Success is a relative term and depends a lot on how an individual defines it for themselves. Success in the music business also has the same ambiguity when it comes to measuring how successful an artist is in terms of what they wanted to accomplish with their music. There is critical success that has the critics all raving about how good the music is but the fans are not buying it. There is the success that comes when an artist at least recoups their initial investment and earns just enough to invest in the next release which will probably be the same scenario replayed again. There is commercial success where the artist's fans love the music and are buying it up as fast as it can be turned out but the critics all think that the music is simply crap and that the fans don't have enough taste to distinguish between crap and good music. And finally there is commercial success but with the twist that fans and critics alike all love the music and the artist can do no wrong.
Sometimes it seems to me that ambient music doesn't have any really rabid fans just listeners and artists. Listeners are fans aren't they? Maybe. Just to be sure we are on the same page here is the dictionary definition of a fan:
an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc.: a baseball fan; a great fan of Charlie Chaplin. [1885–90, Amer.; short for FANATIC] —Syn. supporter, enthusiast, partisan, booster, addict.
So do we have ambient fans in the true sense of the word? Perhaps a few. Notice that fan is short for fanatic. Definitely some negative connotations are connected with that word but still there are those who can be fanatical about an artist and the music that they create without crossing the line into where the negative aspects of this term kick in. So where am I going with this you might ask?
It seems to me that ambient music in terms of promotional and publicity efforts is just as laid back as the music itself is. Ambient Visions has only been around for about 7-8 years and I know that I can't speak for those who have been in this business for a lot longer than that but I do have some opinions and some experience in the retail end of the music business prior to starting the website back in 1999-2000 so it does qualify me to have a few thoughts about what might help and what might need to change if we are to see ambient music become a stronger entity in the years to come. And right up front if you have some ideas that you'd like to share with me or with others who are seeking these types of answers then pop over the AV Yahoo club, sign up and share them with the rest of the group. I'll be more than happy to listen to everyone with an opinion.
Ambient music is indeed different than most of the music that you will find out in the mainstream but then again so is bluegrass or zydeco. Being different means that fans, industry folks, artists, labels etc have to work harder to gain a foothold in the music industry for their style of music. The thing that I have noticed about ambient music is it views itself as a genre set apart from the rest of the industry and I constantly hear about the very small percentage of the overall music industry that this genre makes up so we should be satisfied with the sales that are generated and not expect too awful much more than that. Let me ask a question of those who are fans out there, how many of you run a fan site for your favorite ambient, new age, electronica etc. artist? Steve Roach is a pretty big name in the ambient music world but when I google his name looking for fan sites I found nothing on the first few pages of entries. As a matter of comparision I googled AC/DC fan sites and found tons of them. What does that have to do with ambient music?
It shows that there is a different attitude of devotion out there among the fans of commercial music and the fans of ambient music. The internet is a web of inter woven sites that are connected by their links to one another and their "fanatical" devotion to scouring the web for information about their favorite artist and then sharing it on their websites so that other fans might have the same information at their fingertips. The links and the link backs all start to add up when the google spiders crawl the different sites and it registers when certain search results are returned to folks who inquire about their favorite artists. If you search for Steve Roach interview in google Ambient Visions is the first name that pops up. It has to do with links to the artists and the artists linking back to you and then fan sites linking to everything about a particular artist.
We need fans of ambient music. We need fans to do fan type things and go out and register domains and build websites about their favorite artists. We need them to support their favorite artist by buying each new release as it comes out or to talk about them to all of their friends online or all of their friends off line for that matter. And I use the word ambient but it also is a stand in for new age, electronica, trance, dance etc. etc. because I think that the smaller genres all need these devoted fans so that there is always an influx of new listeners and new blood to carry the ambient torch into the future. Do I sound like a fanatic when I start talking like this? Good. Because I am a fan of ambient music and I want it to be around at least as long as I am and I'd like to see it passed on to a new generation when I leave. They all say rock and roll will never die, well why can't we say the same about ambient as well? Think about it.
Michael Foster, editor