Electronic Polymath Peer Review

by Clint on January 19th 2011

As an artist, it's often the case that exposure for your work comes in the form of reviews. Back in the early 90's when I put out my first releases, this was certainly the case. You'd release music and the marketing potential was largely determined by club play (if dance music) or radio play, or reviews in magazines (they had these before there was an "interweb"). It really is impressive just how much things have changed in such a short amount of time.

Club play continues to be a big thing for dance and pop music, but does anyone actually read reviews anymore? If you do, do you actually go buy something based on what you read? At some point in the past reviews might be good or bad. The integrity of a magazine or reviewer seemed to be tied to honesty. If something sounded godawful or was a complete rip-off of something that came before it, a review would say it! Magazines and websites are afraid of offending labels and publishing companies who they depend on for advertising revenue that pay their bills. How many times can I read a review of a "Dark IDM" release that is not a review at all, but a description? "haunting ethereal soundscapes with glitch like broken computer future blah blah blah". Really? Do people read this stuff and then go buy it?

Point 1: Reviews are next to worthless now.

Within the electronic music world, there's an interesting thing going on. As technology makes creating electronic music increasingly easy (doesn't mean there is more GOOD music, just more of it...) there are more and more electronic musicians. Electronic musicians are the largest consumers of electronic music. My guess is that AT LEAST 50% of the people that attend shows of performers and their laptops also have laptops and make their own music with it. The electronic music culture is incestuous. The line between fan and peer gets increasingly blurry as more and more of your audience are actually performers themselves.

Point 2: Your fans have become your peers.

Today on January 19th 2011, Ableton, Inc, the makers of my favorite software platform for creating, producing, and performing my art published an Artist feature on my work. Clint Sand: Electronic Polymath.

I attracted the attention of Ableton through my passion for their Max for Live software and application of it to create maxforlive.com, the world's largest platform for user-developed Max for Live devices. In the feature, they ask about maxforlive.com (of course) but cover my history, current work as synnack, and future work with 0xf8 Studios. We talk all about my use of Analog Modular synths with Max for Live and Ableton Live (also covered at length here on this blog). The main photo was taken by Jennifer McClain in her studio in front of a projection of one of my Max for Live patches, and also includes photos of me with analog synths from Dave's subHarmonic studios. The remaining photos of me in subHarmonic were taken by Karla Clute as part of the v2.5 promo shoot. (Thank you Jennifer, Dave, and Karla!).

So what is the connection between the synnack Ableton feature, and the two points above? There are many things to be proud of in my career that I can look back on as key accomplishments. Either because they were the most fun, or represented recognition that there was value in what I do. Top of mind have been my many record contracts, the cut.rate.box tour of Europe, the many shows I sat in with Architect and Haujobb, working with Das Ich, Kurt Harland from Information Society, Francis Preve, & Daniel Myer on the New Religion CD, the Mono Chrome signing to Metropolis Records and release of "Collapse and Sever" (this CD is still probably my best overall work both in terms of song writing and production), headlining Infest, blowing the Kinetik Festival up with Torrent Vaccine, the release party for the synnack DVD. However important each of these things are to me, the Ableton.com feature represents an accomplishment that will top the list for a very long time. Reviews are worthless. Fans have become peers. The Ableton feature, though, is the ulimtate PEER REVIEW!

I am far more likely to be nervous to play a show in front of 100 other musicians who know exactly how to use the same tools I use than I am to play in front of anyone else. Peers can call your bluff. They can see through faking. They know the "other side of the screen" just like you do. To be recognized by your peers is recognition that without the wall of secrecy that a computer can be on stage - your work stands for something. Peer review is the great neutralizer. Recognition by your peers in the industry is an incredibly sincere form of flattery. After all, if your peers didn't think you were good they would never say so (unlike magazine reviews). They know too much. Their credibility is still based on judgement.

I want to thank Dennis, Martin, and Olaf at Ableton for their judgement, for taking the time to meet with me in the Ableton NYC and Berlin offices, and for taking an interest in synnack. Peer recognition by such an impactful player in the history of computer music is something I will never forget.



P.S. I noticed Ableton published this link a few hours ago, and already it is the #4 search result for my name on Google. Wow that was quick!

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