A few days ago, I read the news. The French label I had loved for so long was closing its doors. Yes, Institubes, the people who supported artists like Surkin, Das Glow, Bobmo, Teki Latex, Tacteel, and a whole host of other amazing producers were throwing in the towel. Their reasoning, however depressing, struck a chord with me:
” . . . It’s always been a bit of an uphill battle. But it got worse and worse. At first it was fun to figure out ways to get people to check out our music. But once that’s done and you have something resembling an audience, it becomes apparent that this is not really your job. Your job is to reconcile the public with the very idea of buying records. All the power to you if you can bear it.
We’re closing shop because the operation is losing too much money, this much is clear. Most of what we could have done to prevent or delay this outcome reside in two words: lifestyle and branding. Investing in t-shirts and co-branding, scoring “collaborations” or sponsorship deals with deep-pocketed companies. I have but a regret: we actually did it sometimes. We should have said no more often. Bands struggling to get together with brands, artists and audience deriving more validity from corporate interest than from anything else, bands happy to learn that in the future they would have to “take charge of their own promotion”: this wasn’t for us. In other words, on our small scale, we should have been able to carve a non-capitalist niche within the larger corporate world. I thought, being young and naive when we started, that “underground” meant just that . . . “
In other words, they are closing out before selling out – quite literally.
“Not only because we no longer sell shit (and even when you do, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re selling free shit), but also because tracks are peaking faster than tumblr memes. In our historical moment, music is everywhere but second or third or tenth to many other interests and areas of culture. Fashion, Apple, video games, “devices”, social media, etc. And that’s cool, I guess. But I don’t want to have to be a function of fashion. Nor do I want to urge an artist to publish half-baked tracks every month in order to stay “relevant”. Depleted accounts is one thing, but depleted attentions?”
I feel like this almost every day when I pore over an article or spend hours making a mix and I feel like no one is listening. I feel this way when I see sites that put about 10 seconds of thought into their posts get thousands of hits. Part of getting the word out about your brand, product, whatever is selling yourself, and sometimes, people are quite reluctant to do that, especially if it means a dumbing down of what they put out or a total reduction in quality and presentation to appease people who don’t want to give the attention to read more than a sentence. Twitter pretty much sums up our present lifestyle: post anything, pay little attention. It’s unfortunate that Institubes fell victim to our society’s turn for the worse (and the economic downfall that came along with it), but their work will always be remembered.
I will never forget the times I saw Surkin DJ at Studio B or shed a tear while listening to Para One’s “Midnight Swim (Original Mix)” on the train going over the bridge. Their music is fun, inspiring, and really a testament of innovation. In order to honor the people who brought me some of my favorite music, I created a mini-mix using some of my favorite old tracks by several artists who got famous BECAUSE of the folks behind Institubes. Enjoy:
Retail DJ – Institubes Tribute
(click to play; click the small arrow on the right to download)
1. Das Glow – Vulcanice
2. Bobmo – Rock the
3. Surkin – Kiss ‘n Horns
4. High Powered Boys – Hoes Get Down
5. Tacteel – Feel It, Feel It
6. Bobmo – Legally Dead for 4’31
7. Para One – Midnight Swim (Surkin Drowning Mix)
8. Bobmo – Get ‘Em, Junior
9. DJ Mehdi – Lucky Boy (Surkin Remix)
10. Para One – Dudun-Dun
Read the entire Institubes letter here
– Retail DJ