Most liberal, enlightened, grown-up Americans have become that way by working hard at it. Some have to slough off the cultural impositions of conservative and religious ideologies; I'm one of those children-of-a-child-of-the-sixties who fights to rid himself of ideas like, "root chakras" and, "meaningful coincidence."
But sometimes I can't prevent myself from making superstitious connections: the 001 Collective, a contemporary collective of musicians who are distributing their music for free using powerful peer-to-peer technology, were meant to cross my path. And yours too, I reckon.
It happened the day after New Year's. Google alerted that my name had made a new appearance on the web and after investigating the link I was left completely mystified. My name was nowhere to be found on the entire website But "secret download society?" How could I (I who am professionally charged with the task of discovering and licensing free music) not click through?
What I found on the other side of that link is the 001 Collective and I think it's a combination of a few social forces that haven't stood in the same room together. It's a music blog / BitTorrent index / record label / authentic freak folk / new twee / 8 bit scene. Unlike a lot of other interesting music sites on the web involving experimental distribution, this is a group whose first orienting principle is aesthetic and cultural alignment. No one's looking for an ad-driven revenue stream or seeking VC funding. They're just getting their art out there the most hyper-efficient way they know how.
You don't really need very much money to start a label-esque collective these days: It just takes one computer geek. This one's name is Secret Owl. (Or no, Luke Morris. But he makes wonderful music under the name Secret Owl and for all I know, he writes PHP under the name Secret Owl too.)
I've spoken to the founder by email and his head is completely in the right place about our shifting music business culture. The collective has posted a manifesto on their website and it reveals an interesting fact: the idea for this free music collective was born from the death of Oink, a popular illegal file sharing community shut down several months ago.
The "free culture movement" has a good grasp on the political and technological aspects of this shift towards a new music distribution model but it has thus far lacked aesthetic cohesion. The 001 Collective may very well represent the only missing member at the table: young artists, doing what they have always done in a DIY fashion, operating in cities and small towns across America.
I'm placing my bets now: this is a forbearer for a new model of group communication and mass distribution. From all of us old-timers at WFMU, we wish you great luck in your new communications experiment.
Here are a few sample tracks from the hundreds of songs available for free download at 001: