As both a music journalist and an actual musician, one of the things Rocks Off is always interested in is finding out how you people are finding out about the music worth finding out about.
When you work for a major music blog, new music is hurled at your head at an astounding rate by both the deserving and the desperate. It's kind of like being the hot cheerleader in high school, except that instead of sex you get to sit in the dark alone with headphones on, judging people's art with bitter harshness.
In the olden days, Rocks Off was quite keen on MySpace as a discovery tool. Every band had a MySpace page, and it was a fine way to get a quick glimpse of what a group was all about. Now, we'd rather gnaw through our own wrist than login into that rotting carcass of a social network.
For the purposes of this article, we visited our own band's long-dormant MySpace page to see how that party is coming along. There were 70 "messages" for us: 24 girls wanted to chat with us for a low fee as a precursor to showing us their augmentations for a higher fee; six messages were from this one promoter who emails every band in Houston trying to set up a Battle of the Bands.
Until this involves an island and an assortment of weapons, we have no interest. Nine people are very interested in legalizing marijuana, and the rest are other bands spamming. We also had to spend an hour removing viruses from our computer after a 20-minute visit.
Once the CPU was up and running again, we posted on our Facebook - which is still relevant for the moment - and asked our friends where they were tuning in to the music of tomorrow.
One thing became very clear very quickly: Terrestrial radio is almost totally obsolete. Not one person polled had anything positive to say about it, nor could they mention having learned of new music through the medium any time in the recent past.
"The radio is dead to me," said Tracey Morton, who works for DiverseWorks Artspace. "If I want new music, I usually learn about it from reading somthing online - could be an article on blog. If I want to find out more, I'll just Google it."
That's not to say all radio is dead. Far from it. Our recent list of goth covers of mainstream songs owes its entire existence to songs heard on the online station Nightbreed Radio, and we have found countless artists to both review and just enjoy through streams from UC Radio and Subterranean Radio. Hopefully such claims will give courage to the staff at KTRU, currently staring down the barrel of becoming online-only themselves.
Many others cited online blogs and articles as sources for expanding their musical palate. Some, like Tiffany Hamilton-Schoppe, head of PR for Houston Roller Derby, even mentioned Rocks Off by name . Posts on message boards and Facebook linking to YouTube videos, Blip, and Last.fm by friends who tastes they either share or trusts seems to be the most common way of hearing about a band. From there, most people move onto Wikipedia.
"I look them up on Wikipedia to see if members are in any other bands I should check out," says Leroy Sanchez. "But finding the videos on YouTube with the most plays usually gives me a good idea of the band's most popular song and is more likely to pique my interest."
Commercial outlets, such as the background music in stores or soundtrack appearances on television series and/or commercials, are still drawing in people - provided the song's lyrics are catchy enough to be remembered and typed into Google. In fact, this is how Rocks Off tracks down the songs we review in the True Blood music reports - at least until it was pointed out to us that the name and artist are usually visible through closed captioning.
Niki Marshall, currently working at the Texas Renaissance Festival, admits this to be her preferred way of hearing new music, and credits a new-found love of one of the best bands currently rocking on cellos, Rasputina, to this method.
"I hear music on commercials and movies," said Marshall, "I have to admit that I'm a huge fan of soundtracks. Once I find something I like, and if I don't know the name of the song, I jot down the hook and do a lyrics search on the song."
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The best news that Rocks Off heard in our very unscientific but illuminating survey was the number of people who are still finding new music through bands playing at shows. That means that not only are people attending shows, they are literally creating a new-music economy for other acts on the bill.
Leroy Sanchez postulates a 50/50 ration on decent bands he'd heard after they opened for the artist he had originally paid to see, and consequently tries never to miss the beginning of the bill.
No one can deny that the music industry is in a state of flux, but the good news seems to be that people's appetite for new artists and new ideas has not gotten any weaker. The audience is still out there, and with a little work it seems that artists can still draw them out through the right connections.
Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.