The Rise And Fall Of The Obscure Music Download Blog A Roundtable – The Awl

byMark?

Allen

Aseriesaboutinternet?

history。

Oneinternetmusic“sharing”trendlargelyunnoticedbythepowersthatsuewasthenicheexplosionofobscuremusicdownloadblogs,lastingroughlyfrom2004–2008。

UsingfreefilesharingserviceslikeRapidshareandMediafire,andsettingupsitesonBlogspotandsimilarproviders,theseinternethubsstayedhiddenintheopenbycateringtomorediscerningkleptomaniacaudiophiles。

Theirspecialty:parcelingoutrippedrecordings?

—?

manyofthemcopyrighted?

—?

fromthemorecollectibleandunknowncornersofmusic’soddball,anomalouspast。

WhiletheRIAAwassuingdeadpeoplefordownloadingMichaelJacksonsongs(andMadonnawasusingSoulseektocurseatteenagers),obscuremusicblogsrackedupmillionsofhits,rippingandsharing80sJapanesenoise,70sGermanprog,60sSanFranciscohippiefreak-outs,50sJohnCagebootlegs,30sgramophoneoddities,Norwegiandeathmetal,coldwavecassettesmadebykidsintheirgarages,andthelike。

Itwasthemidaughts,andtheadventofdigitizationhadinadvertentlyputthevalueofthemusicindustry’s“TopTen”commercialproductinperil。

Thatsameprocesstransformedthevalueofold,collectiblemusicaswell。

Ifonesmartrecordcollectorwasabletosharetheentirecontents?

—?

music,artworkandall?

—?

ofonevinylLPonhisblog,forfree,anduploadanotheritemfromhis1,000+collectionthenextday,forweeksandyears,andotherslikehimdidthesame,competingwitheachotheraboutwhocoulduploadtherarestandmostsought-afterrecord,andanyonewhodownloadeditcouldthenshareitagainandagain…Suddenlyeveryoneintheworldhadthecoolestrecordcollectionintheworld;andsoon,nobodyintheworldhadthecoolestrecordcollectioninthe?

world。

Obscuremusicdownloadblogsweren’tshutdownlikeNapsterorMegauploadwere(thoughtheywereindirectlyaffectedbythatcrackdown);theyjust,mysteriously,seemedtoburnoutontheirownsometimearound2008。

Whilesomearestillaround,theirnumberrepresentsonlyafractionofthatmid-00sheyday。

Wasthisbecauseobscuremusicblogshadoversharedtheunderexposedandblownthewholethingintooblivion?

IsthefactthataguyinJapanwillnolongerpay$500oneBayforafirstpressingoftheNoNewYorkcompilationbecausehecanfinditforfreeontheinternetgoodfortheworld?

Wasthecommodity-lostbuttheknowledge-gainedanevenexchange?

Toexplorewhatwasgoingonthen,Iassembledthisemailroundtablediscussionbetweencreatorsofsomeofthemostpopularblogsofthetime:EricLumbleauofMutantSounds,LiamElmsof8DaysinApril,FrankofSystemsofRomanceandBrianTurner,MusicDirectorof?

WFMU。

MarkAllen:Doyouremembertheearliestdaysofobscuremusicsharingblogs?

Howdidthey?

start?

BrianTurner/WFMU:Intheinitialdaysofmusicblogs,I’dsay2004–2008,therewascertainlyaracetobeatthetopoftheshareheap,togarnerattention,tocomeupwiththemostfascinatingalbumsorartiststospotlight,andIthinkthatalotofauthorsreallyblewoutthedepthofknowledgetheyhad?

quickly。

LiamElms/8DaysInApril:Itwasaroundlate2004withthedemiseofafilesharingservicecalledQ-File。

InthosedaysRapidShare’smaximumfilesizewas30megs,splitarchivesnotallowed,andpeoplewouldputonehalfofanalbumonQ-FileandtheotherhalfonRapidShare。

WiththesuddendemiseofQ-File,suddenlyalltheseblogshadnotonedownloadablealbum,andtheydisappeared。

TheonlyonewhosenameIrememberisThatGirlNeedsTherapy。

AroundthistimeIstarteduploadingonealbumaweektothissite,thenameofwhichIcan’tremember。

AfterafewmonthsIgottiredofthisguyeditingmylittleblurbsthatdescribedthealbum,andIdecidedtostartmyownblog。

TheveryfirstdayIhad1,500hits,soIknewIhadtappedintosomething。

Ican’ttellyouhowmanycommentsIgotfrompeoplethatsaidsomethinglike“I’mstartingmyownblog!

