PART TWO: The shelf life of tracks

Tracks, singles, anthems, or anything else you feel like calling them, are the bread and butter along with the bane of the music industry. We’re not talking exclusively electronic music here. Have you listened to the radio at any point in the past few years? The repetitive nature of music has gotten to the point where you can turn on the radio for 15 minutes today, and then 15 minutes tomorrow and you could probably hear the same song playing. Here’s how it all comes to be in the world of techno. A DJ, on a regular day if he’s good, will get tons of records in the mail. Records (vinyl) that only have one or two tracks on them, I’m not talking about free CDs here. These records come from record companies, promoters, agents, fans, or anyone else that’s made a cool sounding song and thinks it would be good to play. So, let’s say the DJ is going through his pile of records and pulls out a new one for his gig that night. We’ll call it Record A. That night the DJ puts Record A on the turntable and the crowd loves it. The DJ then keeps record A in his permanent record bag and uses it whenever he feels the need. Eventually someone asks him what that record is, or he does an interview and mentions the songs he’s been recently playing, or he informs the record company of how much he likes it, something like that. To put it another way, “the word is out” about Record A. Other DJs find copies and start playing it, other DJs remix it and start playing those copies. Eventually Record A is recognizable to club goers and fans alike. At this point, most records are replaced by a newer track and the cycle repeats itself. This keeps the club scene fresh and new. Sometimes, just sometimes, the media gets a hold of a record and its popularity explodes. Despite what you may think, this is a very very bad thing. I point your attention to anything made by Fat Boy Slim. How long did it take for you to get sick of hearing those songs on the radio? Now, think about how long those tracks had actually been being used. Yup, those of you who hear “Praise You” two years before the CD hit are cursing the radio to this day. A more recent example is Iio’s “Rapture.” A great track, lots of emotion, it was really fun to listen to… a year ago when I heard it in Avalon in Boston. Now it all over the radio and my roommate is listening to it non-stop. I suppose because it’s played at the club he goes to. That in itself is kind of sad. That the DJ of that club either just found it, or that they’re still playing it, take your pick.

You see, the whole idea behind music like this is that it’s supposed to change. It changes with the season, it changes with the ebbs and tides of tastes, it changes depending on what club you’re at and what DJ is spinning. DJs very rarely have a set, written down, to the minute, planned out, before the hit the decks. It doesn’t work that way. 10 minutes before they start playing, the DJ usually has no idea what he’s going to play an hour from then. They may have tracks that they want to include, and probably a “last track” of the night, but that’s about it.

Just remember, if you hear a techno-ish, dance-ish track on the radio, it’s probably been remixed, retouched, reedited and replayed for at least a year. And while its not a bad thing to listen to those tracks, since most of the time it’s has to be a good track in order to have the longevity to make it that far, they do get old fast. Especially to people that have hear them before. For those of you who are just finding techno and all you know of it are the things you’ve heard on the radio or once of twice at a club, cheer up, all is not lost. I would suggest that they check out magazines and websites that do nothing but inform people about new, good tracks. Especially British import magazines and websites for record shops in Europe. They know what’s hot and what’s already old and tired months before it reaches US soil. They’re not dictating what hot or not, they’re just informing people of what’s selling. Chances are, if you hear someone from a record store say that they can’t keep copies of the new Coast to Coast single on their shelves, it might be a good one.

Lastly, remember that it’s a much bigger thrill to find a song no one’s heard of and be listening to it when it gets popular than to be the “last one into the pool.” So, go find your own damn music and avoid the radio at all costs.

Resources you might like to check out:
Digitally Imported Radio – a great streaming web radio site with news and always fresh tracks
DJ Mixes 2k – a random little site with whole DJ sets to download… and more importantly, the track lists.
TranceAddict – kinda sketchy, but always full of the freshest stuff. great site.
Radio 1 – you can’t get more direct than this. The official site for the UKs BBC Radio 1.
BedRock and Vandit – two record companies from two of my favorite DJs. See what new tracks the companies are putting out this month.
MixMag and Mixer – two nifty magazines with a bunch of info.
KISS online – a club, a festival, a promotional tool… and music info too.

That sound be enough to hold you over. Tomorrow, Part Three: Fucking Candy Ravers and the 15-year-old Oakenfold Fans. Till then.