Unrepresented Music is an independent organisation dedicated to supporting and managing today’s generation of genre-defying musicians. Director Ryan Swainson is a busy man, juggling his work with Unrepresented with his Junkie Kut project, a a fusion of hardcore punk and extreme techno, but he managed to find the time to talk to M3 about streaming music services, Creative Commons and how to conquer public apathy…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Sure, my names Ryan Swainson, I run a music organisation / record label called Unrepresented Music. I also make electronic / industrial / punk music under the name “Junkie Kut” which takes up a lot of my time.
What inspired you to form Unrepresented Music? What is your own musical background?
Ever since I was little I always loved music and never really cared much for genres and stereotypes. As a teenager I jumped around being in punk bands to partying at all night psy-trance free parties. My lust for powerful music naturally led me towards more extreme sounds in with which I co-founded an underground electronic DIY label called Splatterkore Reck-ords.
What motivated me to start Unrepresented Music was that I felt there wasn’t a label / manager /promoter etc that really wanted to push “alternative underground” music to the next level. I wanted to start doing things in a more old skool way; flyers, posters, distribution etc, whilst keeping the music current, exiting and different! A lot of our bands have electronic / techno / speedcore elements within a more traditional band set up. I really like this kind of stuff! Fuck the rules hey!?
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
To be honest, at the moment I use Spotify & YouTube for 99% of my music listening. However, I’ve builtup a nice record collection by accident and so I’m going to buy a record player aswell as a CD player so I can start buying music again and supporting the music I like. I’m not interested in what format it’s in particularly but I do love the “full package” that you can get with a CD or Vinyl.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
Yes I do! With the rise of YouTube / Spotify etc, a lot of people have become impatient and close minded with music. Nowadays someone can tell you about a band and within seconds you can have it blasting out your speakers, and if you don’t like it or are not in the mood, you turn it off and put something else on. When I was in school I would borrow CDs from my mates, copy them and then PLAY THEM TO DEATH! Even if I didn’t like it to begin with, I would listen to it so much until it made sense to me. I think that way of listening to an album as art in surely in vast decline commercially. I love full length albums though and can’t wait to start buying CDs again for that reason.
Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
Well to start with I know that people do still buy music, but I also know that the economy is fucked and people are skint, so we are not buying as much physical music as we were 20 years ago. From the perspective of being in a band, I think that sure, it is possible to make a living from gigs alone, but you have got to be on the right shows and playing to the right people. I get paid a decent fee for big gigs in Europe but we just don’t have a big enough scene for my style in the UK without artist expenses coming out of the promoter’s pocket which really sucks for everyone. Having said that, it depends on what you do. I can’t see you making a full time wage if you’re an underground avant-garde noise artist or something, but change that to avant-garde noise with a bit of dubstep and you’ve got more options.
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up and coming concert promoter in the 21st century?
Ha ha ha! Getting people to leave their house! In a world of apathy where everyone thinks that they won’t see / hear anything new that hasn’t been done before, it can be hard to get people to come to your night, even if it’s the best line up that ever existed for the cheapest price. Because there’s so much choice these days you have to really get in people’s heads and make them believe it’s going to be the best gig they’ve ever been to. This again comes down to the economy issue. I guarantee, if people were generally a bit better off, a lot of these questions wouldn’t even need to be asked. On the plus side, you can’t put a value on a life changing experience (which a gig can often offer), so we’ve got to keep working at it for the sake of our souls!
Do you think that the abundance of easily available record music online has led many people to view the live experience as the ‘authentic’ way to experience music?
For sure yeah! It’s amazing that we can discover music online and then go see them live. Whenever I sign a band to the label I have to see them live first. Live performance is even more important these days because everyone has the tools to make music but not everyone has the passion, motivation & energy to put on an awesome live show. I once heard a live show referred to as a “contemporary religious experience” and it’s stuck with me. Few will disagree that a live gig is the most authentic way to experience a band.
Do you think traditional copyright laws are still enforceable in the digital age, or do you think we will have to rethink the concept of copyright itself?
It’s a tricky one. I know a lot of artists who I work with, including myself have released stuff before on Creative Commons for free download which is great. I use copyright on digital stuff now only for an emergency scenario, it’s the same as contracts. The idea that you cannot use a sample from another piece of work is I think absurd, especially when clearance can cost so much. I recently pressed my new Junkie Kut album on Unrepresented and took out all the spoken word samples and re-recorded them myself, and the others were by people who I hunted down online for their permission in writing.
So I think copyright is good for worst case scenarios but there is definately a line where it becomes ridiculous, especially when you can get around it so easily.
Similarly, do you think that copyright legislation could pose a threat to the creativity of artists who make use of a wide variety of samples within their work?
Sure, as said above, it makes life harder for these artists. But to be honest, if you use a Rhianna vocal and turn it into a synth / pad, who’s going to know? I like to think of it as “recycling” which is a word bureaucrats love, so I think were alright! Hahaha!
What do you personally believe the future of music distribution will look like?
With the decline of record sales in general, and the big record stores closing down, as well as the internet communication developments, I can see the vast majority of alternative music distribution becoming direct-to-fan (from artists / label websites & at gigs). I think this is especially the case in niche alternative music; people love to buy from the artist themselves. For example, if you wanted to buy a new album from HMV it would cost you £15 and if you got it from the artist directly, £8 or £9 or less. Digital distribution is a bit different because we all want our music on Spotify / iTunes etc, and it helps with an aggregator to make that possible. Overall, mainstream multimillion sellers will always do ok with physical distro, but for the not so fortunate, it’s likely better to do it yourself!
Finally, what does the future hold for Unrepresented Music?
We are releasing the new EP by electronic post punk band ROBOT (A) in September, then will be releasing music in physical formats every 4/5 months after that. There are plans for lots of live events from August onwards all around the UK and I will be recruiting more members to the Unrepresented Music team so we can push things forward. There are also plans for artists European tours and all day events! Stay tuned, the future is bright!