”I’mnotsayingthatI’mresponsiblefortheexplosionofobscuremusicblogs,butfrommyblogmanypeoplesawthatitwasaneasythingtodoandtheysuspectedthatitwouldbefun,andtheywere?

right!

EricLumbleau/MutantSounds:Theinitialeruptionofmusicshareblogging,circa-2006,wasbecausethetoolsweresuddenlytheretodosoviaBloggerandRapidshare。

Ifnewtoolstoreproduceandsharemediaarehandedtopeople,theycanbeexpectedtousethem。

AtthetimethatIenteredthisarenain’07,MutantSoundshadalreadyexistedforseveralmonthsunderblogfounderJim’scommandandhadablossomingcultreputation。

MydecisiontobecomeinvolvedinmusicsharebloggingwasdowntoaserendipitouscombinationofmyenthusiasmforwhatblogfounderJimwasdoingattheoutsetandthethreatofMutantsuddenlyevaporatingafteraflamewaronacommentboardmadeJimpubliclyquestiongoingforwardintheearlydaysofthe?

blog。

Thiscausedmetoleapintothefrayandoffermyaid,sincewewerebothequallyversedinthesameveinsoffringemusicalactivityandtheculturalarcanathatsurroundeditandhadthecreakingshelvestoshowforit。

Butitalsobecameimmediatelycleartomethatdoingthiswouldopenupallsortsofotheramusingpossibilitiesforculturalinterventionbyre-writingwhatIperceivedasahopelesslyflawedandinaccurateculturalhistory。

SinceI’mmostlyoccupiedwithcreativeworkconnectedtomybandVasDeferensOrganization,andmylabelPuerGravy,mysenseofinvolvementinthemusicshareblogosphereislimitedtomakingmyownlittleplaypenwithinthisrealmandthepossibilitiesthataffords,butI’veneverbeeneitherthatideologicallyinvestedinitasamovementor,afterafewmonthsofrelentlessdownloadingbackin’07,asaconsumer,somyrelationshiptothisnecessarilydiffersfromotherswhohavethrownalltheirenergiesindoingthissortof?

thing。

FrankDeserto/SystemsofRomance:I’vealwaysfeltthereasonfortherise(andfall)ofmusicdownloadingblogculturehaseverythingtodowiththeinternet’sgrowingexpansion。

Untiltheearly2000s,myexperienceswiththeinternetwerelimitedtolookingupsonglyrics,writinganemailtoanoldfriend,verypedestriansortofthings。

Onceeveryonejackedinandconnectionsbecamefasterandmorestable,thesharingcommunitygrew。

InsteadoftradingtapesandCD-rsaswehadinthepast,wecouldnowuploadmp3s。

It’smyunderstandingthatthekindofmusicmanyoftheseblogsfeaturewasmuchmoreaffordableinthe1990sandearly2000s,ascopieswerelimitedtotheirnativecountries,andfindingthemthroughEbaytookalittlemoreknow-how。

Notonlydidthis(aswellasusbloggerssharingthematerial)driveupthepricesofmanyhardtofindrecords,itopenedupthisentireworldofforgottengemsthatwerefinallygettingdiscovered?

—?

andinthenewwavespectrum?

—?

someofitwasjustasgood,ifnotbetter,thanthepopularsongsand?

bands。

MarkAllen:Isitshakytobeginwith,buildinganarchivallibrarythatreliesonserviceslikeMediafireandRapidshare?

LikewhathappenedlastyearwithMegaupload?

