Reimagining the present through the analogy of a paused video game, we contemplate the music scene’s post-COVID trajectory

You are reading Thought Cue – a periodically published repository of thoughts on the young music bubble, made for those who consider themselves a part of it. This newsletter documents the scene’s present moment, whilst prompting thoughts on it’s foundational processes, spaces and relationships. From hands-on guidance, to digestible discourse on the community’s micro inner workings to the macro dynamics and abstractions which turn it’s wheels – these cues mean to encourage reflection and response in readers and instigate impulses to fuel the culture’s evolution.

network: based in different countries, we contribute to the scene as artists, DJs, promoters, journalists, radio hosts and operators – but most importantly as fans. At this stage you likely know us personally or someone you know does.

throbber

This project’s inception just so happened to materialise in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and it’s subsequent phase of lockdown. The current state demands an unfamiliar mode of thought. Music’s natural cycle of production, distribution, participation and consumption is corrupted, the rules abandoned and the plot lost. No closer to finding one, we as a community remain suspended in limbo, whilst the growing list of plans we make for “when this is all over” becomes increasingly inconsequential.

The only certainty is that the game is paused. As the crisis continues to spiral and the throbber continues to spin, the prospect of resuming the game as it once was feels ever distant. The immateriality of a global crisis as lived through a matrix of pixels makes the idea of life as Bostrom’s simulation feel more persuasive than ever. Before this crisis our virtual worlds were already inalienable from our physical ones – Facebook as of now is indistinguishable from an online role playing game, since we spend hours on end profiling our virtual avatars. Our online selves whether posting or not behave and interact online as if always observed by the fictional virtual audiences we draft. To compare the current situation to a crashed video game or frozen screen seems a useful starting point from which to begin thinking about the scene’s future.

This first installment of Thought Cue introduces a three part series within this newsletter called Gamechanger, in which we reimagine the current situation through the framework of a paused video game in order to gain a clearer understanding of it.

The next three issues of Thought Cue will accordingly explore the present moment alongside  two possible future realities:

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undefined Having no agency in the current crisis, a fatal error may perhaps be a more apt description of the game’s current state. Errors in our virtual worlds provoke IRL panic, and manic overthought about how we fix the problem. Yet our pause is indefinite. If we can resist its initial feelings of paralysis, this pause offers an opportunity for a deep reflection which was previously unimaginable. Freed from the fetters of a life running at hyperspeed, we have involuntarily been afforded the luxury of a slowed down contemplation before we must think of the future.  The next issue of Thought Cue will explore the meanings, feelings, and realities of the scene during this current pause.

undefined What would it mean for the culture to return to its pre-Covid state? Is this even a realistic possibility? We imagine what such a return would look like. Resumption after such a gargantuan crash will inevitably entail intense restoration and rebuilding efforts. Yet the absoluteness of the crash may mean that we have little choice but to reestablish what was, before attempting to level up.

undefined The musical landscape’s already bubbling tensions and instabilities have intensified in the wake of a real-life bug. The imminent threat of future bugs – linked to climate change, increasingly nightlife-hostile urban policy, and the megacorps squeezing artists and labels to breaking point, beg the question of whether a system reboot is necessary. We each imagine visions of a new game with different rules and reoriented goals. Rather than continue to compete in the tired old zero-sum game, we envision cooperative alternatives in which creation takes precedence over profit. 

Words by Rachael Struthers, Nirav Chande & Hubert Spangler

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