Tuesday, October 14, 2008

SI BEGG on digital download guff

“For me, it’s about the music first… I don’t care if it’s on wax cylinder, taped off the radio, a gatefold-vinyl, or flac download. A tune is a tune, is a tune.”

At last count, Si Begg had at least 50 available digital download releases on Beatport alone, plus a wad over on this blog’s favourite digital downloader, Addictech.

Si Begg is the guy, Ken Ishii once told me, that was up there with the best producers on the planet, the man who has released mesmerizing records under multiple other aliases like S.I. Futures, Buckfunk 3000, Lenny Logan, Cabbage Boy, and Dr. Nowhere versus The Maverick DJ, for labels such as NovaMute, Tresor, Ninja Tune, Scandinavia, Language, Trope, and his own Mosquito and Noodles imprints.

Back in 2001, he released The Complete Death of Cool. In my book, it was the album of the year as much for its hilariously eclectic, musically brilliant content, as for the sardonic title. It came as no surprise then that when I interviewed him straight after the record came out, he told me a lot of producers took themselves way too seriously.

Given his extensive experience with vinyl and CD releases of his own music (check out his entry on Discogs, and you’ll likely be bamboozled), plus his work with his labels, it’s downright essential to get his take on the digital download phenomenon.

“For me, it’s about the music first… I don’t care if it’s on wax cylinder, taped off the radio, a gatefold-vinyl, or FLAC download. A tune is a tune, is a tune. Of course, packaging and design do have a role to play, but it’s about the music first.”

There are, however, downsides, he suggests. “There are now so many releases to wade through, it can be hard work. 12-inches were a nice design ‘object’, and I still believe vinyl played on a decent system sounds better.”

The upsides?

“It has massively democratized parts of the music business, especially in the dance and electronica fields,” he assessed. “We’re getting closer to a more level playing field, where major labels don’t call the shots so much – in theory, a small label on Beatport has just as much chance as a major to get noticed and shift units.”

He’s on a roll with this theme. “You can release multiple versions of the same track for barely any extra cost, which leaves far more room for experimentation—why not stick up that weird track you thought was too ‘out there’ for the vinyl release?

“Even if it only sells 10 copies, it doesn’t matter. It’s easier to get stuff worldwide, with no high costs for the punters buying imports, and also far easier to get hold of the releases you want, rather than having to deal with anal or elitist record shops, and so on.”

On a final note, he echoes the sentiments a lot of like-minded peers are floating right now.

“I find that most people who are anti-download fall into two camps: Greedy people who think it makes the music easier to share, therefore will cut back on their profits – do you want people to hear your music? Or make money? – and the elitist types who liked the fact that they were one of only 800 people who had that rare Juan Atkins release on Metroplex, and enjoyed being part of a select ‘club’ of other anal types, and hate the idea that now just about anyone can download those rare tracks for a quid or so.”

The rest of this interview is stuck up on Beatportal here: Firesider with Si Begg. And the lad did a lovely remix of my Little Nobody track, We Call It Crack House, which you can check out by double-clickin’ here—sneaky propaganda bombadier beetle #22.

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