BrianTurner:Asamusiccollectormyself,I’mreally,REALLYparanoidaboutthrowingmycollectioninthesingularhandsofanydigitalentityactingasoverlords,youjustnever?

know。



LiamElms:IusedRapidShareexclusivelywhenIstartedtheblog,theyweremuchfriendliertofreeusersbackinthosedays。

Myfilesweregenerallysafefromdeletion,unlessthelinkswerere-postedonapublicforum。

Thisonlylastedacoupleyears,whentrollsdiscoveredtheycouldgetlinksdeletedbycomplainingtothefilehoster,andevidentlyitbecameasport,afunthingtodo。

Soformetheshakinesswasneverneveraboutafilehostergoingdown,itwasaboutrandominternetassholes。

EricLumbleau:Shakyisanunderstatement。

I’msuretheMegauploadthingwasthebreakingpointformany,eitherbecausetheylostfilesorbecausetheyfeltmenacedbyourgovernmentofficialsdoingthemercenarybiddingoftheMPAAandRIAA,andfeltthereweremorebootheelsyettocomedownfromourlawlesselites。

Mediafirearbitrarilydeletesfilesconstantly,sothey’retobediscountedoutofhandandI’dadviseanynewbietoavoidthemlikesyphilis。

Thus,it’sproventobethecasethatoverthelongrun,Rapidshareisreallytheonlymanleftstandingthatmakescontinuingonwithanyofthisblogsharingbusinessstillviable。

Andtheyinturnhaveusallbytheshorthairs。

Assuch,theyjustassrapedawholeuniverseofpeoplebeyondthedamagealreadydonebytheclosureofMegaupload,viatheirrecentdeletionofallcontentthat’seithernotconnectedtoapaiduseraccountortoanaccountthatyou’vesignedintobeforeuploading。

Withthat,theykilledoff6timesthecontentonMutantSoundsthattheremovalofMegauploaddid(halfsincere-uppedagain)。

Butastheyhaveavirtualmonopolyonthisgamenowandsinceallmyfilesthatwereconnectedtomypaidaccountwiththemsurvivedintact,Ihavenochoicebuttojustgritmyteethandre-loadallmyolddeletedcontentrightbackontotheirsystemagain,afeelingsomewhatakintobeingaskedtolickyourlipsaftersomeoneshitsonyourhead,butthereya?

go。

FrankDeserto:Asforthedeathofmostblogs?

—?

it’ssimple。

Ibelievethatmorethanlackofsparetime,interest,etc。

…it’stheseparanoidtimesthatarekillingoffmanyoftheblogsweknowandlove。

Weliveinanerathatisnowoverlypoliced。

Freemusicisnowexpectedbythemassesandtheindustryisbrokenbeyondrepair。

Whenmetwithamandatoryshutdown,mostbloggersarehappytothrowinthetowel,andIcansympathizewiththefrustrationofhavingtostartfromscratch。

I’vebeenoneofmanycasualtiesofthefilesharingsitecrackdown(whichcausedmetotakethenextstepandstartmyowndomain),andwhileIcan’tsayIblamepeoplefortryingtotakebackcontroloftheirlivelihoods,thetruthisthatmanyoftheblogsandserversbeingshutdownarefalsetargets。

Ihighlydoubtthatsharinganout-of-print,privatelabelFrenchcoldwavecassettewascauseenoughfortheRIAAtoflagdownafile,it’sjustthatsimilarnamesandalackofdiscretionbytheseservicestendstoleadtounnecessarycasualties。

Notthatwe’reinnocent,asthere’sadefinitemoralgreyareahere,butIthinkbloggersaredoingmoregoodthantheyareharm,solongasthematerialtheyareunearthingisoutofprint。

WhileIcancountthetimesI’vebeenaskedtotakedownapostononehand(andmosthavebeennice,mindyou),I’vereceivedcountlesspositiveemailsandevenbefriendedmanyoftheartistsI’veposted,mostofwhichareecstaticthattheirworkhasthisnewplatformfordiscoveryandappreciation。

Manyreissuelabelsoweadebttobloggersaswell,andtheyaretakingthenextstepinmakingthismusicavailableforeveryonetosupport。

