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Smackdown: Too Many Bands?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The digital age has spawned a do-it-yourself revolution. It's easier than ever to record music at home and distribute it using tools like MySpace and iTunes. But the band boom has its drawbacks, as the wealth of buzz acts can be overwhelming. Today, as more than 1900 artists descend on Austin, Texas, for the annual South by Southwest music conference, we ask: "How much is too much?" We'll debate our fragmented musical landscape with Stuart Berman, online editor of Toronto's Eye Weekly magazine, and Chris Richards, pop music critic of the Washington Post.

Weigh in: Are there too many bands? When it comes to music available online, do you want more or less to choose from?


Stuart Berman and Chris Richards

Comments [20]

Jeff Harrow from Blauvelt, NY

Hey Jay (from NY)!!!!

How do you know SAFFIRE?

Both of my daughters are in that band!!!

Thanks for the mention! (@14:10)

Jeff from Blauvelt

Mar. 16 2010 04:32 PM
Dw Dunphy from Red Bank, NJ

As with all things, a lot of one's opinion is going to depend on their age and prior engagement with music. As someone from the LP/CD set, I'm happy to see a lot of bands out there but not finding many that produce work I'll still be interested in come 20 years from now.

Add to that the reality that performers and groups in this new mega-glut aren't going to last ten years, hype or not, because the urgency to sweep the stage for the next big thing is heightened. The fun that used to be in finding a band and growing with them over time, and still enjoying their music a decade after their breakup, is gone and replaced by a sort of binge and purge mentality, bolstered by the conveniences of the iPod and Blogosphere.

I like Vampire Weekend quite a bit. I don't see them becoming a band that stays around too long; do you?

Mar. 16 2010 03:20 PM
Sandra from Astoria

I was on college radio in the '90s, and I thought there were too many bands then! Of all the CDs that came in each week, only 10% were listenable. I was really into indie rock, so I just gravitated toward the labels that I already trusted: K, Kill Rock Stars, Teenbeat, Merge, Matador...

Today it's overwhelming and kinda sad. I remember indie rock as an antidote to the disposable mainstream that was here today and gone tomorrow. Now indie seems as disposable and faddish as anything.

Mar. 16 2010 02:41 PM
urbangranolagirl from northern nj

Are there too many bands on the internet?? No. SXSW is just one of the many filters that sorts out what is good and what will thrive and prosper. In regards to each band playing so many shows - Glass Trees, a band from Jersey City is heading down there to play 5+ shows in 4 days and one of the reasons they are going, is to play a lot of shows and get tighter as a band and refine their sound. (and of course get new fans!)

Mar. 16 2010 02:37 PM
Angela Means from Bethlehem, PA

there are too many bands playing music that isn't challenging. true underground bands are not on myspace etc, after all these are corporate forums. venues are booking bands by how much online attention they have, which is not positive for the future of music as a political or cultural impact.

Mar. 16 2010 02:37 PM
Chriss from NJ

Jeremy is right.

I need a filter- a DJ was always the best- to help me.

I'm not going to spend all day "discovering" bands.

Fortunately, every semester, I ask my students.

But that makes me feel soooooo old......

Mar. 16 2010 02:36 PM
Rick from NY, NY

I disagree that tons of music has "always been out there", home recording technology has clearly given an advantage to mac users and blog friendly bands to saturate an already crowded scene. More music means more bad music, too. It steals listeners attention away from the talented. A second thought- what's worse is most of these DIY electro-pop sound an awful lot like--Eachother!

Mar. 16 2010 02:36 PM
Nikolai Antonie

This guy obviously has not listened to the "Choice" Radiolab!!

Mar. 16 2010 02:35 PM
Jason from Brooklyn

It can be overwhelming--but that's kind of the fun of it too. I'm constantly discovering new things thanks to the internet, but from time to time it takes me a while. I've only recently discovered and begun to enjoy Vampire Weekend--even though I knew of them, had heard parts of their first record (I even worked at a store that had an in-store with them...). But sometimes it takes time to get around to everything.

Mar. 16 2010 02:34 PM
Angela Means from Bethlehem, PA

underground bands now, are bands that don't join myspace etc, after all these are corporate driven forums.
there are too many bands that are not bringing anything new to the audiences now, and these bands have business savvy which means the real bohemians with the real messages are harder to be come exposed to.
venues now are basically booking on a bands on line presence, this is not positive for the future of musics political and cultural impact.

Mar. 16 2010 02:33 PM
detv8 from East Village

And just like satellite TV, endless channels and bands and nothing of interest.......who will be listening to MIA 5 years from now? Nobody.......

Mar. 16 2010 02:32 PM
bob from NYC

too many bands, but we are living in era of overproduction of almost everything so we learn to navigate somehow in this ocean. i just wanted to buy a cordless vacoom cleaner. 149 models to chose from. is it a good thing? with bands i wonder, in couple of years, how we will have a conversation about the music if everybody will listen to something the other person don't know.

Mar. 16 2010 02:32 PM
Marcie Colleen from Jersey City

I love it! I have a queue of about 5 albums I want to buy right now on iTunes...and half of those of are from bands I just learned about this past week. As someone who loves an eclectic variety of music its a candy store out there!

Mar. 16 2010 02:31 PM
JP from NJ

10+ years ago, you needed a big record deal to get noticed and only a handful of groups were lucky enough to get one. Otherwise you’d never be herd. Now, Ironically, everyone and there brother has a band and its almost impossible to get herd over the masses….

Mar. 16 2010 02:28 PM
Jeremy Shatan from NYC

You need to find filters - your show for one, podcasts from other NPR stations, friends, blogs - once you have few you can trust, you will have an increased likelihood of finding stuff you like. Not to mention knowing what to avoid!

Mar. 16 2010 02:28 PM
Thomas Harper from Brooklyn

There's a ton of bands out there. After following music blogs in the early 2000's, I've actually quit reading blogs and have gone back to just totally listening to what my friends recommends after the over saturation of artists.

Never can there be to many bands, but I think genres are becoming much more useful than actual band names these days. Will there be a day where the idea of a traveling showcase takes precedent over single acts?

Another point, I remember when Apple's Garageband application came out, I had wondered if this was going to fuel the fire for another generation of bands. I think it poured gasoline on the fire and it was an explosion. I wonder if others saw this accessibility as part of the cause or the explosion coming from an anti technology interest?

Mar. 16 2010 02:27 PM
John from Bklyn

I was in a band that played SXSW in 1988, 1989, and 1991. Even way back then, I thought there were too many bands!

By the way, we distributed cassettes to already loaded down A&R types who probably left most of them in their hotel waste baskets! Cassettes! How antiquated.

Mar. 16 2010 02:21 PM
Tom Abbott from Brooklyn

I think there are too many radio DJ's.

Mar. 16 2010 02:20 PM
urbangranolagirl from northern nj

Odd choice of opening music guys...Although Route 66 goes through Texas, it doesn't go anywhere near Austin!

Mar. 16 2010 02:09 PM
Frank Grimaldi from EV NYC

I attend about 5 concerts a month since I started a BLOG in October. What I found is that there are an overwhelming number of bands to see. However, these bands seem to be pulling in fans and filling concert halls. One look at The Bowery Presents Calendar and you will see that more than 1/2 the shows are sold out.

I remember in decades gone by when there were fewer bands and half empty concert halls.

Albeit, I live in New York and nowadays the halls often have 3 bands on the bill. The facts are that the bands are being heard, fans are listening and halls are being filled. Let the overwhelming number of bands keep coming - people seem to be finding what they like and halls are filled to prove it.

Frank Grimaldi

Mar. 16 2010 11:01 AM

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