Steven Ansell from Blood Red Shoes: Is music becoming a passive experience?
With their new album out this week, DiS asked Blood Red Shoes' Steve Ansell what's on his mind, and here's what came back...
"The initial idea for this article came to me quite a while ago when we posted some tour dates. We have a similar experience to almost all my friends in bands – as soon as you post a tour on Facebook, regardless of how extensive it is, a great deal of the initial comments are negative. “Why aren't you coming to my town, I'm disappointed”. Or “my town exists too you know?”, or any other variation from someone who is seemingly pissed off that we're not delivering our live show directly to their doorstep. I have no hesitation in calling Blood Red Shoes one of the hardest touring bands in the UK, and even if you fucking hate my band I think you'd find it hard to prove otherwise. We tour more than 90% of bands I personally know and on an average album year we'll play something like 150 shows in around 25 different countries. We don't go home very much. So on the one hand it's very flattering when people are so keen to have us play in their town - it's nice that people care and want to see us - but I also can't help but think, well, we try to cover as much ground as we possibly can and this still isn't enough? I spend 200+ days of the year on the road either playing or travelling but you don't want to leave your town to get a train or bus to somewhere less than 40 miles away to see us?
And this got me thinking.
I think we're spoonfeeding and we have been for quite some time. And it's getting worse. We live in an era where music is one click away. As soon as someone mentions a new band to me, the first thing I do is open up my laptop and listen to them. It's really, really easy. It's too fucking easy. I can't speak for anyone else but I have a tendency to value ANYTHING a lot more when I've worked for it, earnt it or somehow participated in it, and that includes music. But now....I don't spend time listening to a song, developing my own sense of narrative and actually creating (in part) the meaning of the song. Nope. I can just read the track-by-track breakdown online. I don't have to leave my house to buy the album, I can buy it online and have it delivered, download it for free, or just stream it. I don't wonder what the band are like live, I can find out on YouTube before I even bother to get a ticket. I don't even need to search very hard to discover new bands because I've got a couple of blogs which represent my kind of taste and I just read them every couple of days. It's an incredibly passive experience. It's all right there ready for me, pre-packed. It's a fucking microwave meal. And as a creator of music, I am just as guilty of anyone else of bending over backwards to “please the fans”, to play along and make it easy, to give people as much as we can whilst they sit at home and soak it up in front of a laptop. Tour diaries, studio diaries, track-by-track, free downloads, ready-signed CDs or LPs (you can order it online so you don't even have to leave your house, wait at a gig, and hope we'll sign it for you! Easy!). All these are now de rigeur in modern music. So of course people are pissed off we're not playing their town, because, just as with everything else for us of “Generation Y”, we all have a sense of entitlement. Music should be right where I want it, when I want it, I deserve it. Well actually, no, I don't.
In the world of commercial pop music, having a dumbed-down, passive, anonymous target market of consumers as the audience is normal. I don't really care, that's not my world. But in my world, where I perhaps naively consider music to be, I don't know, an important part of human culture, I do not want to see that devaluation. As an artist, I don't want music to be shoved in everyone's face until they're sick of it. I don't want it to be a passive experience. I do not want to explain everything. I do not want to make ten million videos or show everything that goes on behind the scenes. I want an active, participant, engaged audience who are alive, awake and PART of what's going on, not sleepwalkers. And as a music fan, I want bands to expect something of me, make me work for it a bit, get me involved, don't let me switch off, make me value the music that I discover so it doesn't become just another piece of disposable modern trash. I think we all have a part to play in shaking this up, whether it's my band, your band, your label, your blog, or just the way you open a laptop and make a snap decision on whether an artist is any good or not...let's see if we can invest ourselves a bit more please."
DiScuss this: Has music become too convenient?
Click here to buy Blood Red Shoes' new album. Here's a sample track:
Blood Red Shoes' new album Blood Red Shoes is out this week.
They play the following UK dates:
April 22, Bodega, Nottingham
Apr 23, Trinity Bristol
Apr 24, Academy 2, Birmingham
Apr 25, Concorde 2, Brighton
Apr 27, Oran Mor, Glasgow
Apr 28, Club Academy, Manchester
Apr 29, Waterfront, Norwich
Apr 30, Electric Ballroom, London
May 02, Cockpit, Leeds