Dirt Dress’ “Sonic Death” off 2009’s Perdido En La Suciedad Vol. 2 is a haircut you can set your watch to of a track. There’s not much gristle in it, just enough to aid the frying. I am a vegetarian who cuts his own hair and I don’t know what I’m talking about.
But I think this song will be appreciated by self-proclaimed fans of White Fence, The Velvet Underground (ever heard of ’em?), and Sunny and the Sunsets. Let it run into the excellent, subsequent closer “Sonic Boom” for further elucidation.
Now, while we’re on the topic of “Sonic Death,” I’d like to talk about the Bandcamp acquisition by Epic Games.
It is a dark day for the internet and the sharing of culture without compromised values.
What you are witnessing is not the burning of one central bridge, but hundreds of thousands of individual ones.
Bandcamp allowed cultural information to be uploaded for free and priced by the creator on the understanding that if it sold, profits would be shared. Meanwhile, every element of culture lurches dramatically in the opposite direction.
Bandcamp was decent, weird and malleable in an era of legalized graft. Not only that, it was profitable, sustainable and thriving. Now a white flag has been raised over the cultural stronghold for no apparent reason. Its existence was a living reproach to the scummy subscription-streaming models. It made them look cheap and trashy. And they are. But now there won’t be any alternative.
It’s safe to assume Bandcamp was bought to be killed; mutilated, squashed, and merged.
What you are witnessing is a centralized, trusted printing press burn which formerly operated without censorship or barriers to entry. It functioned properly, paid fairly, and allowed equal access for all. It has been wiped out of existence and in the aftermath the commentariat mutter, “Don’t worry, the monks will copy the manuscripts by hand.”
True, but light-years from ideal. This is its own kind of dark age. This inflicts possibly irreparable harm that will otherwise need to be undone by goodwill and striving over decades. It is a matter of scale and proximity. These are orders of magnitude different, from local on one hand to almost globally inclusive on the other.
Cool music will still be made. Small scenes will still rise and fall. But we might not know about them. They will be far more inaccessible to humans that don’t happen to accidentally reside directly next to them. Or, if otherwise made accessible, they’ll be humiliated by being presented alongside Geico ads and have their credibility instantly undermined at the outset.
Your relative tolerance for what is considered ‘cool’ will be altered. You and your children will take advertisements stapled to the temple of culture for granted and consider monied, powerful interests a necessary part of forging your identity, an ever-present aside that is enveloped into the whole.
It doesn’t need to be this way and you are poorer for this. We are all poorer for this having happened. Morally, spiritually, and, if you’re an artist, literally.
What you are witnessing is an ecosystem in collapse. Maybe you don’t use Bandcamp directly and consider it inconvenient, browser-centric or otherwise outmoded. That’s fine. But I guarantee that some of the artists whose labor you consume use it both for promotion and consumption. And now the chain of culture which ends up at your door has been even further compromised and polluted.
It is very difficult to imagine another mainstream platform arising that allows for that level of freedom and fairness; it already feels like a relic of a bygone era. It is hard to quantify and articulate the loss.
I know we’ll all still make and share music. I know losing a limb isn’t death. It is just quite sad knowing that more bad things will be taken for granted as the default or normal route in a culture that already suffers from so many terrible assumptions.
Another light and a hope of a more decent, collaborative and fair internet has been snuffed out. Hopefully there will be others with cunning, capable of engineering things, less corruptible, more faithful to their origins and mission, to replace it and offer some kind of future worth having.
I am thinking of Aaron Swartz tonight, about his brutal and senseless persecution at the hands of the Justice Department. He was mercilessly harassed and prosecuted for the great sin of sharing science that was overwhelmingly taxpayer funded but remains perversely hidden behind paywalls.
We shouldn’t have been reliant upon Bandcamp, a private albeit seemingly unambiguously good company. But we were. Any decent, moral civilization would immediately claim the board a right of basic communication, nationalize it as an archive of culture, keep intact its fair and transparent model of sustainable sharing. But we do not reside within a decent civilization.
These are not conversations that we as a society are prepared to engage in. That we had in the present era a functional model of a near idealized implementation, operative and realized, this is why the loss feels so significant to so many.
Let this be a reminder: Unionize, collectivize, co-opt while you still can. Take the unanticipated corruption out of the hands of a handful of individuals who will always, eventually die, sell-out or otherwise spoil a movement.
We can attempt to publicly shame Ethan Diamond and the team at Bandcamp. We can also thank them for holding out for as long as they could. They’ve clearly betrayed their users and disgraced themselves, but only after a genuinely good effort. They are subject to the same forces that besmirch all of our lives.
What you are watching is a gurning man sticking a knife through the throat of a unicorn and a crowd of broken, gig economy droids muttering, “Yes, it’s sad, but maybe the hide will make a lovely coat for one lucky boy.”
I am so fucking tired of being asked to celebrate defeats.