A day at Netaudio London 2011

I attended Netaudio London Conference on Sunday, 15th of May, with my good friend, netlabel owner and musician Vince Millet, from Secret Archives of the Vatican. Vince has written his own blog post on the conference, which I urge you to read, but here are my own observations and musings.

This was my first time at a Netaudio conference, but have attended excellent un-conferences, barcamps and panel discussions before, so was looking forward with an open mind, and open ears, to a fascinating discussion. If I was to try and explain my feelings in the language used in the conference it would go something like this….. (ahem)….

“The didactic invective of the panel, produced, in me, a strong sense of anomie. Perhaps I was not attuned to the Marxist zeitgeist, but the the balance between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft were clearly at odds with my sub-cultural expectations, leading me to engage in a degree of Schadenfreude.”

In short I didn’t really understand what the panel were talking about, because I don’t speak bollocks.

The day was split into three panels:

  1. Politics, Protest and Sound
  2. Creativity and Collaboration in the Internet Era
  3. Digital Futures and Analogue Survivals

In my view there were only two high-points. In the second panel the high point was Tamara Barnett-Herrin, who explained how she turned her musical “writers block” into a collaborative project, “Calendar Songs”, in which she released one song per month, and then worked with remixers to produce and perform an album in 2008.

In the first panel the high point was Matthew Herbert (keynote) presenting his view of 17 “crises” that the music industry is currently facing, such as technique (for example the overuse of autotune), texture, distribution, listening, philosophy, studios, etc. However the underlying narrative was clearly a Marxist/anti-capitalist agenda, the strength of which I have not heard since I studied sociology in the 1980s, and I thought had died out in the post-Blair era. I should have know better. I was in Camden after all.

As for the other speakers? Well two clearly did not feel they could comfortably “converse” and therefore read their monotonous “essays” verbatim, whilst another spent 30 minutes talking about network hi-fi devices in a presentation that should have take 5 minutes (maximum) to deliver.

Two other presentations talked about the UK Uncut program of activities and one was from an artist showing her works from as far back as 1965 and had absolutely no relevance to the net or audio.

But it was the underlying Marxist bullshit that got me most annoyed about this event. The blame for all the woes for the music industry was placed firmly at the feet of capitalism, and the cure was anti-capitalism.

Music and musicians have existed long before capitalism was invented, and it’s even easier today to engage in non-capitalist (not anti-capitalist) ventures than it ever has been. Netlabels, where the musician owns the labour and the means of production, are in the ascendance. This is the future of netaudio.

To the organizers of this even I say: 4/10 Must try harder!

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2 Comments

  1. May 21, 2011
    Reply

    unfortunately I wasn’t able to follow any of the discussions on sunday but had a stroll through the sound installations, listened to some newcomer bands/ musicians, and follow the whole show at koko’s during the late evening. all i experienced was entertaining, fresh, thought- and playful – as well as there was always an idea behind what’s going on, which interested me. i am quite certain the organizers are significantly far away from marxist ideology and not promoting anti-cpitalistic ideas by/ for themselves too hard. so i would turn the above mentioned focus of criticism to the question of how much of the content presented on a conference one is able/ willing to control during the process of the programmation of a festival. how much of the content and thoughts presented would you like to filter? i think, the intention was to find links between experimental music (scene) on one side and the political impetus it might has on the other. i remeber a disussion we had during the netaudio berlin festival where one participant was arguing exactly the same way – promoting the idea that artists don’t need money because what they do is art – and therefor free of financial aspects by the very concept. (hard to understand? well…) making money from music is still perspected by a relevant group of grail’s guardians as the fall from grace. exactly the opposite of what 99% of all the artists expect, btw. one of the big disadvantages of that development is, that the future perspectives are very limited – as the netlabel landscape is condemned to stuck with freaks, newcomers and amateurs only. no misunderstandings: i think this is ok on one side – but a shame on the other – as i see it as a waste of so many valuable opportunities… regarded in this light, the direction the netaudio london festival takes: shifitng it’s focus away from netlabels and cc towards experimental electronics – is not supposed to be finished – as the anti-capitalisitc topic might indicate. another reason to ban ideology (not the netlabel please..!) from any festival and musical concept.

    a much debated point in the forefield of the festival amongst the organizers was to change its name – due to the fact that the festival should not focus on netlabls and cc music any more and expectations might go wrong. the festival organizers in the end decided to stay with the name they had chosen in 2006 for their first festival – as they since than promote the festival’s idea is to present “sounds from the internet” and creative (art) works related to the net as a driving force. that does not necessarily mean cc as a licence and netlabel as a platform of distribution and promotion. while it was the main focus in 2006 is has dropped down to a 50/50 equivalent in 2008 and developed to a small side aspect of few participants on the newcomer’s stage in 2011. if you’re a bit hardboiled you might consider this as a seismograph of the netaudio activities – wasting its potential with full hands, open hearts and a smile…

    • May 21, 2011
      Reply

      Some good points there XR. Overall I wish I’d not had to offer such a damning review of the conference, but felt so disappointed that I was compelled to do so. In reality I know I should have been more careful and just not bothered to attend.

      I do think the organizers should have renamed the conference. There was just so much non-audio discussion it was misleading.

      I’m going to meet up with some bloggers in Berlin on Monday and see what they think a netaudio conference should be structured. I’m sure it will be interesting.

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