Peoplewhodownloadjustneedtounderstandthattheyshouldsupporttheartistswheneverpossible-soifareissuehappenstomaterialize,dotherightthingandpickupacopy。

I’vealwaysencouragedthisandfrowndownonblogsthatpostmaterialthatisverymuchin?

print。

MarkAllen:Backin2006,IcouldjustGoogleanartist’snameandalbumtitle,followedby“rar”or“rarblogspot”andIwouldinstantlybeleadtolinksofseveralblogswithaccesstotheseworks。

In2012,whenItrythat,alltheresultinglinksleadtowhatseemlikeautomaticweb-crawlingspamsites,likeRapidShare4UorFilesTube,thatseemtohaveabsorbedthetextandimagesfromold,deadmusic-downloadblogsandweirdlyre-formattedthemnexttoadsforViagraandcamgirlsites。

TryingtodownloadLPsthroughthemislikeahallofmirrors,tryingtogetyoutobuydownloadservicesthatdon’teven?

exist。

FrankDeserto:Well,therearedefinitelycloneblogsoutthere?

—?

somebloggerswhojustcopyandpaste(mostlybybotorscript-thoughsomejusttryingtograbapieceofthepiewithoutputtingintheeffort)andstealcontentfromothersources。

Whenthosesourcesdryupordisappearforwhateverreason,thisinformationjustgetsclutteredandreducedtospam,kindoflikeshadowsorspectres。

Theinternetisclutteredwiththisnow。

Veryfewofthoselinksactuallywork,lostintheinternetgraveyard,andit’sforthisreason,thesheerfrustrationandsadstate,thatIfeeltheneedtocontinue,oratleastkeeptheoldlinksaliveshouldIdecidetopursuesomethingelse。

However,overfiveyearsandI’mstillgoing,andI’mhopingthat’satestamenttohowgreatthismusicisandhowitdeservestobeheardenmassebyanyonewillingto?

listen。

EricLumbleau:TheaggregatedlinksonsomeofthoseserviceslikeFilestubeareverymuchactivealotofthetime,sotheycertainlycanproveuseful。

Mediafireoffersyouthesamekindofpopupspamwheneveryoudownloadfromthem,sothatsortathingjustcomeswiththeterritory,I?

suppose。

LiamElms:Ireallydon’tknowwhattothinkaboutsiteslikethatthoughIfindthemusefulforepisodesofoldtelevisionshows!

MarkAllen:Willminingobscuremusic’spastEVERreachan?

end?

EricLumbleau:Doubtful。

BrianTurner:Afterawhile,youhavetostartdiggingdeeperanddeeperintotheinternettocomeupwithtruegems。

Also,there’sobviouslymillionsofalready-existingrecords,tapes,andCDsthatcanberevisited,it’sjustamatterofhowlongyoucanstretchoutexploringthevaults,thoughaslinksexpire,memorycanbeshortinpeoples’minds,youcanalwaysrevisitthingsthathavealreadybeenre-re-posted。

Iwonderhowmuchthiswholemusicbloggerywillactuallyinfluencebandsofthefuture。

Asoneexample;youalreadyseeawholeslewofyoungkidswhoweren’tevenbornwhenthoseFlyingNunNewZealandrecordsofthe80swereout,totallyfilteringthatsoundintotheirnewbands,inbigpartduetotheinternet。

Peoplewanttolookforarbitersandgatekeepersthatcanshowthemthingstheyhaven’texperienced。

LiamElms:Willitreachanend?

