Maltese music stars give their take on how the dot.com revolution revolutionised the local music industry.
Gadgets reached out to renowned Maltese artists and music producers such as Kevin Paul, Ira Losco, Alexandra Alden, and Peter Borg to explore how these musicians adapted to (and even took advantage of) the internet in their work.
Ira Losco appreciates the connectivity it gives her with the audience.
“I’m more in touch with my fans than ever with the variety of social media platforms. Every year there are more platforms to release your music to the public. There’s more proximity to the fans now.”
Like Ira Losco, local singer-songwriter Kevin Paul recognizes the instantaneous power of the Internet.
“Through the Internet, obviously, it’s easier to reach a bigger audience, and it’s more instant, so as soon as you release a song, you get the feedback in front of your face straight away. The Internet gives you the analytics and view count, so you can see how a song is doing.”
It’s also proved to be an incredible tool for those young artists trying to get their work noticed.
For Alexandra Alden, it allowed her to make her breakthrough as a leading name in the music scene.
“I made my first fans through Facebook, basically, which was a blessing really as I had no other way to reach people. I think the Internet has been amazing in general to connect with fans.”
However the accessibility of the Internet has a downside. Songs are constantly being uploaded from amateurs and professionals alike, leading to a worrying over-abundance of content. Ironically, this may make it harder for musicians to be noticed.
For Bettina Cassar, one half of the duo The New Victorians, the industry is now more democratized but over-saturated.
“The playing field is more level now, but also there are just so many more people in the field, and the challenge is ‘how do you stand out from that noise? To sift between what’s ‘good’ and what’s ‘better’ is a lot harder.”
Alden shares this concern, explaining that “there’s far less quality control now, whereas before music was more curated by experts.”
Peter Borg, member of the hugely popular local band Red Electrick, feels that “the value of music has decreased.” This is due to the ease at which it can be downloaded or streamed online.
“When something is easy to access it’s value goes down. It’s so easy to access any song you want at any time. The internet is a huge marketing platform that is free to use…the problem is that it’s free for everyone, so the competition becomes so much harder.”
Of course, not only has the Internet made competition between artists more fierce, but actually making money from the music is a lot harder too. With CD sales dwindling, and music easily downloaded for free, local artists now look to live performances to generate their main revenue.
Borg says this is a complete reversal from the situation 20 years ago:
“In the 90s, early 2000s, you would tour to sell your record, because record sales were the biggest earner. Now, it’s the opposite. We release music so we get booked for gigs. The music has become marketing for gigs.”
When it comes to generating revenue, Cassar also sees her online singles as a means to get attention to get paid work.
“The singles are like business cards, for people to listen to decide if they want to book you for their event. For The New Victorians, we make money through gigging, radio plays and endorsements.”
The Internet has not only changed the way we access music, but even the way we listen to it. Due to the abundance of media we consume, our attention spans have greatly reduced.
Ira, an artist who focuses on making commercially successful music, says this has a subconscious influence on her work.
“You choose to write a song that you would like to be on the radio in a very different way to the kind of song you’d have as a filler on an album. I aim to write my songs so they are hits, so I do need to keep that in mind. At the same time, it’s only natural for artists to adapt to the tastes of their time.”
Peter Borg also is aware of this influence, explaining that he now gets requests for songs as short as 2 minutes.
“Nowadays, if you want a song to appeal to the mass you can’t have an intro. There are psychological factors you have to bear in mind when producing music.”
As technology progresses, music will keep finding itself having to catch up, and adapt. While those who fall behind may find themselves drowning under the competition, those who successfully adapt and ride the waves could well sail into international success. Change is inevitable, but the attitude towards it will make all the difference.
As Bob Dylan so prophetically put it:
The times, they are a-changin’.
The Nitty Gritty
Ever since the dawn of the LP Disc in the late 1940s, the release of music would follow a similar pattern: musicians would release a single, or perhaps two, followed by an album of collected songs, and typically an artist wouldn’t put out an album more than once every 2 years (Marketing and productions cost are prohibitively expensive). However the Internet means that artists can altogether bypass that.
Charli XCX is an English singer and songwriter who has taken advantage of this potential, releasing a number of singles over a regular basis, streaming her music to a global audience of millions. Billie Eilish, the hottest name in the industry right now, avoided the studio route entirely, creating and releasing her debut album from her childhood bedroom, along with brother and collaborator Finneas.