When I was in high school, we spent a lot of time going to free punk shows at local churches & community centers and spent any and all leftover time loitering at Cary Towne Center.
Cary Towne Center was a mall in Cary, North Carolina and it is now being converted into the Epic Games headquarters.
As the mall spiraled towards complete destitution during our college years, my sister once remarked, in jest, that someone should blow up CTC — as we lovingly called it.
She was right, but even so — there is definitely something disheartening about seeing a place you once spent so much time at slowly morph from a bustling hub where you saw your friends — into a tech company office building.
It's especially sad during a time where in person interactions are now frequently discouraged. And those same friends from high school have now deemed you to be problematic for thinking humans are more than vectors for disease, and have quietly distanced themselves.
So... anyway, we're getting a bit out of order as I try to recap how exactly punk rock has been destroyed, as this has clearly been going on for decades. But when I eventually get caught up chronologically — we will certainly land here with this breaking news from yesterday — Bandcamp has been purchased by Epic Games, the makers of Fortnite.
Sweet, precious Bandcamp — champion of the underdog and independent artists everywhere. Their stated goals being to help spread the healing power of music by building a community where artists thrive through the direct support of their fans.
This was working. Quite well, actually. Mail-order and Bandcamp was a huge and significant source of revenue for many labels and independent artist over the past two years. Many actually having their best direct to consumer sales years ever. Their "Bandcamp Fridays" initiative encouraged even more fans to divert their disposable income, likely once used for live events, instead towards indie labels and artists merchandise.
Furthermore, Bandcamp does an excellent job writing about and highlighting DIY artists on their platform.
Don't worry though, they promise this will not change their creator first culture. After all, it's imperative they focus on their new passion projects.
Which are... drum roll, please:
LIVE STREAMING & VINYL MANUFACTURING
More vinyl and live streaming are the only two solutions the industry seems to think of — instead of the most obvious and most correct solution which is to encourage free speech, expression, tolerance and live performance.
While I don't necessarily believe there to be malicious intent — it is important to point out that live streaming and vinyl records are NOT music. Music is not a physical artifact or a video. Music is experienced live, in the moment, in person.
Where people get hung up now in music in particular, is that recording technology gave us an artifact to go with the experience; more recently though, the plastic object is becoming technologically unnecessary and looking increasingly indulgent. But in the meantime, it gave the medium called "music" this weird dual ontology that people took for granted and forgot that the artifact part of it was a relatively new thing in history.
The further we drift away from this understanding that music has the most magic and impact in real time, the more trouble we will be in.
While Bandcamp is certainly capable of streamlining and improving vinyl manufacturing and making it more accessible to fans, artists and labels — I remain skeptical that the recent vinyl boom is going to end well.
The push towards vinyl still feels like a distraction to pacify musicians, and due to the serious and worsening supply chain issues and limited nature of vinyl pressing plants and equipment it is becoming increasingly expensive and complicated to manufacture vinyl.
And live streaming? Pardon me as I'm a little skeptical that this push towards being very online is a good idea. As I think we've sufficiently covered on this website, in person community, art and music is important if not crucial to existence.
Yet here we have Fortnight with their incredibly popular virtual concert series, even prior to the pandemic, and Bandcamp merging.
If I have learned anything it is that musicians DO NOT like live streaming in lieu of live performance. Many approached it with an open mind, but the feedback I've received is consistent. It's depressing and miserable. It's weird and impersonal. So why this push for more of it under the guise of putting the artist first?
If you ask any musician if they'd rather have more vinyl records, live streaming or a return of live performance with an audience without censorship or restrictions — I think the vast majority would choose the latter.
Sorry, I don't want to do Virtual Coachella.