In the current climate when petrol costs 145p a litre and booze is eye-wateringly expensive, how can we afford to buy two guitars, a bass guitar, a drum kit and four leather jackets? The answer is we cannot. The current solution to this economic/musical crisis is to sit at home on a laptop drinking Lambrini, producing dubstep remixes of 90s television theme tunes whilst regretting that ‘Libertine’ tattoo. Where did all the bands go? Why are gigs so expensive? Where’s my money?
Britain has changed. Gone are the days when we would all go frolicking around the town wearing our Good Shoes t-shirts burning money whilst shrieking with delight about our new Hard-Fi album. Now, we sit in our hovels, naked, hungry and alone with only a laptop for company. But we have harnessed the power of the Internet – every song we could possibly wish to find is there in MP3, AAC and even the sexy FLAC for all the purists out there. Our music libraries spill onto external hard drives and we can quite easily have this music for free, wrenching a living from musicians worldwide.
A friend of mine was in a band in the early 00s; he was the drummer in a self-proclaimed “Stereophonics rip-off”. Despite this affliction they went on a national tour as main support for The Subways and came on stage every night after The Kooks. That friend now manages a Cineworld, yet proclaims to have made “a shitload” of money whilst playing pubs and student unions up and down the country. In true ‘rock and roll’ style, this money, he admitted, was spent on naughty things and van hire. To even make a penny from a ‘traditional’ band these days would be an achievement. A few bands have managed to sneak out in the last few years, most noticeable are the hyped-to-death The Vaccines. Delving beneath the surface we find a group of incredibly well off chaps, one who grew up in a £2.45m mansion and all privately educated and able to afford the gear, time and space which a full band requires. It seems that at the moment the “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” philosophy rings true because The Vaccines are a pretty problematic band.
The price of a good electric guitar, an amp, a strap, effects pedals, and extra strings is easily a few hundred pounds. Drum kits are cumbersome, noisy and incredibly pricey new or old, as well as being expensive to cart from gig to gig. The costs of a band are far beyond most people in 2012 – but most people can afford a laptop. The procrastination machine is the hub of the student life; it is the first port of call of many for socialising, research and entertainment. With the price of a laptop powerful enough to run a studio-standard music production program at under £1000 the possibilities to create any genre of music are opened to the masses. The Internet is full of free guides to music production and what’s more – it is perfectly possible to produce music on a laptop without any external hardware. It may be cheaper than ever to produce tunes, but the market for purchasing unknown producers music is almost extinct.
The beauty of home-produced music is the lack of bias based on appearance that blights mainstream culture. Star Slinger is a hefty bearded Northerner who champions 17 year old duo Bondax. SBTRKT and Burial choose to entirely hide their identity and have become massively popular, Burial choosing not to play live shows whilst retaining massive popularity. Many of artists of this ilk put out music for free and make their money from live shows. Star Slinger has set up a club night in Slovenia of all places and this is where the strengths of the new generation lie. Why pay upwards of £20 to see one band, supported by unknowns, when you can pay under a tenner to go to a club night and not only see a selection of quality DJ’s and producers, but be able to stay until 3am and party until you vomit. I have fond memories of Hit and Run in Manchester where the bill boasted James Blake, SBTRKT, Alix Perez, Redlight and Icicle all for just £6.50 – cheaper than the price of a pack of cigarettes in 2012.By Joni Roome