Word by Stuart Stubbs

There must be volumised books on this by now, so obsessed are we with everything World Wide Web. Trolling, cookies, privacy, piracy, ISO devices, iPlayer, Netflix, hashtags – if Napster started up now, Metallica wouldn’t even clock it: there’s just too much other digital noise to be dealing with. And by ‘dealing with’, I mean ‘calculating’, especially for those connected to the music industry. The questions are always the same – ‘is this good or bad?’ and, ‘just how scared should we be?’. That you might be reading this on our website or in the digital version of Loud And Quiet 46, but are most likely holding a physical magazine, means our ears tend to burn whenever the Internet heats up and/or the real world takes a hit. One month into 2013, the web is on fire and reality – music reality – is a bloody pulp.

HMV’s slip into administration on January 14 (36 days before the time of print) has shown early on in this young year just how Internet-eyed we’ve become, first in the company’s collapse due to a shift in us shopping online, but moreover in how quickly the whole sorry affair seems to have been marked ‘spam’. It made major news headlines, but only for a day or two, and even then the general consensus seemed to be that the world saw it coming. Owning shops around the country – were they fucking mad!? And then, after Everything Everything told John Snow “Who cares?” on Channel 4 News, we all got back to checking Twitter in front of the TV.

On January 30, monthly music magazine Artrocker announced that they were switching off the printing press, not to shut down altogether, but rather to relaunch itself as a “100% tablet publication”. The news was spread with cheery spin (“We can’t express in words how excited we are”) but another music paper has vanished from the newsstand all the same. Two, in fact, since The Stool Pigeon announced its complete retirement on February 6 – the biggest loss to UK underground music journalism since Everett True’s Plan B title was bundled into the back of a car by growing pressure from the Web in 2009.

The Stool Pigeon‘s announcement came as a shock, delivered in a transparent fashion typical to the paper’s frank style. The crux of it was they were knackered, not broke. As founding editor Phil Hebblethwaite noted how printing the paper had become “increasingly less effective and exciting than publishing journalism online” it was a modest goodbye, and yet one that is increasingly hard to deny. The Internet is nothing if not effective. (Incidentally, iTunes reached 25 billion downloads on the day of Stool Pigeon’s announcement).

By online networking giant Cisco’s reckoning, video content will make up 90% of online traffic by the end of 2013, a bold number that YouTube head Robert Kyncl was of course keen to repeat last year. And perhaps that is where print press catches a break, in the eye of the Internet’s insensitive storm. I mean, if 90% of what we look at online becomes video based, is it not a matter of time that we’ll fancy something else, something not on a computer screen at all, even? It’s like how Ozzy Osborne warned his kids when they first wanted tattoos, feeling that some ink would make them stand out, as most young people do – “but everyone’s got one,” he said, “so if you want to be noticed or different, my best advice is to not get any tattoos at all.” And you thought he was just a rock’n’roll casualty.

It’s important to not get too misty-eyed and retro-manic about archaic formats and ‘the good old days’. We print a magazine, but there’s no denying that the Internet’s good far outweighs its bad.  It’s made life a hell of a lot easier, if faster and a less personable, but then I’m not quite old enough to remember a time when things were much different myself. And besides, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, as they say, which is why I always find it alarming when people kick off about Facebook – an integral part of so many peoples’ lives that nobody has paid for – telling a market research company that you like jam. When I ask ‘when will the Internet eat itself?’, it’s not really a day that I hanker for, but I don’t think it’s inconceivable that certain aspects of the web will feed itself to death either.

In December 2012 while interviewing Adam Bainbridge aka Kindness, he told me of how a friend of his was questioning their would-be-dream career of making music videos on account of how months of work are so quickly dismissed online. “Even the most successful music videos are only hot for a day,” he explained, “and then there’s another hundred tomorrow.” It’s no wonder. Ninety. Per. Cent. It begs the question of why bother at all, doesn’t it?

Originally published in Loud And Quiet 46Read the issue in full here.