So this thought requires a few more characters than 140, so I’m taking to the blog. I would invite you, gentle reader, casual listener, enthusiast, to for a moment lend me a sympathetic ear.
To be frank: it bums me out from time to time that you just cannot play a new unrecorded song at a show anymore without it being published and released to the world — and likely in the crappiest medium possible: via a cellphone’s audio and video capture capabilities.
And here’s where I get all cranky-old-manish: TIME WAS, bands could “road-test” songs while on tour or when they were playing random little shows. This served a couple purposes: one, you could kind of give it a trial run in front of an audience and see if the song was any good; two, the repeated playing of a song on a tour run gave you the kind of casual, practiced relationship with the song that new ideas could start to spring forth: new instrumental bits suggested themselves, crappy lyrical turns were revealed in the cold light of day. Plus, it was something you could share with an intimate audience, make a particular show a little more special.
But to add new songs to a setlist these days is to introduce it to the world. If you want to play new songs, these songs will cease to be *new* once they’ve been played — they become the product of youtube, vimeo. If you want to have that incredible and unique relationship to one of your songs that can only be found when you’ve played it over and over on a tour, be prepared to birth it into the wider world via the shaky pixels of someone’s cell phone. And so, when it comes time to record those songs and release a new collection of music that will hopefully surprise and amaze your record-buying supporters, all those songs will have been existing in their 72 bit form for months (years!) on a website that neither shares revenue nor compensates a musician for the publication of that composition.
HOWEVER: I recognize the impulse. To record and post and write about and share a video that you made at a concert of a new song is a testament to your devotion and enthusiasm for a band. No doubt. And that’s awesome. The fact that people care that much about my band and the songs that I write is an incredible thing, a flattering thing. And maybe this is just the new mode; if a musician wants to keep a song a secret, keep it a secret. If he/she wants to control the unveiling, don’t unveil it. The thing is: I love playing new songs. The tedium of a tour can be vanquished by the promise of trying out a new thing on stage that night. The idea of never playing new songs in front of a live audience, of forever committing to only playing ‘older material’ is a serious bummer of a prospect. And I love the idea of a record, once it is released, to be a revelatory thing, a thing where the treatment, arrangement and recording of the new songs are meticulously and lovingly coddled and created. That the new songs are truly new.
But let’s open this up. I could be totally wrong; I could be way overthinking this whole thing (and I could *certainly* be accused of doing that from time to time). What do you think? Does the prospect of hearing a new song via youtube months or years before it’s released eventually sap the payout when you hear it on record? Or do you even think about it?
Okay, that’s all.