One of the recurring themes of this blog is the future revenue generation and monetisation of musical product in the post-BitTorrent world. Or, in non-bullshit speak, “Holy Fuck How Are We Going To Make A Living When Everyone Can Download This Shit For Free”.
Because, dear Reader, I want the people who make the music that I love to be able to make a living out of it1. This is, as you might have heard, apparently getting harder and harder. Penniless musicians are forced out onto the street to make a living selling pegs and doing little, humiliating dances to beg for coins from reluctant passers-by. They are, you know. I saw that Bono at Green Park tube the other day, doing a jig whilst dressed as a leprachaun. At least, I think it was Bono.
We’re in the middle of one of the biggest changes in a creative industry since some German bloke went “Oi! You monks! Put down your quills, I’ve invented this clever contraption that can do your job for you in a hundredth of the time and for a thousandth of the cost!”. And the monks went “You git, that’s our livelihood gone. Right, we’re off to invent Buckfast, thereby giving Scottish tramps something to drink that isn’t meths”. All the fuss around music blogs getting shut down centres around one issue – how to make money now the cat’s out of the bag.
All of which brings me long-windedly to Marco Mahler. Another Folktronica type fellow, he’s struck upon the idea of asking people to sign up to his club, where he’ll send you a new track every week2. This might be a demo, a live version, or a whole new song. This kind of thing doesn’t cost much to set up and it’s a great way of growing a fan base and making you feel part of a community. It helps too that he’s a talented musician with a good new album out (“Laptop Campfire Speed” – reviewed here by My Old Kentucky Blog). Marco’s songs, as you’d expect from the title, are put together on a laptop with little licks on an acoustic laid on top, with his laconic, often spoken-word singing glueing everything together with a charming, late-night sitting around the campfire feel.
Now I really don’t like the phrase “chillout music” as it brings up the horrible spectre of nasty, pseudo-trendy bars playing bloody Groove Armada, but this ranks alongside this year’s The Radio Dept and last year’s Bibio as just the kind of thing to listen to when you don’t fancy having to sit through some challenging tunes in 13/9 time. The word nice is usually sneered at, but frankly, this album is damned nice. Trust me on this, a 45 minute journey in a steaming hot Tube train is made much more pleasant with this record.
The other point to make about all this is how easy (and cheap) it is to go and make your own music, and make it sound great. You can do it with the cheapest Mac out there, which comes with Garageband, or you can go the PC route. Either way, for less than a grand (pounds, dollars, or Euros, takes yer pick), you can have a setup that’ll let your record 24-track near-pro quality tunes, add all the effects under the sun, mix them, burn them to CD or bung them up on your website. Which you can design and build using the same kit. You don’t need an expensive studio. You don’t need expensive marketing. Just do it. Yes, people have been saying it for years, but now it’s got so damn cheap anyone with a modicum of skill can make music.
Whether you can make music as good as Marco Mahler here, well, that’s not so easy.
1 I also, and this doesn’t come across quite so often, want the people who provide the ancillary services to make money too, but as I’ve never had my heart and soul transported to heaven by a particularly deft piece of music publishing, I generally don’t find it as interesting to talk about.
2 There’s been similar things done by other artists, such as Iron And Wine releasing acoustic versions of his songs for free on the web, and Marillion getting people to pay for them recording their new album. I’ll leave the obvious gag well alone.
You can buy the album direct from Marco Mahler’s website.