Perhaps more than any other style of music, grime and dubstep have taken advantage, or taken the interest of cyber networks and internet denizens. Although plenty of the prose gets lost in detailed sociological critique or scene squabbles, a few get past that with tight commentary and (for those of us not on the East London pulse) an in to the limited run, super-limited availability dubplate culture with MP3 downloads.
36 year old Bristolian Nick Edwards runs one of the more enjoyable – Gutterbreakz. Heâ€™s not as immersed in grime/dubstep as some, but I find his eclectic take on it all more interesting than most of the purist bloggers. Originally a text blog, in recent months heâ€™s made the shift to hosting dirty new breakbeat tracks and the odd mix set.
I’ve been keen to see just what makes people host MP3 music files for general access when it seems the mainstream record industry is so righteously against it. And alongside my recent interviews with Jace Clayton (DJ/Rupture) and Stuart Buchanan (Fat Planet), Edwards is focused on a niche sound, but his approach seems indicative of a wider pattern and it seemed like another corner of the puzzle.
Why did you start your blog and what did you hope to get out of it?
Don’t know exactly. Just inspired by other people doing it and thought I’d have a go. Itâ€™s a way to record all those random thoughts and feelings I get from music that I wouldn’t normally have an outlet to express. I started in August 2003, but the first year was kind of aimless. I didn’t really find my ‘direction’ until last year.
What decisions do you make when youâ€™re thinking of hosting a song?
It depends. If it’s older material, especially forgotten/out of print stuff then I just go for it. With new releases I’m more careful. I’ve started ripping tracks at 96kbps – I don’t want the quality too high, because I don’t want to give away other people’s music. Or I might just host a two minute clip. I want to inspire people to buy the music that I think is good, rather than giving it away. Hosting mixes is another good way of getting people into good music without giving away full tracks. I’ve also started my Gutterbreakz FM thing, where I play all the music I’m currently into at 64kbps, with me chatting over the top.
What sort of feedback do you get? From public, labels, artists?
Generally favourable so far! Quite a few people leave comments at the blog or send me e-mails. Itâ€™s mainly other music fans, but occasionally artists or labels with get in touch. I have built up quite a few contacts from this.
How many unique visitors do you get to the site? How many return?
Around 10,000 a month. I think I have quite a few regular visitors, but I don’t monitor that too closely.
Generally shifting between 50-70 gb a month. It costs me to have the server space to host the MP3s, but it’s pretty cheap. I almost always host myself, but will sometimes link to others, with acknowledgements.
What do you think about file-sharing, P2P and so on?
Having been a big P2P user in the past, I’ve now stopped completely. It is a good way to hear new music, but I don’t think it helps anyone in the industry particularly. Not that I care about the well being of the major labels – if they all went bankrupt tomorrow I wouldn’t give a damn. But if you’re into underground innovative music, you’ve got to support it by buying the releases, because these people are on the breadline. Actually P2P can still be good for getting hold of hard to find deleted/unreleased stuff, but I found that I wasn’t really listening to a lot of the stuff I was downloading – without having made a financial commitment you just take it for granted and your iPod gets full of MP3s you never get around to playing. You end up hoarding more music then you have time to listen to. Now I prefer to buy selectively and really appreciate the music.
(Check Nick Southallâ€™s recent piece for Stylus on this topic.)
What do you think of the recent case in Australia, where mp3s4free.net went down for linking to music hosted elsewhere? Do you see any precedent for MP3 blogs in general?
Well it’s gonna happen. I’ve already seen an example of an MP3 blog being threatened with legal action. It’s only a matter of time before the big crackdown. Certain blogs like mine probably won’t be affected for a while because we’re not sharing the sort of music that the big publishers are concerned with. I’m pretty much out of the loop for now.
What do you think of the impact of technology on the music industry? Do you think it is set for a shakeup? Or will the current players get everything under control?
They always regain control. Power breeds more power. Enjoy the freedom while it lasts.
What do you think are the biggest issues at the moment?
I dunno really. I’m not on a crusade or anything. I just wanna get people into good music that they might not get a chance to hear otherwise. I’ll be interested to see how well the CD format holds up against downloads. I think its days might be numbered.
Are there any really radical options being put forward?
From my point of view (ie underground) there are two main options. Unsigned artists who just want people to hear their shit will be able to share it around easily enough on the Internet. I give loads of my own music away. There’s quite few netlabels (eg Tokyo Dawn) that offer the music completely free. It’s accepted now that none of us will make a living out of it anyway, so why not? Some people choose to go to the expense of releasing their music on vinyl, which is great – and if you like the tunes, go buy the record. What the mainstream industry chooses to do is their business. I really couldn’t give a shit.
Aside from the blog, what else do you do? Do you write elsewhere?
I have no professional involvement with the music industry. I work a normal job. Blogging is my hobby, along with DJing and making my own music. I sometimes guest at another blog, but that’s about it. I don’t really have any aspirations to write anywhere else. I’m quite happy where I am.