As a band, Jeremy and the Harlequins are committed to old-school recording methods and old-school sounds. And yet front man Jeremy Fury is a full-fledged citizen of the 21st-century, and supporter of the 21st-century music scene. I like the juxtaposition, and thought Fury would be well-suited to tackle the conundrums of the Fingertips Q&A. Judge for yourself, below.
The band’s song “Cam Girl,” from their debut EP, was featured earlier this month on Fingertips.
Q: How do you as a musician cope with the apparent fact that not everybody seems to want to pay for digital music? Do you think recorded music is destined to be free, as some of the pundits (not to mention all of the pirates) insist?
A: There are pros and cons to the modern, digital age of free media. It’s easier to distribute music. Record labels don’t have the control they once did to pick and choose what comes out so the artist has a lot more control. The DIY spirit is alive and working better than ever before. The negative is that there is so much music available it’s hard for people to discover what’s out there they might become a fan of. Also, when they finally do find you, most likely they’ll listen or download it without paying.
For me, it’s not a question of whether this is positive or negative, it’s how can I continue making music for people to listen to and hopefully love. For musicians, I think our goal is to keep making music and putting it out there. If people aren’t paying for downloads, you can’t force them to. I think artists can make money off of touring, merchandise, syncs, licenses, etc. I feel if you have fans, then they’ll support you in one way or another. Maybe it won’t be by paying for a download, but maybe by coming to a show. Professional musicians and songwriters have been around for thousands of years, but the record industry is less than a century old.
Q: What do you think of the idea that music is destined for the “cloud”? How do you, as both a musician and a listener, feel about this lack of ownership, about handing a personal music collection over to a centralized location?
A: Personally, I love the idea of the record. I think that there is something great about a tangible album. I love vinyl LPs, but I understand that’s what I personally like. I’m not here to say, “This is how you should purchase and listen to music.”
As an artist, it’s not my job to convince people how they should digest music. My job is simply to make it and put it out there. I’ll present it the way I feel is right, but once it’s out, it’s out. Musicians in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s probably had no idea that there songs would be mashed up, mixed up, used in commercials, converted into digital files, covered, and/or sampled as a beat in a rap song, yet that’s what’s going on. I don’t know how people will be listening to music in the future, so for now, all I can do is what feels right.
Q: We seem to be surrounded, both in the music world and just generally in our culture, with people who believe that the future is only about new technology; people are constantly being scolded that they are “living in the past” if they value anything that existed before 2001. How would you articulate the idea that the past is still important to the future?
A: I like well-crafted things, simple things, and classic things. From furniture to books to albums, it took a lot more dedication and effort to even have the opportunity to make things in the past. The cheaper the technology, the easier it is to make things.
As for making an album, fifteen years ago labels were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes millions, on one record. Now, you have major record labels putting out albums that were made for free on pirated software in someone’s bedroom.
Great ideas are often a struggle and in the past it was more of a struggle for a great idea to become reality. I think what we can learn from the past is that it is our job to make great things. People will want them, and if they aren’t being made, people will go back and buy things that were made fifty years ago.
What we can embrace now is the technology to communicate our ideas to others. We can manifest a great idea and spread it faster than ever before. The main problem now is, because the technology is so free and easy, every half-assed thought gets made and spread to the far corners of the globe. The result is the craving for quantity over quality simply to fill the void.
Q: One obvious thing the digital age has introduced is the ease of two-way communication between artist and fan. Does this feel like a benefit or a distraction, or a little of both?
A: A little of both. Ultimately, the goal of music is to communicate with the listener. It’s good that fans feel more connected to the artist in that respect.
Sometimes it does feel a bit like a distraction. As an artist, it’s really difficult to stay in people’s consciousness because people are always being bombarded with distractions; buy this, eat that, don’t do this, listen to this, watch this. I don’t know why people would care about what I think of what’s on television or a photo of what I’m eating, but some of the most fan-responsive photos and posts we’ve posted are ones that have nothing to do with music. Maybe it makes artists seem more approachable, more human.
Q: With the barrier to entry drastically lower than it used to be, there is as a result way more music available for people to listen to these days than there ever used to be. How do you as a musician cope with the reality of an over-saturated market, to put it both economically and bluntly?
A: It was definitely difficult at first. When I first started touring and putting out music with older bands I was in, I was still part of an industry that had money to put you on tour, pay for you to record, etc. It took some re-thinking and reinvention, but I think in the long run it will be better for both the artist and fan. I’d like to believe that the old adage ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’ still is true.
Change is inevitable in any industry. The ones who suffer are usually the ones who find it difficult to change. I prefer to think with new technology comes new opportunity. I’ll still keep making music. And with the help of the internet, you know where to find me.