Pop music is, in my opinion, derided more for its omnipresence than its artistic merits. I’m certain this wouldn’t be the exact sentiment of other fans of non-mainstream styles of music, but I’m gonna go out there and say they’d likely agree that this at least makes up a part of their disdain for it. If Ulver were given the same attention as One Direction, I might feel differently about the latter. Whatever music floats up to the surface is often downright bizarre when you deconstruct it, so it deserves a degree of interest for that fact along. The problem with anything existing on the surface, even if only briefly, however, is that it hides the wealth of wonders deeper down in the ocean of audio releases. What’s worse, most of these sounds won’t last.
The amount of music being made every day is astonishing. It’s now easier to make music than ever before, and finding a cheap platform to host it online is often easier. Course, people still like the physical object – vinyl consumption has been on the rise for some time now, for example – so online releases are often coupled with runs of records, home-burnt CDrs, and self-dubbed cassettes in wrapped in equally unique artwork. These may only reflect the taste and inclination of a few, but as so much that winds up on the radio waves is there as much for marketing expertise as sonic savvy, it would be naïve to presume that future historians wouldn’t give two hoots about it. But that’s beside the point, really, ‘cause, as I mentioned above, these sounds won’t last.
You see, barely any of this niche music of which I speak makes its way into the archives, and this isn’t through the archives not wanting it. Nearly every legal deposit library in Australia lists recorded music as one of the many types of published items it asks creators to submit. The National Film and Sound Archive also wants it. The problem comes down to a lack of knowing. Many institutions will gladly seek out these kinds of releases, but the aforementioned surfeit of local creative output means it often passes us by. If the creators themselves started taking the initiative, this trend, well… wouldn’t. We’d start seeing a wider diversity of sound in our cultural repositories, and the people in the future looking back would hear a richer soundscape when trying to nut out what the heck we used to listen to. If you don’t believe that this is the case, do a quick search for your favourite local indie band in Trove, the front-end for Australia’s National Bibliographic Database, and you’ll see what I mean.
A few nights back, I was slowly coming out of a dream-state, and imagined that the sound of rain outside was actually the sound of streams of 7 inch records flowing into collections like those mentioned above (the SLV too, for example *cough*). It was amazing. As I awoke, it took me what felt like an age to realise that it was just rain, and that most 7 inch records produced independently weren’t finding their way into such places. The weather was grim, but that re-realisation just made the day much sadder.
So please, if you make music, do a quick search on Trove and the NFSA’s catalogue. If your releases aren’t there, you know what to do. And record labels: this call-out is ESPECIALLY for you. Make it a policy to deposit every new release with the NFSA and your respective state or territory legal deposit library.