Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Living by Numbers



The current plan is to release the After School Video Club album in January.  Exciting isn't it?  An album.... WOW!  It'll be on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon MP3, So On and So Forth.

Well, I'm excited.  But maths - as maths does - does its best to keep the excitement in check.

As much as I've been able to work out, in February 2013 the iTunes store had 26 million songs available.  As I type this, it now has 43 million songs.   That means, assuming a linear progression (which it might not be), 894,736 new songs are made available every month, or 29,824 new songs every single day.



The album is probably going to have 16 - yes, SIXTEEN - tracks on it.  Wowzers - that gets the probability up a bit, eh?  Yes it does - what that means, is that on the very day it is released, a whopping 0.053% of all the new music released will be by After School Video Club.

Double wow with knobs on.

The democratisation of music is a wonderful thing.  The fact I, you, anyone, can release a record at any time that can be bought instantly by billions of people all over the world is simply extraordinary, coming from an era when even buying music could be tough, and releasing it even tougher.  Streaming now makes it even easier, bypassing that whole thought process about whether any particular song is worth it (oh the effort).  But the obvious downside is that we are all now drowning in a sea - an ocean - of stuff.  Much of it is doubtless terrible, but again I'm struck by the inescapable thought that this can't entirely be the case.  Lost Songs is all about the hidden gems of the past, but how many great songs are released every single day that will be heard pretty much only by the artists themselves, their best mates and their mums?  Of those 30,000 songs per day, even if only one percent are any good at all, that's still 300 good brand new songs, every single day, 110,000 per year, all the artists hoping against hope that someone outside their Christmas Card list may actually notice they exist.

Well count me and my fatalism in.  By arming myself with maths and facts and confidently expecting nothing, I have reason on my side.  But maths and reason never stopped anyone did it?  I've just read that 32,000,000 people in the UK buy a lottery ticket every week, armed with the knowledge that they have a 1 in 14,000,000 chance of winning that jackpot.



Who looks daft now, eh?



Monday, 2 November 2015

Where was I?

Well, after a few months I have a fantastic, if slender, selection of Lost Song videos.  Some real gems, some really terrific artists that are criminally forgotten and ignored, and all of them labours of love.  Yet sadly… there’s not quite enough videos to do what I was setting out to do.  I simply ran out of ways to say “does anyone have any old band videos kicking around #abitpatheticbynow #retweetmyarse”.  Fitting perhaps, that my love song to failure was itself failing.  Well how bleedin’ poetic.



Mildly gloomy about this, I needed a bit of space so I could get that most elusive of things – perspective.  Much of the album has been recorded very quickly.  The day job (or one of them) is music for TV, a world of impossible deadlines where too much has to be achieved in too little time.  As a result, I have studio where I can work incredibly quickly – from first germ of an idea to a form that sounds really pretty decent can take only a few hours.  When at it, I feverishly swap between guitar, drums, synths and vocals in a giddy haze – everything already set up ready to go and a gazillion sounds available at the click of a button.  And I love working that way – as the track takes shape, I resent every millisecond spent attending to boring technical things, swearing profusely at all this badly designed tech preventing me getting ideas out of my head at anything slower than the speed of light squared.

Which is all very well.  But of course when creating a masterpiece out of thin air that sounds like the greatest work ever recorded in the history of mankind in 6 hours flat, there comes the hangover the next morning.  Could it possibly be that this isn’t actually a sublime masterpiece, but is in fact just a teensy bit crap?  Or in fact a lotsy bit crap?  And at best if it reveals itself to still have potential, it usually it takes me longer just to tidy up the mess I left the night before than it did to record it in the first place.



So the album being thrown together in a haze was one thing.  My voice was another – both literal and metaphorical.  The greatest thing about my voice is that it’s always available when I am.  Co-singer Lucy on the other hand is pretty experienced and rather good at this whole singing lark.  How did my vocals work next to Lucy’s?  And then there was the whole issue of what on earth a long-in-the-tooth TV composer / sound designer / writer was thinking in writing original material in an industry where being over 30 ensures the same fate as the characters in Logan’s Run – instant death.  I needed a few months away to figure it out, metaphorically packing my things and heading to the hills for deep contemplation (whilst in reality just packing my things, walking back up to the house and flopping in front of the TV).  Itching to press play daily, I kept resisting.  I was gripped with the idea that every week that passed without succumbing to listening was another crumb of perspective eventually won.  And growing was the feeling that when I finally did, I’d discover I’d made aural ricin, fit only for declaring a biohazard and reporting to the appropriate authorities for safe disposal.

After 3 months or so, the day finally came.  Eyes shut, face grimaced… I pressed play.

Eeek.

The eyes peeked open.

The grimace relaxed.

I liked it.  I genuinely really liked it.  Pretty much all of it.  And promptly wrote another song in celebration, just to prove it wasn’t a quirk of history.  And immediately declared the new one the best of all.



So, as Ian Fletcher would say, that’s all good then.  Or is it?  Really?  What if I’m a minority of one about it being any cop, with my delusion merely being deeper rooted than anything a flimsy three months can expose?  What about that absurdity of doing it in the first place?  What, in the end, is the point of After School Video Club, exactly?  How many times have I watched this episode of the Big Bang Theory and will Penny ever go back to long hair again?



Then it just clicked… I’m indulging in my second favourite hobby - overthinking things.  For here is the revelation – drum roll please - After School Video Club is…

is…

is…

is what I do when I’m not doing anything else.




I write TV music, I do TV sound, I write scripts from time to time, I have friends (really I do) and family.  But then there’s what I do purely for fun, playtime with all those lovely toys I own to do stuff that pays the mortgage.  Some people make pots – well bully for them, I do this and so there.  It’s absurd that at 40-something I might actually record an album and ask anyone to actually listen to the damn thing, but context is everything.  This isn't about going on a Pyramid-Stage-Or-Die quest, this is about throwing all my musical loves into a big musical pot, baking it for 45 minutes under a moderate heat, letting it stand for a while and then shoving my face right in it.

Alright, but an album isn't really meant to just sit on one computer in the whole world now, is it?  Of course not Guy no it isn't, and so yes yes if anyone else in the world – literally, ANYONE – likes it too, then what a lovely joy that would be.  And if they don’t… well boo sucks.  Cos it’s just playtime.  It’s what I'm doing for fun.  Other musicians might have an RnB band they play in on Friday nights at 9pm down the Frog and Radiator, or at Jazz Club at 2am.  Me, ever the life and soul of the party, I sing songs in me shed.  And as mid-life crises’ go, compared to all the usual embarrassing clich├ęs, it’s as safe as houses.  Or sheds.

It’s as safe as sheds.

(not my actual shed)
So now you know the plan, and can no doubt instantly see through my paper-thin self-protection mechanism activated to deal with the insurmountable odds of it getting anywhere near double-digit sales.  Get ready world… a remarkably insignificant album has just passed quality control, and is destined for release.

Probably.