Just a few more thoughts about the “Old 61” and I’ll be ready to move on. During the past several months, certain things became apparent to me about how an ideal music community and distribution network might operate. There were so many things T61 was doing right, or was just on the edge of doing right. It wasn’t perfect. The competition was tough, but the charts always sounded very good and there was at least a chance for an unsigned artist to come out of nowhere and get into the charts alongside the stars.
I didn’t really think consciously about those lessons, but I’m going to make an effort. It’s too late to help the site so many of us just left. The owners obviously don’t care and are committed to the choices they’ve made. But if we keep them in mind, maybe we can have a positive impact on the places we go to share and listen to music.
Here are some lessons I think we learned as a community (but Sam and James probably didn’t):
1. Music – or at least good music – is not a commodity. A song is a gift from the heart. It means something to the artist, who puts it out there even at the risk of rejection, hoping to find a connection. Artists were able to find their niche under the old T61 system. A song might not top the charts, might not be for everyone, but might have a dozen people who loved it intensely. In an ideal world, any artist, however esoteric, should be able to make those connections.
2. Musicians are people. They aren’t factories that make a product, but living breathing people. It’s so easy to forget that when you don’t meet them and talk to them. When you get to know them as people, you are more likely to support them with your money, or by helping them get the word out about their music.
3. Listeners are people. They aren’t just numbers for an artist to count and measure. Getting to know their fans and making personal connections is also good for musicians. It helps them create and it helps them succeed. The artists who were inconsiderate or inactive on the site tended to be less successful.
4. Musicians are also music lovers. Taking some time to appreciate others’ music helps build connections with fans and with other musicians.
5. We’re all in this together. An ideal music environment should be friendly and enjoyable for both musicians and listeners. What hurts the musicians will probably also hurt the fans, and vice versa.
Maybe you can think of others? Maybe I’m just being idealistic. I am not a business person, so I can’t say for sure that the music environment I described is the way to make everyone money. Maybe the cynics are right and the “innovative” new T61 model, with fewer choices and even fewer connections, is the way to make music profitable. Maybe folks who work for big companies like good share croppers and passive listeners who like a bit of random music in the background and can’t be bothered to pay attention are the future of music.
All I know is the way we were enjoying music on T61 felt right to me. It felt very close to what I want the future of music to become.