Where does the underground live?
Social media has made it clear that, without a community, advertisment efforts become a mere black hole for the marketing budget. There is an irony in that for the cynical. Or is it hope for the newspeak savy? Clearly the corporations recognize the value of social engagement whilst still opposing socialism. Community has become the aproved word to admit that society is larger than it's individuals, with or without fortunes.
“Community is definitely a buzz word. Even corporations use it!” Said the Communards twitching in their tombs.
Despite the social medias relative novelty, there is nothing new about community. In our domain it's actually been a key ingredient for very long: music has rallied people arround scenes, created, reinvented or reinforced identities and animated causes way before the Internet was born. And during it's infancy, Internet was a fine place to seek for the oddly familiar and the different. However something happened during the web's teenage. Complexity was broken down and its currents were consolidated, centralized and rallied in monolithic services offering convenience. This was perfect for the mainstream, but because the technical expertise of underground record labels was understandably low (record labels aren't Sys-admins, right?), the underground and the mainstream started to coexist on the same stage.
Have you heard the new /insert underground label/ release? I saw it in my Facecrook™ feed, the video is sick!
The internet is a highway of information that may technically still offer equal opportunity to everyone (although that's a debatable claim) but how about the meta-feeds thriving on it? By meta-feed, I mean the highways of information within THE highway of information: big tech as a service through which we get to reach whatever it is we are looking for. Either by search queries or recommendations. Attention-span is a raw material on mainstream socialmedia, and as a consequence organic reach is being throttled. We're told organicly viral content is dangerous because it makes us believe in things that aren't real. Or that since attention-span is the vital source of revenue to the companies operating the meta-feeds, then it is their right to profit from it.
I'm not sure either of those two assumptions are pertinent, but I know I've felt hurt the few times a respectable independent label reached me through sponsored content. Empathetically speaking. They spent money to reach me: Someone who would eventually have sought them out.
Maybe it's just a sign of my age: the vestiges of my past where novelties would reach my peers or I through word of mouth and/or excursions to physical hubs that were reknown for gathering fanzines, artefacts and records from foreign places and scenes. But what if it was another phenomenon?
After all distribution of music, art or simply alternative narratives has changed radically and profoundly. Because of as much as thanks to the Internet. New record labels are born everyday! And the quality of their content hasn't degraded in anyway. At worst it has changed, which to me seems like a rather good thing. They are born pretty much the same way as always though: find a name, a symbol, build a brand, a reputation, an etiquette... But all of those brands or images circulate encapsulated in someone else's dream. Someone else's platform. Someone else's company. Someone else's profit.
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Almost all of them give up everything that forms their identity in exchange for a vague promise of an audience. Their colors, their banners, their shapes, their frames or lack thereof. They settle for services that supposedly provide them with an audience, an opportunity to place a catchy image in a square and a player that “should work on most devices”.
I dreamed Basspistol up. I wanted it to be the contrary of everything i despised in the music industry. To replace individualism with community. Shitty deals with DIY. Favoritism with cooperation. I wasn't alone. At first. At the time i was benefitting from some sort of momentum that I obviously didn't control. A collection of coincidences. I'm not sure I did things right. Or invested it wisely. But one thing i am certain i did well was to keep some sort of confidence. Trust in my own direction. Looking for the wheels wherever i was presented with convenience. The big tech narrative is strong, you can hear it comming from the fiercest and biggest influencers. The very essence and vital raw material said big tech needs to live: “Without big tech we cannot exist in cyberspace. It's like that old dilemma: “can a tree falling in an empty wood be heard?”. Those who answer “no” forget about the fauna.
Frankly speaking I still have no idea where this Basspistol adventure is heading. With a huge backlog of things to do and pretty much no one particularly interested in investing any energy in it. But i know the Fediverse has given me new juices. The Internet can be fun again. It can be open to the wide and curated at the same time. A community can own it's narrative, without shutting its doors to the world. The hubs might not be physical locations, but they can facilitate connections away from keyboard. And the expression of music can be more than a convenient player with a square image.
I might not be able to control it. Obviously. Who can? But I can set my own terms under which it influences my life. My consciousness' bandwidth. And I will find ways to include you.
The adventure has just restarted.
Warm regards from cold and so called Sweden. — setto