Blog 1418: The Beta Mode Song

When I release something – a song, an album, a video – that doesn’t always mean it’s “finished”. If only living, breathing creations could be captured and somehow continue to live and breathe – and grow…

I used to think revisiting old ideas was going backwards – and artistically, going backwards is, for me at least, death. If I wrote a song when I was 19, why on earth would I dig it up again at age 29? Could it mean I’d run out of new things to say? That my best years were behind me?

But nowadays I look at it in this way: No, it’s not “going backwards” – it simply took me ten years to finish that song.

Releasing a song doesn’t mean the process of its creation is over – it’s simply the most flattering snapshot I can take of that song at that moment. And that snapshot is taken at that moment more for the sake of sharing it than because anything ever feels truly “finished” to me.

In a world where it was acceptable, I’d keep reworking and re-releasing my already-released songs (while releasing new material as well, of course). If it were possible, I’d release Beta-Mode recordings that I could update at any time. Instead of buying / downloading my song, you’d subscribe to it. You’d be along for the ride for its exploration, its metamorphosis. You’d always have the latest, “best” edition.

Yes, it could get messy – but it could be really interesting, too. As a listener, you’d have a relationship with that song – not just a feeling of ownership, but a connection to its history, a personal understanding of how it got to where it is now, and an appreciation that it may not remain the same for much longer. The implications of that could be… huge.

The Sketches Project was my mild attempt at this. I chose Vimeo as the initial release format because, unlike YouTube (which is obviously far more popular for music distribution and discovery), the videos could be updated – so you’d always witness the latest version of that song+video. But even that process had a “completion” date, as signified by the ultimate release of the songs in album form. At that point, at least in music biz terms, you’re expected to drop those tracks and move onto the next thing. And that has never made sense to me.

The closest I can truly come to the Beta-Mode idea is each song’s evolving live version. And in the meantime, I give you the recorded pieces to explore further yourself.

I don’t entirely agree with the argument that “Your job as a musician is to create great art, not to change the business model”. If the business model influences the art form – the “pop song” and the “album” are units based on profitable models devised an industrial age ago – then the artist will be influenced, and hopefully inspired, by the way their art will be consumed, which will determine / is determined by how it is released.

I don’t have an ending for this blog post. Maybe one will come to me… later.

Ray Mann | Showya 2.0

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