Opinion: Freak Music!

James Sherman

Music fanatics are a peculiar bunch. I believe most people fancy themselves to be music fans, but some people (myself included) are music freaks. Kurt Vonnegut famously wanted his epitaph to read: “THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD WAS MUSIC.” That pretty much sums it up for me.

It’s interesting then, when a music fan, or freak, comes across a new artist they feel passionately about before the artist becomes popular. It feels like they have invited you to a cool new club where you get to personally hang out with the band before all the geeks show up. For some reason, once that artist gets popular you feel betrayed. Shouldn’t you be happy for them? Are you upset because you don’t like these new fans? Does the band change, or just your perception of it? I’m sure this is all explained in some hipster manifesto somewhere (presumably, so hipster, you probably haven’t even heard of it yet).

James S. Sheman

James Sherman is a junior newspaper journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

I seem to be in the minority. I am excited when I know an artist before they are launched into public consciousness. The artists and repertoire division of record labels used to get paid big bucks to sign the next big musical troupe – not anymore. The Internet has changed everything. All the social networking at our disposal makes it infinitely easier for an artist to find his or her audience. Every artist can now find a niche market to cater directly to him or her. The power really has been given to the people. Could you imagine the horror of having to sit by the radio and wait for some 40-something disk jockey to play your favorite club-banger?

So, how long will this system or these record companies last? Their model for promoting and distributing an album seems ancient now that so many artists are streaming their albums online for free (The Gorillaz’ iPad produced its album “The Fall”) or allowing fans to pay whatever they want to download an album (Radiohead’s “In Rainbows”) or allowing free downloads (Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Friday release extravaganza).

A side effect, of course, is the flood of subpar music that is generated. Anyone with a YouTube account and a synthesizer has delusions of being the next Stevie Wonder. But the amount of garbage on the Internet is a minor speed bump on the road to musical bliss. Imagine the opportunities artists in this advanced technological age now have. Just 10 years ago they may have never had the opportunity to set foot in a recording studio and now all you need to create a professional-sounding album is an iPad .

Record label or no, what’s better than Lil Wayne distributing copious amounts of music online for free and then managing to sell a million albums in one week? Or when an independent artist allows his or her music to be downloaded for free for years before generating enough interest and clout to actually generate a paying audience? The future is bright for us freaks.