martes, 20 de febrero de 2007

Whats up with punk rock

It doesn’t take someone very long to notice the difference that the internet is making on music and more specifically, underground music and the punk rock scene. I recently went to see one of my favorite punk bands in concert that I have seen many times in the past, and I came away with a feeling that it just wasn’t what it used to be. In his song, “Separation of Church and Skate,” Fat Mike, of the long time punk band NoFX, accurately describes the feelings I had that night when he asks, “When did punk rock become so safe? When did the scene become a joke? The kids who used to live for beer and speed now want their fries and coke, Cursing and flipping birds are not allowed, in fact let's keep noise levels down. Must separate the church and skate! I want conflict! I want dissent! I want the scene to represent our hatred of authority, our fight against complacency. Stop singing songs about girls and love! You killed the owl! You freed the dove! Confrontation and politics replaced with harmonies and shticks. When did punk rock become so tame? These (explicit) bands all sound the same. We want our fights we want our thugs! We want our burns we want our drugs! Where is the violent apathy?! These (explicit) records are rated G! When did punk rock become so safe?!” Further investigation helped me put my finger on what it was that the show was missing, and lead me to believe that the culprits of the fall of punk rock, and underground music in general, are none other than the punk rock bands themselves and their anti establishment, DIY attitude.
First of all lets look at the effect that the internet is having on the scene. In his book The Long Tail, Chris Anderson explains, “In the past there was a scarcity of shelves, screens, and channels, so record scouts, editors, and executives made their living off of predicting what would be watched. Now search engines, blogs, and online recommendations filter out what already exists. The media went from gate keeper to advisor.” These post filters of search engines, blogs, and online recommendations create a market for things that are already available by stimulating demand for them. “Soon everything will make it to the market,” explains Anderson, “and the real opportunity will be sorting it all out.” The days of everything making it to the market are upon us. In the past if you wanted good music other than what all the agents, executives and editors wanted you to hear, than you had to go through other means to find it like through your friends older brother, the cool dude at the record store, or those crappy free compilation CDs where only one song in 20 is worth listing to. Now the process of finding good “underground” music is through the soulless cold internet and it is easier than ever. When you get something without putting forth any effort, than that thing is treated like a commodity. So nowadays through Myspace and other internet sites, finding this underground music has never been easier, and the kids treat it as such. When you would go to a punk rock show in the past, everyone that was there had to go through the same difficult process to find out about the band. These filters to underground music created a more sincere fan base at the show and a room full of instant friends. Now you go to a show it feels watered down because the crowd is made up of kids who don’t really care because they didn’t have to work very hard to get there. Just as video killed the radio star, internet, in turn, has killed the punk rock star.
Thomas L. Friedman, in his book on globalization called, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, said, “One of the paradoxes of a world in which we are all increasingly connected is that it makes it that much easier for us all to become increasingly disconnected. Because the more we are all wired and networked together, the easier it becomes for each of us to work alone, at home, from our beach house, tree house, or remotest Africa.” Friedman goes on to ask, “Is this standardizing technology just empowering us to reach farther into the world while exempting us from the real work required to build relationships and community with the folks next door?” The tight community of the punk rock scene used to be based on hard work word of mouth, networking, and supporting your local scene. Now the scene is being replaced with kids searching the internet from their bedrooms and checking out play lists of strangers. This causes a breakdown of the scene. Now posers have all the tools necessary to fit right in with the rest of us without having to go through the filtering process.
How did all this start? Anderson explains that first there was the democratization of technology that made technology, previously only accessible by large corporations, available to everyone. Next was the democratization of information through the internet that could teach anyone how to do anything. And last was the democratization of distribution where through websites like,, and others, you could publish your works for the masses for free. Never before has there been such opportunity of those who want to do it themselves. I bought a camera that can film digitally, downloaded the video editing software off the internet, made a video and then published it on for an audience of millions for all under 1,000 dollars. To be able to go to such great lengths, for so cheap, by yourself, would have been unheard of only 10 years ago. How is punk rock to blame for all of this? A glimpse of this flatting of the playing field was first seen from punk rock music 30 years ago.
Chris Anderson explains, “In the late 1970s early 1980s the combination of electric guitar, the arrival of cheap multi track recorders, and a fine example from the Sex Pistols gave license to a generation of kids with no musical training, obvious talent, or permission from anyone to start bands and record music. Through punk rock we saw a premium of fresh voices, new sounds, vigor and anti establishment sentiment that could have only come from outside the system. It was inspirational to see people out there with no more talent than you, having fun being admired, doing something novel. To put it in economic terms, punk rock lowered the barriers of entry to creation.” Along with lowering the barriers to entry by doing it themselves, punk rock also preached using alternate forms of distribution other than going through the man; i.e. the record agents, talent scouts, and executives; the pre-media filters of the time.
So in the end, all of the DIY sentiment of the punk rock scene finally caught up to itself as the do it yourselfers eventually were able to take their anti-establishment to the extreme and create a world where their music was way too easy too find. Punk rock killed itself. Is there a way to solve this lack of old fashioned angst in punk rock caused by the internet? Only if bands decide to do it the old fashioned way of doing it themselves through word of mouth and hard work. The new man that punk rock needs to stick it to is the internet itself if it doesn’t want to buy into the system that punk was created to challenge.

2 comentarios:

Marc Jorgensen dijo...

esto es en espanol no? Que buena-
I like the article, a good sized one. There are a lot of little cool things to put on here and customize, just search a little.

Erik dijo...

Zach, i've seen previews for a documentary you should watch, it's called 'American Hardcore'. It traces punk rock from '80 to '86 with bands like the circle jerks and the replacements. it might be interesting for you. Punk rockers are a dying breed, leaving poser bands who all have sweet salon haircuts and dyed jeans. Did i mention gay make-up?