by carl wilson

Pop Montreal, Nuit Trois: Festival Brain

The title refers to what I've got, as the days begin to smear into one. Shows seen since last report include Roky Erickson (nostalgic, at least for the gaggle of psychedelia-collectors who thronged the place, but pretty out of context for Pop Montreal and in an undignified, crappy venue, with Roky being Roky, which was more than nice to see, and his band being a bar band that can play good blues solos, mainly, which was not so nice to see or hear), Gary Wilson (hallucinogenic, and a pleasure to me because I love his recluse-dreams-of-disco records, but way more random-gang-of-musicians-does-Sun-Ra-pageantry than I'd have hoped, substituting a huge ladle of schtick for the interior tension of the albums, but it's still worth witnessing any band in which the singer is wrapped in sheets and ductaped to a blowup sex doll and regularly dowsed with baby powder by his hypeman), hometown honeys Henri Faberge and the Adorables (ecstatic, singalong clapalong yellalong slice of what we decided tonight to call Torontosaurus Rex instead of Torontopia, inspired by the rantings of a drunk guy outside the bar, and with songs much better than I realized, plus Constantines and John Lennon covers) and, from Guelph, Evan Gordon and the Sad Clowns (emphatic, denim-clad, fake-gay-brother-incest, mock pub rock heavy on parody and riffs and dramarama). Plus some random band that sounded like the Editors or something, at a semi-afterparty that wasn't worth the trip north of Jean-Talon to attend. I'm sure there's a real, kickin' afterparty going on somewhere at this very moment that I missed out on hearing about, and that's just fine.

I was sad, on the Future of Music Summit front, to have slept too late to catch the second bloggish panel, this morning, on "The New Deciders: Metafilters, etc." - I'm sure you all were brilliant, Patti Brave New Waves and Mac Merge/Portastatic and Ryan Pitchfork and Grant CBC3 and Frank Chromewaves and Tim RealNetworks (formerly Tim TooMuchJoy).... but I was comatose, having ended up awake and blogging (and then breakfasting with my gracious host) till past dawn. I hope those who were in the panel, or in the audience, do report back.

But I was really really glad to have caught the panel on "DIY Online Distribution Models," which may sound dry but actually included a group of people more inspiring than any other at the Future of Music event - people who are actually using new media to do great things for artists, rather than fretting about "monetizing" something they don't really get: Dick Huey, Toolshed; Nate Krenkel from Team Love (who's also Bright Eyes' manager); Bryna Gootkind, Black Sheep Management; Lindsay Lynch, MapleMusic.com; Brian Camelio, ArtistShare; and the best-spoken cookie among these smart cookies, Shannon Coulter, Magnatune.com, an online new-form label whose slogan is, "We are not evil," who license all their music with Creative Commons (to allow for remixes by anyone who pleases), and who have a function on their site that allows you to license music for a film or TV with a few quick clicks (and whatever payment their formula determines is fair) - if you know anything about the licensing morass, that last in itself is a little revolution.

They all had a palpable passion for the music in question, and a very deep concern with ethics and service to artists and fans, with everything else - mainly, their own pocketbooks - a distant, distant second. Looking for the future of music, as a business? These folks are it. This conference would have been better if all the industry-suit panels were abolished and it was just a three-day confab where these people told those people what's what. (Okay, plus maybe some bloggers...) I can't summarize everything they said, but if you are a musician or otherwise involved in the making-a-living side of music as an activity, you should investigate all of those links.

I spoke up during the question period, but I was tired and full of thoughts and reactions and ended up stammering something that sounded way more confrontational than what I meant. What I was frustrated with was the prevalence, I think due to the conference atmosphere, of an individualist mindset in the conversation, in which musicians were being spoken of primarily as isolated creators trying to reach a distant audience. One of the underlying themes of the panel was, "Are record labels still necessary?" And the way the exchange went, the implication was yes - for the sake of exposure and publicity, unless you are willing to tour like crazy, for example, or are a formerly signed artist who's already gotten that exposure and can now deal with an established fan base. So I wanted to ask, "What about community, what about cooperation between musicians, what about a scene as an alternative to a label as a support structure?" I brought up the obvious case of Blocks Recording Club in Toronto, the un-label, actually an incorporated workers' co-op, run entirely by the bands sharing work and profits, including Final Fantasy, Ninja High School, The Creeping Nobodies, Bob Wiseman, and many more. This is a non-individualist approach, a non-buzzword version of "social networking" that really counts.

