currently it’s costing £25 a record, which is crazy expensive. All that is plastic and labour and nothing is music on that 12", we separated it out to the digital. We tried to make the record itself challenge what was of value in materials, but then also poke at what a label/artist output creates in value and what that does when in this format. We are still tweaking this all the time as we go and still have lots of questions as you can imagine.
I like your idea around your tapes being erased and nobody listening. My wife is a practicing Buddhist, I’m more an anarchist although this is really a very new discovery for both of us. It does cause for some interesting conversations around the dinner table haha. I mention it as Buddhism talks about “everything is impermanent” and I totally relate to this. I think it has inherent influences on our idea of value and our acceptance of things outside of our control.
I think we easily get distracted by this sense of reward coming from being acknowledged, it is of value, sure, but there is value in lots of outcomes, regardless of our expectations.
I totally agree
A comical approach to thinking about Richie Hawtin for me is, it’s two people. One before the haircut, and one after, and I guess we get decide that a little, but ultimately the drive was, from my understanding, to be like The Cure hahaha. What I mean is, the considerations of that era, versus todays are very different. I think being popular in the 90’s in that scene was somewhat, at least to my young teen eyes, something of a consequence of creating music that sold many units. But we can probably more confidentially see over time that wasn’t entirely true. I think you still have choices in how you operate and present yourself to be “known”. Also, the music before the haircut was better hahahaha In my mind, the real Richie is still in some basement somewhere with no hair making amazing music haha. I dont recognise this new fella in the band haha
The context, I think that’s it. It depends and all perspectives the are presented based on that are valid ones.
I think the term “trend” makes me uncomfortable. I remember when I was asked to play some music for a friend at his Uni, and I was being hassled by a girl who didn’t like the music I was playing. It was my own. After which I was asked to play some cd’s to fill the time, and found it super uncomfortable that a beat was all they needed to enjoy themselves. I was very young and very idealistic probably, but I learned that there is something odd about popularity. I use a basic approach that if lots of people like it, then it’s probably crap. Obviously this is a massive sweeping statement and falls apart immediately, but popularity seems to exist for itself, regardless of the trigger. The term “being popular” comes to mind. I do seem to prefer when something becomes recognised as being something that works in a specific time but perhaps not in another, so the output is unrelated to the time. It’s just what it is. I can’t worry about if it will be popular or not. That’s not for us to decide really, it’s more an effect to the cause. But we can think about what that means to us as we navigate cause and effect.
My context, at least in the studio, is to make something as quickly as possible before my mind gets in the way haha