In the comments on the last post, Realdoc asked:
'How come no-one is playing all this stuff on the radio though, it's not as if it's difficult. Like Valerie I got Matson Jones, Tilly and the Wall, Howe Gelb and Lovage after your last cast and wondered why the hell I hadn't heard any of it before. Shouldn't 6 Music or someone be playing this stuff?
Which is an excellent question, and not just because it includes a pleasing endorsement for my inaugural podcast. Why do none of the established radio stations play obscure American indie tunes?
Well, in fact, I'm pretty sure they do, from time to time anyway. I've heard some good stuff on BBC 6 Music on the couple of occasions I've listened to it (although I was probably only tuning in for the purpose of stalking DJ Dr Snackspot - hello DJ Dr S.).
But the real answer is that it's all to do with the internet and the so-called long tail, a phrase coined by Wired editor Chris Anderson to denote a large volume made up of lots and lots of little things. There's a *huge* amount of music on the internet now, as bands don't need their record labels to do their distribution any more - they can just upload their stuff straight to the web, and it's available worldwide.
And where there's a huge amount of music, there are a huge number of musical styles and a huge number of niche audiences, rather than one 'mass' audience. So I like jangly American indie-pop (among other things). Valerie and Realdoc, as it turns out, also like jangly American indie-pop. (Hurrah!). Nibus, on the other hand, likes ambient stuff with tweeting birds and the sound of telephone wires oscillating in the breeze. Rafael likes mashups. James likes obscure covers and sparkly electro-pop. Prolix likes alt.country. Tim likes literate indie-pop. Billy likes intelligent alternative rock. Llewtrah likes metal. Spinny likes indie-rock. Cello likes Rameau. Some of us might like some of the same things, but essentially our tastes are all quite different.
All this is great, but the mass media, like Radio 1, and XFM, and BBC6 Music, are all predicated on playing to as big an audience as possible, at least within their 'brand identity'. They can't cater to everyone's taste - there's no mass media radio station that could keep even the twelve people listed above happy all the time. So they have to play it safe, and choose songs that are going to be liked - as opposed to loved - by a lot of people. I don't know how they choose what they're going to play (but I would very much like to know, so if anyone has any insight then please do chip in), but what you end up with is a bunch of 'safe' music from bands that are usually on established record labels with proper marketing machines behind them.
BUT (and cello will hate me for saying this, because it's an extension of the same argument we've been having all over the internet), the great thing about music and the internet is that you don't HAVE to listen to the mass-media radio any more for your fix of music. Why listen to a radio station that's been chosen to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, when you can listen to a radio station that only plays the music you like or are likely to like?
That's the thinking behind last.fm and pandora.com, which are personalised radio stations (and, in the case of last.fm, also a social community) that only play music that they calculate will appeal to you. And it works like a dream, broadly speaking. Having tried them both, I can't think why anyone would want or need to listen to Radio 1 or XFM any more.
Some might argue that by listening to music that lots of other people allegedly like, you're participating in an enriching shared cultural experience. But I don't want to have a shared cultural experience with a load of other people, not in terms of music anyway. Music is culty and snobbish - and I like it that way. I don't want to like music that lots of other people like. I want to feel like the music I like belongs to *me*. I'll happily share it with you, dear blog readers, because you're all lovely, and this is a blog, and blogs are the new spiritual home of music - but I don't want to see it on MTV, and I don't want to hear it on Radio 1, and I don't ever want to see Howe Gelb in Heat, in fact I'd be quite happy never knowing what Howe Gelb looks like. I like being in a tiny niche audience for the music I like, and I'm happy for it to stay that way.
Of course, if I have my way, the bands I like won't ever make it 'big', and they won't get rich or marry Hollywood stars or get inducted into the UK Hall of Fame (whatever that means) or have kids named after fruit.
So in conclusion: I am a selfish élitist snob when it comes to music, but I'm happy about that.
Which is no kind of answer to Realdoc's original question at all, is it? Would anyone else like to have a go?
UPDATE: Someone has just found this blog by searching for 'iPod as Ideological State Apparatus'. Blimey. Discuss.