Monday, November 17, 2008

Metalic k.o. - What do you want from live?

Sometimes it's hard to feel sorry for international mega-stars, they have fame, adulation and money - but sometimes they also catch an unnecessary crock of criticism.

Witness Metallica, they took the unfortunate stance of opposing Napster & music-file-sharing at a time when everyone began to steal music and they've been whipping boys ever since. Whatever your opinion on this issue and the point that it's led us to in the decline of recorded music sales, surely they deserve a second-chance?

They're currently under fire (again) for two reasons and I have sympathy for them on one of these. Frontman James Hetfield took the time during their O2 gig (£5 entry and proceeds to charity remember) to ask people to put down their phones and just enjoy themselves. His comment was that "a 2 second blurb of shitty Metallica on youtube is not gonna make you famous". Naturally it ended up on youtube:

YOUTUBE

Obviously I believe in free will and free choice but this is one of those things that also irritate the hell out of me. Why is it that so many people feel the need to take photos or video when they're at a gig? Is it not enough to be there and to enjoy it? Do you really have to prove you were there? Do you really have to record a clip of video that shows nothing but some flashing lights and poor audio to remind you of a minute or two of a song that you missed because you were too busy f**king about with your 'phone?

I went to see Nickelback at the NEC (or is it LG Arena?) last week - at the behest of my 12 yr old daughter. It was just the same there. The band had barely walked on-stage before hundreds of brightly-lit screens appeared above people's heads. Those people presumably now have photo and video of some shadows, bangs and flashes - there was a lot of pyro - and a loud song-intro they'll barely be able to deceipher. That'll be something to show the grandchildren.

I blame the growth of the so-called 'social media', in some ways it's restricting our actual sociability. Instead of actually socialising we are too busy creating a profile or image of ourselves that shows how sociable we are. We're too busy trying to record a vision or write a message about the experience, instead of just experiencing it. I don't need a Large Hadron Collider to prove that a different universe exists; it's all around me - people not living but trying to demonstrate that they lived. They were nearly in the moment, but that moment passed them by.

As for Metallica, it seems all is lost. They are now seen as the flag-bearers of the old system, 21st Century Luddites. Lest we forget that they changed metal/rock forever and are one of the World's best live bands. Their 2nd crime last week was to be release a great new album, but on CD version that is clearly over-compressed and consequently sounds crap. Ironically, one of the reasons that this has become obvious is that there's also a game version of the same recording - for Guitar Hero - which sounds much better. This is a crime I can't exonerate them from; frankly they should be ashamed of themselves.

It could be an argument for what are apparently termed - 'audiophiles' - people who can recognise when something sounds wrong. I'm not sure what's wrong with being one of those. The decline of recorded music - be it CD or MP3 - in my mind is partially due to bad technique at the mastering stage of CDs. Old folk like me can hear the difference and the difference is not good.

This is potentially the subject of a wider argument, which I may return to at some stage. In the interim there are some links below which give the jist of the situation, please pursue them if you're interested.

I'm constantly told that the live sector is flourishing. Perhaps it's because live now sounds much better than CD or MP3. Or perhaps it's because people need content for their youtube and facebook pages.........

http://blog.wired.com/music/2008/09/does-metallicas.html

http://blog.wired.com/music/2008/09/universal-cance.html

http://mastering-media.blogspot.com/2008/09/metallica-death-magnetic-sounds-better.html

http://blog.wired.com/music/2008/05/will-metallica.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clqfjh_TeSU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlNZ6aDkAHM&feature=related

http://mastering-media.blogspot.com/2008/09/metallica-death-magnetic-stop-loudness.html

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