But what I meant was to ask the panelists to address this scene/community role - Team Love, for one, clearly comes out of it - rather than to suggest that they were ignorant of it, and since my tone was off, that wasn't clear, and Shannon rightly rebuked me for it, and it didn't go where I'd hoped. My apologies. But I do think that the music-industry context mitigates against thinking in those terms - it really is solitary-artist-versus-public, with labels presenting themselves as the benign intermediates that they're mostly not, unlike the panel members today. (On the other hand the community model is not realistically available to everyone, either, depending as it does on having other kinds of social capital, not to mention physical proximity and other factors, and that's something I think scene-oriented artists often are too blase about.)

But that's a digression. My main point: Out of all that I saw, this was the only point at which this summit caught fire for me, and really addressed what the name promises. I'm looking forward tomorrow to seeing founder Jenny Toomey (ex-Tsunami and Simple Machines) - a hero of anyone who knows where indie music's been and cares where it's going.

I did promise to talk more about our panel from Thursday, but it might be easier for someone who wasn't on stage to talk about it, or for you to watch for the podcast version on the Pop Montreal site. Here are some rough outlines: We started out talking about waves 1, 2 and 3 of musicblogging, and primarily bemoaning the commercialization/vulgarization of pop/indie music blogs, which I think I summarized as moving from a critical community to a baseball-card-trading community. Then we realized that was too insiderish and it got very wide open. Helen smartly asked the audience what they wanted from music blogs, and while there were many answers, the first that came up was great criticism (yeah, Lester Bangs got mentioned), which was heartening. Then others said quick links, such as Largehearted Boy, which is totally understandable. But the best was someone who asked whether blogs also talked about recontextualizing the past - a deeper level of critical work, I'd say - which led to a discussion of old-soul/funk blogs, among others (I should have mentioned the French sixties pop blogs, jazz and classical blogs and many more). Which led to a great "what is the future of blogging?" conversation, in both utopian and dystopian (it becomes a secondary, similarly conformist version of the music press now, but with even fewer ethics and writing standards).

We mentioned Marathonpacks, but I was also searching my mind for the name of Moistworks, which I think is the very best example of an MP3 blog that also provides superb and diverse critical writing in an audio-essay format, which can and should be more common. (Wayne&Wax; is maybe the best single-author instance.) That's certainly the primary other direction I think about for Zoilus, if I ever wanted it to be more than my metacritical jottings.

My two favourite aspects of our panel: One, that Dan from Said the Gramophone basically played a conscientious objector to the conversation by saying early on, "I don't read any other music blogs." And two, that the most passionate respondent afterwards was a guy from Muzak, who was thrilled to think that there were whole other programming streams that could come out of this music-blog thing. Next time you're shopping and the soundtrack is Tapes'n'Tapes and CYHSY, blame us. And yet he was also incredibly sincere in his respect for what we are doing, for its "from the heart" quality: "I don't even know what you're doing, but whatever it is, keep it up," he told Helen and me outside, where I was smoking. And the music lover in him was just as earnest about that as the businessman in him was about finding ways to exploit whatever it is we're doing. It was a terrific lesson in just how and why good-hearted people at labels seduce people into situations they should never sign onto, for a non-musician. I mean, I was like, "Muzak, wooo!" for 20 minutes there.

Watch these places for other Pop Montreal/FoMC coverage: Cleverlazy, BlogTO, Diabetic Candy, Fluxblog, Chromewaves, Prefix, Indyish and more. Oh yeah, and Chartattack, if you look. Anyone have any idea who the "buzz bands" or whatever of this festival are? My experience, perhaps from slackness, is that this is an indecipherable random thing that bears no relationship to reality, at least at this fest. Am I wrong?

| Posted by zoilus on Saturday, October 07 at 3:23 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (5)

 

COMMENTS

It wasn't so much about Eric's writing, which is inconsistent (but sympathetic, and has the right ambitions) as about the fact that he constructs posts that often go beyond "this is the MP3, this is the story of the MP3." But Moistworks and W&W; are better examples.

Posted by zoilus on October 11, 2006 11:35 PM

 

 

Marathonpacks? In what context did you mention Marathonpacks? In the context of really poor writing from someone who thinks that the word 'penultimate' means 'better-than-ultimate'? His writing is a tragedy.

Posted by N. Sufferable on October 8, 2006 7:34 PM

 

 

I'll note that BlogTo's Montreal-based sister (blogs are female, of course), Midnight Poutine, which I edit, so this is shameless (although I feel some shame) has heavy coverage of the fest -- and in both official languages, no less.

Posted by J Mac on October 7, 2006 4:57 PM

 

 

I think they're going to be put up after the festival - the organizers don't have time to do it right now, I imagine!

Posted by zoilus on October 7, 2006 4:06 PM

 

 

Are there really panel podcasts? I certaintly can't find them on the site...

Posted by Ryan Catbird on October 7, 2006 10:34 AM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson