The Next Format Shift for Music
Interview with AddictiveTV by Sergio C. Muñoz for 8Stem.com
In 2017, I have been educated by Adam Farish and Bruce Pavitt at 8Stem on the next major shift in format for music: Listener Engagement via Stems. As it happens on the cusp of technologies that are about to break, innovation happens regardless of geography. Graham Daniels and Mark Vidler, hipped to me by my homeboy Duncan Ballantyne, are leading this format shift for both the music industry and the film industry from their home base in the UK.
Just as Karaoke separated the song from its vocals for the entertainment of pop culture, the listener now has the option to separate the elements (stems) of a song to create a derivative work, or a remix. Beatport is not necessarily new, nor is the concept of the Digital Audio Workstation but through the 8Stem mobile application on iOS, never has it been so easy for a listener to understand Stems and how they create songs.
When I was understanding the Addictive TV Orchestra of Samples project, I flashed back to a story Adam told me recently. He said that the most innovative music that he heard recently was rap music being created in Baghdad. All of it, created through the assembly of used sounds, parts and equipment to create a new work. Adam equated the sound to that of New York in the seventies when the pioneers of rap and hip hop were using their lack of resources to their artistic benefit.
In an interview with Pavitt, I asked him if he was partial to this idea of doing more with less and he referenced the major successes of his career working with Nirvana and Soundgarden at a time when they had nothing … not even an audience. “I believe that there is a great opportunity to succeed for an independent band and I also believe that there is less need for labels. The competitive landscape is brutal but if it was easy there would be more successful musicians and less people pulling espresso. That said, victory belongs to those who are resourceful and creative. What makes my story interesting is that I bootstrapped a company from $500 to a global brand worth over $30M. I can pull hundreds of anecdotes about that trajectory at any time and most of them have to do with being resourceful and creative. Nirvana was a perfect example of the premise of the label, Subterranean Pop. We believed that underground music could totally blow up if provided with the necessary resources and media attention. DEVO and Talking Heads showed us that it was possible. After Nirvana jumped to a major label, a lot of other indy bands followed them because they were enticed by the prospect of wealth. Nirvana was originated at Sub Pop as a true grassroots band and eventually they knocked Michael Jackson off the number one spot on the Billboard charts. It can happen.”
Upon surveying the landscape of new music discovery, especially at the hands of corporate media and corporate-wannabe media, here is what you will see: Father John Misty, LCD Soundsystem, Ryan Adams, The Shins, The National, My Morning Jacket, St. Vincent, Haim, Lorde, The XX, Beck, Spoon, Allison Krauss, Jesus and the Mary Chain and Grizzly Bear.
If you see the homogenous pattern to the artists being featured on all of the most anticipated albums of 2017, then you know that there is no music to listen to from places like Baghdad or Africa, Asia, Latin America or much less, the Oceti Sakowin. The only way that you are going to hear this music is if musicians like Graham and Mark find their way around the world to record it. Or, if you watch them as AddictiveTV where they perform their stageshow. Also, if visionaries like Adam and Bruce provide it for you on their 8Stem platform.
How many places have you recorded local musicians and are any of them in Latin America?
We’ve played in over 50 countries now, but recorded Orchestra of Samples in about 25 countries… In Latin America we’ve been to Colombia, Brazil and Mexico.
There’s a drastic dichotomy between the independent musicians that you seem to be recording and the big budget blockbuster Hollywood partnerships you seem to have. Whose idea was it to marry the two?
Well, the two approaches are very different but in technical terms of sampling and music creations they are the same. They are both our ideas. We like to sample and create visual music. Subject wise, our work is very wide ranging, and yes we’ve remixed Hollywood blockbusters as alternative trailers for our live show but our current project takes footage of musicians improvising that we’ve shot around the world, and samples that. The actual technical approach to composing music from video samples in all our projects follows exactly the same process, whether sampling a superhero movie or footage of musicians that we’ve filmed ourselves. We’re essentially looking for rhythms, loops, good riffs, percussive grooves and so on. For us, the musical composition process is still, in essence, the same.
Are you ethnomusicologists or just curious musicians?
More on the curious musicians tip… We both love to travel and meet people and are fascinated by world cultures. We also edit and do the video too.
Did you find that Brazil, Colombia and Mexico share a spirit?
We found great musicians! In truth we found a common spirit everywhere. Musically, we found connections and similar musical patterns across the world. But yes, it goes without saying that there were similarities in those three countries. With Spain also… All four had that Latin spirit, with recordings of Aztec instruments, flamenco percussion, gaita flutes, samba percussion etc.
Can the user engage with the recordings or is it just engage by going to the show?
Right now it’s just the show or if people buy the album… we’re not currently thinking of the archive itself as a product but at some point we could make available stems for people to remix, that’s an idea we’ve already spoke about… It is certainly different. I think that’s why one review called the project “a glimpse into the very essence of music.” Meaning because audiences can see the samples, it helps people to understand how music is put together. People want music in a way they can take out the vocals as example, or just take the drum track etc. We’re saying that folks like ourselves have spent years creating from elements that were hard to find and had little or no distribution outlet, effectively helping build the foundations of a scene that will soon become a past time app on a phone as you say! But this is a good thing. I only hope something similar happens with film and television and so archives of movies can be used and accessed.
Can you see this playing in an American museum?
Yes, a tour of American museums would be amazing. A piece of our work was part of an exhibition at New York’s Museum of Moving Image a couple of years back but we didn’tgettoplaythereunfortunately. In Latin America we’ve performed in places such as Mexico City’s Centro Nacional de las Artes and São Paulo’s Museum of Image and Sound, so it’d be great to take our work to the States.
Thunderbird52 is a subsidiary of 8Stem dedicated to engaging with independent Latin American musicians for the 8Stem platform. To connect, send a note to Sergio: email@example.com