Monday, April 09, 2007

The web, music and Bonbon Experiment

Though there's a million Myspaces, a million blogs, it's fair to say that the web hasn't yet really delivered as a "content distribution" platform - or rather, it is too intimately wedded to the old ways. The difficulty is, of course, that we're used to getting things for "free" on the web, and yet the old business models remain. We also value what we pay for etc. etc. and the "value" of, say the new Arctic Monkeys song, is far more than anything most of us could dream up for our Myspace. That said, I've been spending much of my time making music recently. From the mid-eighties I would diligently mix my songs down on to cassettes, and maybe make the odd copy here and there (2nd generation, muddy sounding as hell). It was only in 1998 - by which time my music making had reduced to a trickle - that CD-R's meant you could "burn" a CD (at twice normal speed!!!!) and use one of those awful sticky labels to turn into a "proper" CD. Alot of time since has been spent turning my old cassette tapes into slightly less-hissy CDs. Yet, even this has been a slightly messy medium. I guess I've always wanted to make my music available on the web, for anyone who wants it. In the past, this has been "old music" repackaged, but I'm happy to say, the first EP of new material - oh, for years! - is now available to download, including the cover (with lyrics on the back), and, if you so wish you can burn it to a CD or add it to your iPod. "Fall of the Rebel Angels" consists of 4 songs, with 4 demos & alternative versions. The songs are entitled "Narcissus", "Sad Lovers of Twilight", "Fall of the Rebel Angels" and "No". Bonbon Experiment was the name I recorded under years ago, and I've resurrected it for my new tracks. There will be a 2nd EP - this time of instrumental music - available shortly, and I'll occasionally upload test tracks on Myspace. I'd love to see more artists make there work available in this way, but of course I don't get paid - but on the other hand, I doubt it would add up to a hill of beans anyway - and, in case you're wanting to get Girls Aloud to "cover" one of my songs, it is released under a Creative Commons licence.


P.S. The EP (Extended Play) is one of my favourite musical storage devices. In the 60s there was even an EP chart pulling together 4 or 5 songs on a 33rpm 7" by bands as popular as the Beatles or Elvis Presley. "Magical Mystery Tour" wonder of wonders was a double EP. I guess the format died about the same time that albums became pillars of wisdom around Sgt. Pepper. It was probably not till punk that you got a real renaissance of the form - something of the DIY ethos, and giving value for money to fans - again, on 7" - what was that one that Motorhead/Girls School did? Or do you remember that "Too Much Too Young" by the Specials was one track on an EP. At the same time, the "maxi single" - 12" singles - was being pioneered in disco, and EPs got a bit of short shrift after that - multiple formats began piling up (see Frankie Goes to Hollywood etc.) - yet the 12" single could sometimes be an EP - bands like Cocteau Twins didn't have a lead track and 3 b-sides, but 4 tracks of equal value. Some of my most prised possessions are early 80s 12" EPs. For new bands without enough songs for an album (and needing a regular income!) the EP offered value for money for fans and a good marker of the band's progress. And the EP sometimes got so long it had to be called a mini album. What was Sisters of Mercy's awesome "The Reptile House" - a long EP or a short album? Multi-formats ruined things of course, but in some ways, the CD single brought back the EP - sometimes in its old format. A band would release a new single and give you 3 of their hits as "presents". I used to scour the b-sides for these little "greatest hits" collections. But the real EP should be something that has a coherence or form to it - several live tracks for instance, or a number of remixes to accompany an album. (Think of A Certain Ratio's "4 from the Floor".) By giving it another title than the lead track, an EP had its own identity. I was pleased when the Arctic Monkeys released there "Who the Fuck are the Arctic Monkeys?" single last year - too many tracks to be a single, too cheap to be an album. An EP then! It seems that in the new download age an EP is the way to go. 79p or so for a single - you're not really going to shell that out again for a b-side or two? But 4 tracks or so for a few pound - now you're talking. My EP is rather long to be a true EP - in fact its probably 2 EPs, the 4 songs, then the 4 remixes, in old money. Yes, those aiming for the charts will surely continue to release singles with a dodgy b-side, a dubious dance mix, and a DVD promo for company, but for the rest of the world - surely the EP's day has come again. I'm beginning to think the Myspace limitation of 4 tracks is actually perfect. Here's the EP for the 21st century, not just a song, not quite an album. Find out if you like us, and, there will be another one along in a few months.

No comments: