Here’s a question for you: is there too much music around? It’s something a well-known female singer-songwriter (500,000 albums sold) recently asked me during an interview.  “I sometimes wonder if the problems the music industry is having aren’t to do with illegal downloading and the internet at all,” she pondered. “Might it not be the fact that there’s no quality control these days. I mean, I can’t remember the last time I bought an album. There’s only ever two good tracks, aren’t there. And there are just too many albums as well. In fact, there’s just too much music around these days.” You can understand why, after making these comments, she asked to remain anonymous.

 

She’s got a point, although, in fact, the internet is to blame for the surplus of music on two counts. Firstly, the fact that you can make music on computers, something everyone in the Western world has easy access to, means that it’s easier than ever to write a song. You don’t need instruments or spend time practicing. You don’t even need friends to be in a band with you. If you can put together a spread sheet you can write a song. And once you have a song the internet means you can distribute it yourself. 
 
Which is all very egalitarian and punk, and, let’s be clear, the fact that the internet means musicians can wrestle creative and financial control back off record companies is A Good Thing. But the downside is that in a world where everyone can make and release music, it seems like everyone is doing exactly that. Problem is the one thing technology can’t do for you is provide the spark of creativity that’s the difference between the moment of genius and the commonplace. Result: there’s an awful lot of the latter.
 

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Arrrggghhhhh...

 
 
The second reason the internet fuels a surplus of music is that the online world is a voracious beast that chomps through content at dizzying speed. Columns such as The Guardian’s New Band Of The Day demand a constant supply of new artists. At the time of writing, New Band Of The Day is on band number one thousand and forty nine — in under five years. Sure, it’s an amusing read, but, seriously, who could possibly process that amount of new music? 
 
The same applies to numerous music blogs and websites. The only criteria for featuring a band is that they are new. Because blogs constantly reference one another, coverage in one frequently leads to coverage in another. Momentum can build on the back of not very much apart from the fact that someone somewhere had to write about a new band and everyone else followed suit. That qualifies as a buzz to a record company. The band get signed and release one of those albums with only two decent tracks on it. If you’re lucky.
 
The internet has had positive impact on music in many ways, but that shouldn’t blind people to the negatives. It’s fuelled an explosion in music, a lot of which is average at best. Is there too much music around? Yeah, there just might be.
 
Text. Chris Cottingham

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