Ireallydon’tthinkso。

TothisdayIstilloccasionally“discover”some70sbandthatwasreallygood。

Theearly70swasarealfertileeraforrockmusic,andsomanygreatalbumswerereleased,thatmanybrilliantalbumssimplynevergotnoticedbytherecord-buyingpublic。

FrankDeserto:No。

Thereisalwaysanotherrocktobeoverturned。

Manyofusbloggerswhochatandsharewitheachotherhavelistsofmaterialsthey’rehopingtofind,pickingawayatthemonebyone。

Sometimesittakesyearsandyearsofsearchingtogetalead,onlytoloseouttothehighestbidderoneBay。

Thosearejustthereleasesweknowabout。

MostoftherecentpostsI’vemadethisyearfocusondemotapesthatwereneverknowntoexist,soI’msuretherewillalwaysbesomethingoutthere。

Evenifwereachapalpablestoppingpoint,witheveryrelicuncovered,there’salwaysthepossibilityoffindinganddigitizingbettersoundingcopies,aprojectI’vebeenworkingonasarecordcollector,DJ,andunfortunateon-the-go-musiclistener。

MarkAllen:Whatareyourthoughtsonblogsthatfindself-madecassettesfrombedroommusicactsfromthe80sanduploadthemtoanaudiencethathasaglobalreach,sortofresurrectingthesehomemademusiccareersinawaynoonecoulddreamofback?

then?

BrianTurner:Ithinkthecassette-orientedblogsareamongthemostvaluable。

It’sanextremelylimitedreleaseinaformatthatmayeventuallydeteriorateneedspreservation。

AwesomeTapesfromAfricaisanespeciallygoodexample,whereisanyonegonnagetachancetohearthisstuffotherwise?

Also,labelslikeDaisandDarkEntriesaregreat,they’retakingbandartifactslikeDeviationSocialorVitaNoctistapesfromthe80sandputtingthemoutonvinyl。

Theseartistsgetanentirenewaudience。

EricLumbleau:I’msureit’sbeensomethingofashockforsomeofthesefolkstoseetheirlong-forgottenandmolderingoldtapesrevivedandcelebratedlikethis,leadingtomanygrumblesof“wherethehellweretheybackthen?

”Iknowsomehaveevenflippedtheirwigs,likeacertainsociopathicGermanartistofnegligibleworthnamedFranzDeByl,whoseinclusionontheNurseWithWoundlist(possiblythelamestthingonthelist,IMHO)andsubsequentname-checkingaroundtheblogospherecausedhimtocompletelysnapandharasseveryonethathadeverbreathedhisnameontheweb。

HishandiworkinthecommentfieldherehastobeseentobebelievedandmoreofMr。

Madman?

here。

Inthe21stcentury,doyouthinksomethingexistsifitdoesn’texistsomewhereontheinternet?

EricLumbleau:Ifsomethingcanbesaidtomeaningfullyexistifsaidexistenceoccursamidsuchendlessproliferationthatit’sforgottensoonerthanit’sabsorbed。

Abetterquestioniswhethertheculturalrelativityinducedbyhavingallmusicalhistoriesontap24/7renderstheactofattemptingtoconnecthistoricalthreadsafool’serrand。

Beinginsidethiscyclotronofatomizedinformationfrommyownvantagepointproducesapalpablesenseofvertigo。

Afeelingthatitcouldbeanythinginanyorderbyanyoneatanytimeforanyreason。

Everythingpointinginalldirectionsquaquaversallybutarrivingatnodestination。

Anditseffectisacancellationofaffect。

AfeelinglikeBaudrillard’sscreenstageofblankfascinationhasreacheditsterminalphaseandallpreviousdepthsarecollapsingintoanendlessvistaofdazzlingsurfaceplay。

Inmycase,it’scausedmetorecoilandretreattoengagingwithmusicinthewaythatIdidwhenIwasinmyearlyteens,whichistosaywithnoconcernatallforwhatelseImightbemissingatthesametimeorwhatelse“Ineedtoknowabout,”sincethere’snosenseanylongerofabeginning,endorcausationinthespacesbetween,soIjusttuneintoaselectfewthingsthatIthenrevisitwithdepthandintensityandblockouttherestofthe?

hubbub。

FrankDeserto:Mygrandparentsexist,andtheyhavenopresenceontheinternet。

Previouslyinseries:ASuitablyBizarreInterviewWithTheEarlyWebProvocateursAtJodi。

Org

Youmightalsoenjoy:TheRiseAndFallOfGrungeTypography

MarkAllenisawriterandperformerlivinginNew?