Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Unsigned Music Archive

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

I don’t know if any of you watched Lost (no spoiler alert necessary here, as I won’t give anything away). There is a rock group that is brought up in the show called Geronimo Jackson, and they never really explain them, though there are theories about them. The first is that the producers of the show claimed that they were a real group, but that it’s incredibly hard to get hold of their stuff, as their record was released in very small numbers. If you want any of the other theories, look them up on the Lostpedia.

Well, that was just one of many things that got me thinking about archiving unsigned music. The unfortunate thing is that not everyone uses the US copyright system to archive their work, and even if they did, looking through it would take a long, long time (and I think even money) to find stuff that you don’t even really know what you’re looking for. That said though, the biggest problem is that some copyrightable material is simply never officially copyrighted. As it is, many things get lost to history even when they are, but when they aren’t, they have an even higher chance.

Let’s just say that Geronimo Jackson was real. Maybe they aren’t even good enough to worry about hearing, but maybe they are. I came across a group recently called Sand that while obscure enough as it is, would have been even more obscure if it wasn’t for David Tibet of the obscure enough Current 93, enjoying the album enough to finance a CD re-release of Sand’s material, and Steve Stapleton of, also pretty obscure, Nurse with Wound having owned the album in the first place for David Tibet to hear.

I guess I just wonder what gets lost out there. I know, I know, all I have to do is go into a thrift store and look through all the gospel albums, polka albums, and gospel polka albums that make up the “record section” to know that obscurity doesn’t equal good. But I also have various albums from Fort Worth/Dallas bands ranging from 1990 to the present, and there are quite a few of those that I would never want to be without.

I need to say this though. I’m not a historian, not in profession or hobbyfession. This is not something that I can spend a lot of time and money on. I want to start putting together an archive of unsigned music, but it will have to be a very passive project. This is why I’m posting this on the blog. I figure that the most passive thing I can do is just to say that I’m doing this, and then see if anyone contacts me to help out.

Here’s the sad thing. I think I missed an opportunity as this kind of thing goes. For a very brief time, there were a couple of websites that made access to unsigned music very simple. (A quick web search shows that there are some still out there that I’ll have to check out.) I think one was called “stage” something. The Fort Worth/Dallas band Lint had their entire discography archived, and available for free download. There was a lot of music available for free download, but there seemed to be a lot of folk music. At the time I wasn’t interested in archiving, but rather having something to listen to while delivering pizza. It wasn’t there last time I looked.

The other website was strangely My Space. The default for music uploaded was to make it available for free download. Since you could turn off the download feature, bands had a choice. The issue was probably all the fan pages for signed bands. Anyway, I downloaded a couple of four or five song collections from unsigned bands, and I guess I should have really looked around for more while I could.

Anyway, if you are (or were) part of an unsigned band, current or disbanded, and you have anything you can share, please contact me. If you have a collection of unsigned music that you are reasonably sure the bands wouldn’t mind copies being made (like they gave out their stuff for free, or said copy it and hand it out to your friends, or you still know them and can get permission) please contact me. Any contact information of the artists would be helpful too, as Nathan and I have a blog here that needs material daily, and interviews are always a good option.

If nothing else, just do a good job of archiving your own collection of unsigned music. It may or may not help long term as far as anything is concerned. Let’s face it, there are signed bands that never get heard, but they at least have a little bigger buffer zone between obscurity and extinction.

[Note: Since writing this over the weekend, I started downloading some music from websites that are dedicated to unsigned bands. It’s an interesting hodge podge of music out there. I’ll probably have to write a blog post about why musicians should get out and play live to improve the quality of their music, if that tells you anything.]

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