As a new contributor to Enough Records I’ve been immediately made at home by the creation of the label’s new manifesto. With my own long history of churning out grand sounding but often faulted ideas it’s a refreshing change, if nothing else, to be confronted with someone elses grand concepts of what role free music obsessives like myself can play within the community and even though intent, in this scene, often fails to convert itself into action I can’t help but feel that little fire of optimism burning when something emerges from the morass of free music opinions and ideas which actually lays out a set of goals that actually stand up to closer scrutiny as opposed to just making a nice side-note for a label’s site.
Written by Filipe the Enough Records manifesto is, as you’d expect of any document of less than 10,000 words, just window dressing – like many other attempts that I’ve seen (and a fair few that I’ve written) its good intentions and laudable aims could easily be lost if they’re not converted to practical, real actions which can be adopted not just by those who contribute here but also by the fans, labels and readers who come across it. If there’s one thing you can guarantee with the free music scene it’s that no individual or small collective will be able to alter the course of our juggernaut of a community. Not, I hasten to add, that I see no value in the outlining of intent that this manifesto represents, in fact I think it’s an excellent summary of what the free music ideal needs in order to progress beyond its parochial mindset but the cynic in me has, too often, seen such attempts fail when challenged by the prospect of real action and work. So with that in mind I thought that to open my tenure here at Enough Records I’d get dug into the manifesto and offer up my own perceptions of how and why each point could and should manifest itself.
To start from the beginning, which would be the obvious place, I and any others involved with Enough Records are here ‘To spotlight artists and labels’; a matter which shouldn’t really need debating given that if music is good, it should be highlighted and shared but as pretty much anyone who has spent any time in the free music world will attest the majority of the best stuff is to be found languishing in the back-catalogues of net labels or deep in the bowels of sites like Jamendo, Archive.org and Band Camp. Acts which, under a commercial model, would have found themselves on the receiving end of a barrage of press interest are here only promoted by the efforts of a few dogged reviewers and word of mouth recommendations which, in my experience, seem to revolve more around explaining the concept of free music to people than simply being able to tout the artist’s work without half a dozen negative assumptions being made off of the back of the fact that you can legally download it without paying (which far too many people still take as a synonym for being shite). Of course, though, we don’t operate under the old commercial model and that’s the joy of our scene but that system’s failings can’t be our excuses – even if we don’t want to adopt a centralised method of promotion, with a handful of magazines and marketers dictating what is and isn’t ‘good’ we still need to create some way of getting the really good music recognised and acknowledged. Recognition which our current means of propagation are poorly placed to gain. Mainstream artists surround themselves with organised teams to get the music out there, we, despite all the talent and creativity our community contains, still find ourselves relying on Twitter and Facebook updates alongside the work of literally a handful of reviewers to spread the word of the best music we come across. If that’s to change then we need to start to understand that whilst the internet allows for the individual to do an awful lot in isolation we still need to act in unison to break out of the ghetto which most of the music we love is stuck.
How to manifest that change? Everyone has to come to their own conclusions on that one I reckon and even more importantly they have to start sharing what they come up with. There are plenty of people out there with the talents to help promote the music we love, they just need to start recognising that fact without taking it as a cue to start-up yet another minor online entity which with the force of only one person behind it can only go so far. And having run two free music sites as well as the NetLabel Coalition largely on my own I’m probably a prime example of wasted energies