Animal Collective Man on the Digital Music Experience

This is an extract from a recent interview with the US band Animal Collective, or rather one of their members, Geologist.

With the whole downloading thing I suppose it’s easier for people to have an opinion immediately after they’ve heard, like, half of a 128kbps vinyl rip or something like that. What are your views on leaks?

We take whatever minimal steps we can to prevent it, but we know records are going to leak. It’s not even about whether it’s free or not free, I mean the day you release it it’s free to the world anyway, what with the technology these days…

I have a lot of strong personal feelings about how people consume music these days, even myself. That’s why I have these feelings; because I can see how my own listening habits have degraded over the years with the advent of the internet.

Like, when people tell me about a new band that I should check out, before I would have gone and bought the record but now I go to Myspace and listen to 20 seconds of their song through my laptop speakers and I’m like ‘whatever’ – I think that’s disgusting on my part to form an opinion that way. I’m trying to break myself out of the habit. People ask, ‘why do you give a shit about a leak, it’s going to leak anyway, it’s such an outdated, antiquated way of approaching music’ and I guess that’s true, but I’m unapologetic about it, in a way, growing up in a time when the internet wasn’t around.

I always think back to when I discovered Will Oldham’s music… at first I bought the record because it was on Drag City and I was like, ‘Well, I don’t get this, is it country music or is it Americana music? It doesn’t sound like Pavement, I don’t get it’. Y’know, I was like 15 years old and if it had just been MP3s on my computer that I didn’t buy or have a physical copy of I’d probably just have deleted it and never listened again. But because it stayed on my shelf I put in effort to get into it, I kept going back to it. And there’s just one day, I don’t know if it’s because the weather is right or you’re just in a different mood, but it suddenly clicks for you.

Personally, I don’t have that many experiences like that anymore because I’ve been taken in by the accessibility of music and I’m disappointed by what that’s done to _my_ music. That’s why I’m not into the whole leak culture or digital music in general. I don’t want to take part in it by being, like, ‘Leak our record’ or whatever. Even streaming it before it’s released, that goes against my views on how music should be listened to. Doing that or putting it on iTunes first, it’s giving people another option from which they can hear your music for the first time. That’s my feeling, it’s very personal and it has nothing to do with the industry war that’s going on right now or anything like that.

Full interview at

If you’re unfamiliar with them, Animal Collective are perhaps best described as an avant garde psychedelic folk band. Although they are sounding a bit more polished these days. What does it matter? Hardcore fans will probably disagree with my descriptions.

You can judge for yourself by listening to their official Myspace page, presumably maintained by one of the other members, judging by Geologist’s views on music streaming.

I’m inclined to see his point here, but I disagree that this view holds in every case.

Certainly though, the fan’s experience is important.

What do you think?

You could also explore this debate in a video context. Which reminds me – Monty Python have a view on this issue. They recently launched a free and official streaming channel for Monty Python highlights on YouTube, partly out of disappointment with the poor quality of unofficial uploads. In their case, official DVD sales through their official site increased by 6,800 percent over the first three days, as a result.