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Buzzed: The New England Electronic Music Festival

Arts & Culture | March 7, 2010

“Fucking stupid song. I hate it.”

And with that glowing comment from Das Racist’s Victor Vazquez (referring to his own song, “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, by the way), the New England Electronic Music Festival was off to the races.  It has taken root as one of Boston’s foremost discussion and live music events and while the genre certainly has its haters, the bleeps and blips we’ve come to love as good Boston-liberal-arts-school-attending kiddies are only becoming more and more ingrained in the local music scene.

On February 11, TogetherBoston, the group responsible for organizing the festival, invited electronic artists Das Racist, Kids at the Bar, and Southern Belle to discuss the pros and cons of hype- building via social media interfaces. The Tower Auditorium at MassArt may have been less than packed, but everyone  in attendance participated eagerly by submitting questions through— get ready for it— Twitter. Yes, questions from the dozen or so panel auditors were only accepted if you could get on your Smartphone quick enough to bang out 160 characters.

Aside from the pretension of the questioning (admittedly somewhat appropriate), each panelist added insight that was at once obvious and emphatic in its impression upon the importance of the Internet in building buzz and increasing visibility in the blogosphere, that golden flux of transient fame.

Das Racist, an electronic rap sometimes-duo, sometimes-trio from Brooklyn emphasized their reliance on MySpace in promoting their music.

“It’s all MySpace,” said the group’s self-proclaimed hype-man, Ashok Kondabolu. “It’s just where we put our music. At the end of the day, we’ve been fortunate to get a lot of good Internet press; MySpace has definitely been out best bet, though.

Rad Raunborg of Kids at the Bar touted the exposure granted by HypeMachine, a sort of music metablog that amasses the most talked-about tracks and artists from various web sources and synthesizes them into a digestible and brightly colored page. Tracks that have been “hearted” by enough of the site’s patrons can rise tot he top of the HypeMachine homepage. Kids at the Bat have twice found themselves at #1 with their remixes of Empire of the Sun’s “Walking on a Dream” and Passion Pit’s earworm “Sleepyhead”.

For Southern Belle, Berklee student Isom Innis’ musical moniker, getting a young act off the ground can prove to be a bit more difficult.

“These days, you really have to use the Internet to get music or really anything out,” said Innis, a user of Facebook and MySpace. “If you want to get anywhere you definitely have to put your music on the Internet. There’s just no question about it.”

Perhaps the most popular and the most recent fad in buzz building has been Twitter, the social media outlet that everyone loves to hate and then decides, invariably, to love again. All of the panelists agreed that the site allows for a more instantaneous form of communication than either Facebook or MySpace, and that while all three have their merits, Twitter is the appropriate avenue for constant updates and musings. Boston’s electronic music scene, burgeoning though it may be, is heavily into tweeting, retweeting, and tagging.

As for getting face time on blogs, the members of Das Racist believe that it’s best to let the folks behind the screens work their proverbial magic.

“We’re not necessarily going out there and forming rapports with bloggers,” they explained. “You have to let them do their job.”

“I send my music out to blogs,” added Kids at the Bar’s Raunborg. “I let them release it because then it gets forwarded on. Plus, recommendations of your music sounds more credible coming from a third party and not you.”

“Yeah,” agreed Innis. “You need labels to put money in your pockets, not to promote sales. That’s for the blogs.”