A Conversation with Martin Smit, the multi-platform guru behind Next Big Thing. (originally published on the Next Big Thing Music Blog)
When asked about the purpose of Next Big Thing, Martin Smit approaches it as a mission of broadening our horizons, “I guess my hope is to force the listener to overcome his or her prejudices… to make a country and western fan swoon over a perfectly formed hip-hop song and a metal-head become hopelessly devoted to a beautifully composed techno track.” While these are lofty ambitions, they’re fueled by a very genuine motive, as Smit merely wants listeners to “fall in love with music all over again.” The site started with a webspace – more a quirky web application than a website – and has evolved to thriving web 2.0 entity, complete with a blog, podcast, flickr site, and all the trimmings.
NBT covers all genres of music, perfect for the most adventurous of listeners. But there are obvious hurdles in promoting emerging bands, as Martin describes the power of the mainstream, “Their sole purpose is to get the guy out there in cyberspace to buy their product and only their product.” In mass media culture, being a curious, adventurous listener seems like a counterintuitive thing. “(Mainstream labels) know a lot of customers want what is only a few mouse clicks away and they also know that a lot of customers want, in fact NEED to be told what to buy and what is cool.” This observation paints a bleak landscape for any music broadcaster focusing on the obscure or emerging. This may not necessarily be the full story, however, as Smit became overjoyed when I inquired about, from his experience, how intelligent the average listener actually is when it comes to discovering new music? He replied, “Thankfully Way WAY more intelligent than the majors give them credit for.
Sure there are a thousand slackers who will go buy a single by the Fray just because they are always on the front page of MySpace, But more and more, there are kids and parents and grannies and truck drivers who want to discover for themselves what or who will be the next superstar band or performer.”Even though listeners are willing to deviate from the mainstream conveyer belt, some bands are still going unheard and at their own fault. “A Lot of bands are good at making great music but basically are AWFUL at promoting themselves. They don’t seem to get that creating the tune, the art, is only a tiny part of the process…the hardest part is getting that music heard and that it’s time consuming and difficult work.”
In Smit’s mind, a few bands have distinguished themselves, mainly through persistence. “Bands like Rotten Cheri from New York and Colour Cold in South Africa are good examples of acts that go that extra mile, they send music to website after website, they make music available for play and they don’t stop, they keep promoting and working and playing.” (Check out their URLs in the blog roll opposite), He continues, “What is amazing is I get SO many bands like this.” In 2008, expect NBT to continue its expansion, as Smit wants “to simply provide as many platforms as possible for all that brilliant music.” Check out more from Next Big Thing:
Podcast: The NBT Podcast
Visual Page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nbtvisual Thursday Night US Show: http://www.luver.com/nextbigthing.html