I wrote this a few weeks ago, but it is now up on the WBEZ tumblr. Talking Soundcloud, Youtube, and the use of women’s bodies to sell music…
by Britt Julious
Soundcloud is a great equalizer in music presentation. Everyday I add new musicians, labels, and collectives to follow and everyday, I welcome a steady stream of music. It was Soundcloud that first convinced me that a remix could be just as good as (and sometimes, even better than) the original. I had given up on Azealia Banks until Emerging Master Remixer Kaytranada gave “ATM JAM” a new and much needed second life. And Ciara’s awkward and house-y “Overdose” became the uber slow jam it was meant to be when Duncan Gerow created a flawless mashup with IAMNOBODI’s “Bubble Bath Dreams.”
I listen to and write a lot about music, especially things in the electronic variety. If it’s got bleeps and bloops, I’m probably going to like it. And Soundcloud is the perfect place for bleeps and bloops. Established and emerging producers can use the site to test audiences reactions to their sounds. It is less than a blog post, but more than a mere mp3 share. I don’t think they intended to become a social networking site, but they’ve done a good job in connecting people around the world, filtering out the genre jargon jumbo.
But one of Soundcloud’s best attributes is its minimalist presentation. I am always a little fearful of its updates, but the site and app have done an excellent job of maintaining its primary function: a place to share and discover music.
I thought about it when listening to the new Sasha Go Hard and Tink single. Youtube is still one of the best places to discover obscure older music. But for newer music, many musicians and labels use a very specific type of image to share their sounds: lots of leg, lots of skin, lots of women. It’s problematic on the surface, but considering electronic music’s lack of female representation, the problem runs deeper. Who are the creators? And who do they see as their fans?
And if all you’re looking for is a radio rip or a new bootleg from a DJ set, it is a quick, yet powerfully jarring visual that is meant to … what? Distract from a subpar remix? Act as a visual accompaniment to the dirtiest of synths? If the music is solid, it should be able to stand on its own.
It has become so familiar now that I’m not offended, not really. I guess that’s how those things work. First it bothers you, then you’re numb to it. But I’ve also always been curious as to how this became the visual trope that so many musicians use in order to “sell” their sound. Majesticcasual are the leaders of this imagery. For a taste, just look at some of their playlists. It’s a sharp statement to make. Many of these musicians begin their careers anonymously, so the imagery seems to say, “Like me, but if you don’t, here’s some boobs.”
It reminds me of Empress Of, who first emerged as a solo artist by creating “colorminutes,” short clips of her songs imposed on solid-colored backgrounds. Each one had a different number and before she began releasing the full versions, they were the only way you could experience her music. It was as powerful of a statement as any: This is my music. Just listen.