I'm about halfway through the album Voice of Ages, by the Chieftans, at the moment, and it will likely have played through by the time I finish blogging. I came across it because I was watching videos of Keith Harkin on youtube, and wound up on his channel, looking at some of the videos he has 'favorited'. One singer he has 'favorited' is Paolo Nutini- how is it that I had not come across this guy before? He's very good, and his voice sounds like he ought to look more like Leon Redbone(though I can't imagine there are many people quite like Mr. Redbone), but in fact this guy looks like a hot Italian, the kind the classic marble sculptors used to use as sitters. I'm sure he'll turn up in weekly playlists for quite a while this year. But he is also on this Chieftans album, a fantastic music project for which all but 1 song is a collaboration with another artist. Each track draws on the particular sounds that the collaborating artist can bring to the session, and blends this sound with the perfect instrumentation and aesthetics of the Chieftans.
This is why I was really missing out back when I was just listening to the music of my favorite artists. Yep, it is really all about the music, sort of, and I am definitely never going to be one of the fans shrieking and demanding that some poor artist sign things for me. But while I was just listening to and enjoying Celtic Thunder's music, I was not benefiting from 'knowing cool people who have music tastes that intersect with mine. I probably do know of about as many songs as any of my favorite singers, actually, across quite a few genres, and in several languages. But, my favorite singers live in the world of music-making, and come across great new (or different) music almost certainly more often than I do.
It can be hard to tell exactly whether tools such as 'liking' or 'favoriting' or making playlists, or any other social media devices actually make much of a difference. If the only people who see your music on youtube are the fans you already have, who have already bought the album(s), and if the only people who notice you on tumblr and facebook are the fans who are already buying tickets to your shows, these sites become just fan-base maintenance tools, not tools for marketing to expand your fan-base. But perhaps, if youtube, facebook, tumblr and the rest stop changing their sites so fast, so that fans and artists can actually get past learning the sites themselves, there is a somewhat effective word-of-mouth marketing system in these social media sites.
(Of course, when the Big Music folks start posting and liking stuff on behalf of their most popular artists, using the fame of their stars to fool fans into consuming particular new recordings, this system will start bleeding out its authenticity just as other systems have in the past. We all have seen those twitter accounts which are supposed to belong to big-name artists, but which we are pretty sure are maintained by someone other than the artist.)
Anyway, this time it all worked nicely. Paolo Nutini is a very cool singer, of whom I am already a fan after only a few songs. So, thanks to Keith Harkin for being the guy who 'introduced' me to Mr. Nutini's music. It might just be enough to take the edge off of the waiting for Keith's new album.