One of the more fun aspects of my job and of writing a column is being able to help out bands and musicians that maybe not many know about.
That applies to local bands as well who may be struggling to get a foot in the door. It's not easy to get the public or potential fans to pay attention these days, mainly because there is so much music "out there."
There are hundreds of thousands of bands and artists with profiles on such websites as Reverbnation.com, Myspace.com or the zillion other band websites. All of these bands are categorized according to genre, which I've always believed was somewhat demeaning in a way. I mean, what band or artist wants to see their creations boiled down to a category such as "metal," or the worst category of all - "alternative."
Alternative to what? To listening to crap? I don't get it!
Then bands have to suffer the indignity of working their butts off to maintain an online presence and then seeing few results because of all the competition. Or even worse, seeing another band that may be far inferior creatively getting 100,000 hits on Youtube because they have a hottie chick singer or they play in the nude or some such gimmick.
Rock 'n' roll just isn't fair.
Most musicians don't go into the aspect of performing, and, God forbid, writing their own music, just because they want attention, at first. Usually they just have something to say, and it may take awhile before their material is even ready for other ears to hear.
The mature-minded musician knows when it's time for other listeners, but some don't, and you are always going to have bands that cater to the lowest common denominator. It's pretty difficult these days to separate the wheat from the gold, as so many bands have profiles and music online that just isn't that good.
I sometimes go onto Reverbnation and randomly listen to stuff by bands and performers, and I'd honestly say about one out of every 50 catches my interest with a really solid song that has some kind of originality.
It's also hard to tell what's a great song because digital recording has made everything sound yummy, as well as stereos, boomboxes and even mp3 players that "sweeten" even the worst mix so that everything sounds like oh-so-much-ear-candy.
I suppose that's good in the fact that at least we don't have to listen to bad recordings or gawdawlful, horrible production that sucked in the early days of digital recording.
It's always been a rare thing when a band was good and wrote superior songs that were both creative and also caught the public's ear in a big way. It's become even harder to find the good stuff because there's so much fluff out there in Internetland and on homogenized, dumbed-down commercial radio.
Rock radio has gotten so bad it's barely listenable from the early days of the music, when disc jockeys actually liked the music they played and played the music they liked. The corporatization of playlists has resulted in a whole bunch of lame bands becoming popular, such as Nickelback or even worse, Three Doors Down, a band that seems absolutely incapable of writing a song that doesn't utilize every hackneyed rock cliche possible. El-sucko!
Then there are the bands that are flavor of the week, the ones who have one huge hit record and then fade quickly into obscurity, where they probably should never have emerged from in the first place. This is nothing new to pop music, where the history is littered with one-hit wonders, but usually those one hits were pretty good. Nowadays everyone on radio sounds pretty much like everyone else.
This is especially true in modern country music, where I think Nashville has invented and patented the cookie-cutter songwriting technique, and where every male singer has to have a country-accented baritone like Toby Keith. Someone please hand me a barf bag - quick.
If I want to listen to watered-down, second-hand southern rock I'll listen to the vastly superior original, blue-eyed country, thank you.
There's a modern template for female country singers as well and usually involves at least a couple of songs per CD that shows they are "sassy," cute and independent. That may be good for business, but it's not necessarily a good recipe for outstanding music.
It's always been true there are underrated singers and performers who are consistently great but have a limited fan base. I think that's OK, because that's where the industry has placed them. That's why you see a lot of artists who have dedicated fan bases who have left the major record label business and gone "digitally underground," so to say.
Bands and artists with proven track records like Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead and Richard Thompson have sold hundreds of thousands of albums online by themselves without benefit of a major label. There are online radio stations that play music they want, and some that even have programmers that are tasteful. It's always exciting to listen to new music, but where's the excitement if the last song sounds just like the previous song?
The good news in all this is there still is great music to be heard. You just have to search for it. I've found the best way to find it is by exploring the fringes, because a lot of times the mainstream is the lamestream when it comes to modern music. In this way the Internet has truly become the creative musician's best friend.