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Feature Thu Jun 05 2008
“cllct.com is great because it is founded on the same fundamental principle that the DIY scene is founded on: the desire to share.” – Patrick Ripoll (Chicago Musician and cllct.com member)
The acronym D.I.Y. has come to represent many different ideals, concepts, and people over the years. It may mean one thing to Home Depot and something completely different to the desktop publisher folding and stapling on his/her bedroom floor at one in the morning. However, there is one universal truth when it comes to D.I.Y., and it is the idea of sharing, of not only the product but of the process.
In an era of myspace, blogs, and hype machines, you would think it would easy for a young musician to gain an audience. Well it is not as easy as you think. Even the smallest self-released projects have representation to send out e-mails and cds, following-up, promote tours and events. Where can the bedroom musician go to be heard, to share ideas, and to find validation in what they are doing? Last fall, 19 year-old musician Luke Morris (a.k.a. Secret Owl Society) of Shreveport, Louisiana felt he had something he wanted share, he was offended that the musician industry made it so difficult to simply give your music away, and he thought there might be other out there who felt the same way.
"To have a home for all these amazing musicians, who view music not as commodity, but as art, is something that is an absolute joy to be a part of." – James Eric (Chicago Musician and cllct.com member)
Since it's inception a mere six months ago, The Collective has featured 198 different musicians and house 289 releases. All are available to be streamed or downloaded for free. The collective's core contains several Chicago musicians, and is well promoted at several local shows. As a young site, Luke is still modifying the presentation, but the idea of sharing and the passion for music will never change.
Recently, Luke was kind enough to answer a few of our questions.
Gapers Block: Transmission: Where did the idea of the collective come from, and how long has it been in existence?
Luke Morris: The Collective website has only been around for a few months; November/December of 2007. The concept? That's been around for as long as I can remember. You can say that the counter-culture movement of the sixties made the idea popular, but they didn't quite invent it either. To answer that would be a philosophical question, something like: "Is a man taught generosity, or is he born with it?". Generosity and greed are two conflicting emotions that we all have, yet our lives are completely dominated by wealth and the acquisition of it. Somewhere along the line, the generous people must've lost some sort of battle with the greedy people. What I call 'the collective family' is the spirit of giving that lives on through all of us and unites us through a common bond, something given to us through the smiles of our grandfathers and the gifts of our uncles.
But, if you don't feel like being philosophical, the idea came around directly through the actions of the RIAA and the music industry. If they really don't want us sharing their music, then why should we? They can go to hell; we'd much rather be sharing music that wants to be shared.
"Luke really came out of left-field; one day, I had never heard of him, and before I knew it everyone I play music with was talking about him and the CLLCT...or the 001 Collective...or whatever it's called." – Redbear. (Chicago Musician and cllct.com member)
GB: What is the ultimate goal of the cllct? Is it unique to each musician involved?
LM: I'd have to say that it's definitely unique to each musician - some of them just want to get their music heard, some of them have less noble aspirations, and some of them are completely involved in the whole scene and contribute immensely (there are so many that I can thank, but a few major players are James Eric, Russ of Tinyfolk, Steven Morris of Existential Hero, and Patrick Ripoll, just to name a few).
The ultimate goal, my ultimate goal, is to usher in some sort of new golden age for the music industry. A new business model for the art that doesn't focus on the business, as just the word leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Everything is changing with the internet, and everyone knows it — even major artists are jumping on the free-music-bandwagon by the assload. CLLCT, by itself, won't really usher in anything — but a thousand websites doing the same thing as CLLCT will. And I'm glad to be a part of it.
"[cllct.com] is a lot more appealing than the traditional sort of top-down model that places such a big separation between people who are making music and people who are interested in it and writing about it." – Tinyfolk (cllct.com member)
GB: Have you been surprised by the response?
LM: Part of me, definitely. When the website was only a babe, I had no idea that so many people would champion it like they have - after the support of so many wonderful people, though, I felt like the family could conquer the world if it wanted to. In a way, it already has...who doesn't like free stuff?
GB: The Roaring Nineties compilation is a great idea and long over due. Are there more projects like that in the works?
LM: I got involved in CLLCT because a friend of mine asked me to. The music is free because it doesn't cost us anything to make it. The current media market pushes the idea that art is a consumable like anything else; that the purchaser should feel privileged for being able to purchase it. To me, the privilege lies with the artist, who is privileged to have the time and resources to be doing something she loves.
That being said, I'm also selling my latest album at shows, because I did put a significant amount of money into it. I wouldn't have a problem with people downloading it, though.
A lot of people blame sites like myspace for helping to create a culture of musicians who care more about how many people they can get out to their shows than they do about making music — for creating the idea that everyone should think that they can "make it." I don't think the problem starts or ends with myspace — I think it goes much deeper — but a site like CLLCT is a remedy of sorts — an electronic safe space of sorts where you can maintain total control over how your art is presented, and where anyone with an internet connection can download a significant body of work, instead of just streaming four or five songs at a low-quality bit rate.
The family voted on it and that idea came out triumphant, so I can't take any credit. I'm definitely happy with the turn out — so many people sent in songs that I had to use two CDs.
This was my first time really selling a CD, even though it's only to pay for the upkeep of the site. I don't think I'm going to do it again; I'm debating with myself whether to just put the whole thing online right now and continue to have the option to buy it until it's sold out. A bi or tri-monthly compilation is definitely in the works, but there's no way any of them will be for sale, only up for free download.
GB: Have you thought about turning cllct in a record label?
LM: The 001 Collective (the forefather of cllct) actually started as a netlabel, but that didn't last any longer than a few weeks. CLLCT will never be a record label, however. Even if I wanted to, the logistics of trying to sell that many albums would give me a heart attack pretty damned fast. We're trying to move the industry forward, though, so I've been brainstorming on ways we can do that. Having an etsy-like site where bands can put up merch for sale is one option, figuring how to get the cllct music on movies and television shows is another. It's hard trying to find an option where the money aspect doesn't overshadow the art, and that's what we're trying to do.
"…an electronic safe space of sorts where you can maintain total control over how your art is presented, and where anyone with an internet connection can download a significant body of work, instead of just streaming four or five songs at a low-quality bit rate." – Porches (Chicago Musician and cllct.com member)
GB: How has the collective helped you as a musician?
LM: Oh, in so many ways! I'm only nineteen and it helps a lot knowing that there are other artists out there like me. Some of my favorite artists are on CLLCT, and the beauty of their songs is entrenched in the emotion of the songs and not in the mixing or mastering.
I didn't think I would be doing so many collaborations, either. The collective community has been really fun to work with, and I love them all.
For more on cllct.com and the listen to any of the 198 musicians visit their website.
About the Author:
Jason Behrends is an accountant by day and an insomniac blogger/writer at night. He runs the arts and culture blog What to Wear During an Orange Alert, as the soon to be launched Orange Alert Press. In addition, he is the Art Editor for the on-line literary journals Thieves Jargon and decomP, and the music editor for This Zine Will Change Your Life. He has a series of interviews being published by the downstate Rural Messengers Press.