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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Cynicism, drowning in music, burning out, etc...

Once upon a time, I would have thought getting 25+ CDs in the mail every week for free would have been the greatest thing ever.

That was before it actually started happening.

For those of you who don't know, I co-host a radio show called The Free Zone. We're only on the air six hours a week (which actually is kind of a lot considering the rest of the time the station is jazz and classical) but we report our "top 30" to the CMJ, which is like the college equivalent of Billboard. What that means is everyone wants to send us music in hopes we'll chart it.

It's all a very silly game but that's the way it works. Personally, I don't care about the charts at all. That stuff is all business side of things (and anyone who thinks the world of indie labels is different from the majors, it's really not) and I don't give a crap about it. I'm just there to play records and have fun.

We get paid a little to do the show, but the big perk aside from just the intrinsic enjoyment of doing the show is getting free CDs. Tons and tons of free CDs. And some of them are even worth listening to.

That's where it gets bad. See, we get all kinds of stuff. We get the "hot" new bands that they're trying to sell to college radio. We get most of the larger underground hip hop records (which doesn't piss me off at all as I'm finding that to be where some of the most creative music is happening right now.) We also get non sequitur type stuff, like some ELO reissues I got recently (again, didn't piss me off at all, but left me scratching my head as to why they sent it to us.)

Unfortunately, so much of what we get sounds the same. Guys, guitars, loud, whining/screaming. Occasionally some retro dance beats dropped on top. Or sensitive guy or gal with acoustic guitar, quiet, singing about feelings or some shit. It gets really old after a while.

I'm finding myself in a spot where it's becoming hard to determine what is good anymore as I'm just getting numb to it all. Most of what we get comes stickered with tons of hyperbole on the artist. Some days I believe all of it. Some days, none. Some days I listen to things and they literally go in one ear and out the other.

As an added bonus, I'm finding it hard to make time to listen to things I really enjoy, either things we got in the mail or albums I bought. I've still got CDs I bought that I haven't listened to yet because I'm constantly combing through promos, though I'm buying too much stuff these days. When I do have time, I'm usually pretty fatigued from listening to other stuff that I'll choose to do something else.

You know, I even feel silly complaining about this. I mean, I'm getting tons of CDs for free. But the problem is, 85% of them are CDs I don't want and I kinda have to listen to them a little to determine what to play on the show. It's just overwhelming but I guess it's worth it for the handful of things that I am interested in that I don't have to pay for.

It just seems to me like this is a real low period for indie rock. If you're not into screamo, Franz Ferdinand, Bright Eyes or mystic man-child "folk", there's not a ton out there for you.

I think that's why I've rekindled my interest in movies so much. When I was younger, I was a total freak for movies. In fact, had I not discovered music, I probably would have been Quentin Tarantino (for better or for worse.) I'm not naive enough to think all is rosy with the world of film, but I'm not involved enough to see that side of things. I can just sit back and watch a DVD and not think about anything.

Hopefully, sometime soon, I'll be able to rekindle my interest in music. I'm working on something that I think will help (announcement coming soon) but even then, I know it's going to take a while.


Jim said...

Hey Rob. Glad to see you're doing the blog thing.

I can't imagine having to listen to all of that stuff. I try to keep up with what's going on with the mp3 blogs, but there are so many of them now that they're all posting the same artists. Blech.

I agree with you about independent music these days. It seems like every band is some pale, sensitive bunch of kids wearing ironic t-shirts trying to sound like Death Cab For Cutie. It's definitely getting to the point where it's all sounding the same.

Anonymous said...

I know nothing killed my interest in music like working in it. I was a concert promoter for several years and I was reviewing CDs on the side for an "alternative weekly" just for the fun of it.

I know the "demo assault" that you speak of well.

Hopefully you'll be able to rekindle the love easier than I did. I just had to get out of working with it altogether to really enjoy it again. I hit a point where I was passing up free shows from bands I loved because I just wanted to do anything but hear another note of music.

I've had several years away from it now, and the passion for music is returning, which is good.