Beat collectives or artist collectives, as I am sure you are aware are at the forefront of electronic music. In many ways they have both replaced the creative group of “the band” and merged it with the small artist run labels that have become popular in recent years. What we are left with then are a number of artists who seem to have their own specific style of producing music, which ends up morphing into a whole other entity as a group. Collaborations, joint tours, and general social media tomfoolery result and we end up getting some really great music for our earholes. This collective idea is being thrown about quite a bit so I am hoping to figure out exactly what it means and with habit of research maybe figure out if it is at all different than the electronic labels we have been seeing in recent years. One of the interesting things to look at with music collectives is to see whether they really are helping artists after they have “made it” and just how long they might last.
It really is a wonder that we have only started to see this type of thing in the past couple of years in electronic music. Music groups have always populated other genres from the door-wop group, the more traditional rock band, to hip-hop and rap groups. The list goes on, but it has always been understood that it helps to have somebody to bounce creative ideas off of. Somebody who shares a lot with you creatively who wants to see both of you succeed is going to be helpful in any creative process. Electronic music has seen some duos and group, and labels have often provided artists with people to collaborate with easily, but more of as an afterthought. Collectives started popping up a few years ago with members being from all over the world, given that the internet is ingrained in electronic music in many ways it comes as no surprise that these collectives started with artists in many different cities getting together online. Soundcloud seems to be targeted more at bedroom producers and electronic music lovers who turn to the internet to find all of the experimental genre breaking beats they require.
Soulection is easily one of my favorite collectives and is in many ways the epitome of what these collectives can become. They started with a small radio show that focused on the beats that inspired them and have grown to a music collective with artists playing in cities all over the world, a near ubiquitous stream of social media exploits and a discography teeming with solid tracks. A few months back Soulection released their entire discography for free for a few days which resulted in a few gigabytes of great music that was not available on soundcloud becoming the soundtrack to many of my articles. Soulection has succeeded in creating a recognizable aesthetic with what are now household names in the Future genre, they also continue to snatch up new talents and promote them easily.
For the sake of argument we can say that “Soulection status” is pretty much the goal of many of these beat collectives. The artists support each other on social media leading to a huge follower base receiving any new music you put out almost immediately. The artists are constantly collaborating and remixing each other which keeps the artists from sounding too similar, but also pushes them to experiment with different sounds. If you look at their website and are relatively knowledgable about electronic music and future in particular you will see that some of the producers are much more successful than others.
You don’t see the huge names in electronic and dance music taking part in collectives mainly because they have already made it. They are recognizable and people will give their tracks a listen when they promote them themselves on their social media. So is there a point where an artist can become too big for a music collective? At what point does supporting other artists begin to dilute your goal of getting your music out there to people who will enjoy it and then share it themselves. The idea of the music collective in essence relies on balanced growth within the collective and for the artists to genuinely care about each other and their respective success. Put simply these artists need to be doing it for a love of music rather than to simply up their soundcloud numbers.
The fans of these collectives also seem to be a huge part of their success because of the interaction they provide on all of these social mediums. The success of the collective is riding on the fans wanting to find more music like their newest favorite artist. Sometimes to find your new favorite song it seems like hard work, sifting through all of those tracks to find one in the back catalog you can get behind. I stumbled on an artist a month or so back who seems to be an active part of a very inactive collective called Clouds Collective, which has a few great tracks but is severely lacking in social media output. Sadly that seems to make or break many of these collectives as they either capitalize on the short viral success of good track, or end up updating their fans weeks later with another song or remix.
The fans also seem to be able to support artists in totally new ways as well. A share on social media may be similar to paying for a song when an artist is starting out, but buying some merchandise lets you show love for a number of artists who you may be listening to for free. In this way collectives have improved on and replaced the idea of the label with different revenue streams and PR practices. These collectives also seem to spawn other creative projects very easily, for instance take a look at Soulection artist Ta-ku. He has more side projects and artistic outlets than I have ever seen and they all piggyback off the success of each other and funnel it back into the collective.
So what have we learned? Nothing really I guess, artist collectives are just that and so have no real rules or guidelines. They seem to be working though, and I am loving the music and other types of art that are coming out of them. They may not be able to replace traditional record labels, but they are certainly giving them a run. Feel free to share some of your favorite collectives and thoughts on what this means for electronic music.