Absolutely (Story of a Band) and Discovery in the Post-2.0 Era

The-Madding-Crowd-cover

About 14 years ago this week, a previously underknown Long Island band released a pretty great studio album, one that would eventually cross the platinum threshold. It was driven by a song that was is the most Turn of the Millennium Top 40 track, and the hook is buried in your head forever:

The band, because there is potential you have forgot them, was (is, actually, they’re still out there) Nine Days. I loved that album. Some of those songs were the first I ever learned to play on guitar. So I started to read up on the them, learn their back story. This was an ancient era of the Internet where we didn’t have to Wikipedia depths we do now, but we did have message boards and web rings and community forums.

The great part about these communities and Nine Days in particular: they started to get involved. The band dates to the mid-90s, and these sites actually had the back catalog of self-recorded music with the blessing of the band, because there wasn’t exactly a great place to put 7 years of music back then. I’ll never forget the time I posted to one of the sites about getting too excited because I thought I saw them on a flight from California to Phoenix, and the guitarist posted back to me that it was them and I should have said “Hi”. We all have our different fan-boyings.

The first part of this post is how much that is common place now. I know the band follows me on Twitter (I’m good for one or two bad 90s pop rock comments per week, after all), and more than once, we’ve traded likes and favs and whatnot. It was novel in 2000. Now it’s expected.  I mean, hell, you apparently have to use Instagram for Crisis PR these days if you’re in entertainment.

The second part to me is a lot longer trip down a wormhole of peer-to-peer media, and, in all of its glorious serendipity, revolves around a probably well-intentioned ID3 tag on a MP3.

weekend excursion

 

You don’t need to read URLs and guitar tabs to notice something funny here: those two pages are chords for the same piece of music. And it is this song by a Raleigh, NC local band called Weekend Excursion (the song itself is called “Nine Days”):

In 2000, we still had our Napster. If you remember the green, yellow and red lights of your first LAN connection, you may also remember that the ID tags from MP3s played a role in determining how songs ended up listed in the search query. Discovering a band on the radio or MTV in 2000 meant you may just go to your computer and find everything possible by that artist. And if something was mislabeled, they could end up in your download queue. 2 hours later, you may just sit down and listen – not paying attention to the names in WinAmp but thinking, “Wow, his voice sounds really, really different on this one.”

My Googling skills were nowhere near what level they are now, but back then, I could always figure out how to pull together a query to find lyrics and chords. I was getting frustrated when I couldn’t find this song though, until I made the discovery (and I can’t remember how): the tag was wrong. This wasn’t that band from Long Island. Which bore a new quest of discovery: find everything by Weekend Excursion. And, of course, I did the best I could.

We move our 14 years along, and this process has again been radically changed. Peer-to-peer music sharing doesn’t have the same existence, let alone potential error of a mismatched song. Streaming is official, paid, part of us – and the entire Weekend Excursion catalog (and parts of the Nine Days catalog) – and pretty comprehensive.

Which leads to the question: in knowing what we are looking for and the fact that we know we can find it…do we take out the element of surprise? Not just music, but media, too. By becoming over niched and content on perfect knowledge, we can’t let the happy accidents come to be. I wouldn’t have found another band or even kept going down that rabbit hole, because I don’t have a source other than an asterisked-perfectly algorithmed Discover tab or Pandora station. In media, it goes the same: we have the safe reliability in an obscene amount of channels.

Serendipity, I’ll remember the times we had together.

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