Interview – Chris Corsano

Drummer Chris Corsano is known for his improvisational skills, and has colobarated with an overwhelming array of artists, including Björk, Thurston Moore, Ben Chasny, Jim O’Rourke and even Jandek. Chris told M3 about underground distribution, and how culture evolves with it’s products…

photo credit: Federico Bernocchi

M3 – 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?
Chris – It depends what bands are you talking about. I have a suspicion that this is probably true for large, mainstream acts dealing with major labels. At least, that’s what we’re constantly being told in the news, etc. But for independent and underground music, I think the story is more complex and harder to quantify because the means of production and distribution on a lot of underground CDRs/LPs/cassettes are basically part of their own merch-table shadow economy. There’s no data out there on the total amount of underground recordings sold in say 1992 vs. 2002 vs. 2012. With the explosion of homemade CDRs in the last 10-15 years, I don’t know if it’s that people are buying less things, or they’re still buying the same amount but it’s just that there are more releases now.

Regardless, touring and selling records at shows is how I’ve done it for a while now. I can’t say I’ve noticed a post-digital slump in record-buying of my own stuff…maybe a little. It’s always varied so much from tour to tour that it’s hard to tell. Again, if I were an accountant and not a drummer, I probably would’ve kept some real numbers on this stuff and been able to give you an exact answer. Oh well.

Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
Again, I only have anectdotal evidence to offer from experience with independent record stores. As far as the big chains go, I don’t really care that they’ve gone the way of the dinosaur. They were a boring business model and more often than not, they’d be squeezing out the little guy. Little record stores, on the other hand, always seem to have operated at the brink of collapse. I know a  bunch that have closed in recent years but also some new and great ones opened. As always, the ones that are smart/lucky enough to be able to adapt and find a niche will survive the longest.

What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Each format has its use, though I prefer vinyl the most.

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?
Not completely. But maybe you can also look at digital media as freeing musicians up to think in whatever terms suit their music best. If you’ve got 10 minutes of great music and you need 40 to fulfill this arbitrary (digitally-speaking, at least) concept of an album, then that means 30 minutes of filler, so why not just release the great 10 instead? On the other hand, if you have 3 hours of the best stuff you’ve ever done that needs to be taken as a whole, then you don’t have to worry about the time restrictions of a physical format.

Recently, there seem to be a large number of bands offering their releases for free via sites like Bandcamp. What do you think of this distribution method, do you think it is a realistic solution to the problem of illegal downloading?
A website that launched just about a month ago is Amour & Discipline.

They propose a ‘gift economy’ model for how to encourage the flow of information and culture while still making sure the folks making the music don’t starve. It’s very well thought out and I won’t do them the disservice of lamely trying to recount their arguments, but anybody the least bit interested in this stuff should check out their site and read the manifesto. I know that the A&D people have poured their hearts into the project and are coming from the best place possible.

I don’t think there’s a single answer to the questions raised by widespread downloading, but I am totally behind anybody who actually does something about it without the Puritanical/Big Brother mentality of SOPA.

What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
The potential for abuse of SOPA/PIPA (I’m not so well versed on ACTA, but from what I understand, it’s pretty similar to the other two) outweighs the benefits. I’m all for musicians and producers of culture in general being treated fairly, but that does not need to come at the expense of turning the government into the entertainment industry’s enforcer, nevermind the potential for widespread censorship and abuse.

What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
Same as always… do your thing and hope it finds a way of reaching people. Maybe we’re in a transitional period where the methods of getting your music heard is changing. But it’s not the first time that’s happened. Pop music was once oriented to the 45rpm single and then it migrated to the LP, changing the length of people’s expectations. Cassettes then CDRs popped up at some point and provided opportunities for lower-budget DIY releases. Culture changes along with its products. People will always be thinking of new ways to get their stuff out there. The are even some who will find new, artful ways of doing so.

Finally, what does the future hold for Chris Corsano?
Probably gonna go illegally download some Lady Gaga now. Joking.

For more information about Chris Corsano, check out his website.

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About M3 Event

The music industry is rapidly changing. The internet has enabled widespread piracy, as well as a variety of new business and distribution models. We want to offer an engaged audience in and around the Euregion an opportunity to develop a coherent and detailed picture of the future of music distribution. On the 31st of May 2012 a music conference in Maastricht, consisting of oppositional debates, creative workshops and lectures, will provoke opportunities for intellectual stimulation, debate, as well as networking. We hope to utilise the skills and ideas of some of most forward thinking minds and operators in the industry in order to highlight some promising new ideas and areas which can be improved upon.

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