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I used to live a few doors down from a corner pizza shop, where once a week they would set up a microphone in the front and invite people to perform music to a paltry audience. The performances, like the pizza, were unremarkable, but I often stopped at the window on my way home to listen for a minute or two, enjoying the reminder that new melodies and lyrics were always entering the world like strangers.
Over time, I began to wonder if the music would play even if I wasn't there, even if there was no audience at all, if you could fill thousands of empty pizza shops with music at all hours of the day, propelled by nothing but sheer creative urge.
The internet can serve up an infinite scroll of talent and music, sure, but it is of a particular kind: by the time any notes reach your ears it's already been decided (often correctly) that you will enjoy them, free will be damned. We are only exposed to a limited subset of human creativity, mainly, the kind that has been optimized to the Algorithms That Be for maximum product market, where the market is you, specifically (and perhaps the product is too).
Since college (yes, I've always been this way) one way I've tried to step off of the music consumption conveyer belt is by spending long nights searching Youtube for the keywords "original song" through a rarely-used back door: sorting by most recently posted, and scanning the results for videos with low view counts.
By pure quality measure, the videos are hit or miss. But there is something distinctly human about people, usually alone in their bedrooms, expressing themselves into the void, and just as much so, of the process itself of sifting through that humanity to find the rare gems. I used to send these videos to friends, maybe only 10% joking that we should start a band that exclusively covered original songs with zero views on Youtube.
One video that stands out in my memory was posted in 2012. It had zero views when I first saw it; even now, 10 years later, it only has 120. Two people with strong voices against the backdrop of a red brick wall, too much traffic clouding the audio, but the belted harmonies still hit.
I've turned the exercise of searching for these videos into a portal of sorts. It's called Youtune; think of it as your neighborhood coffee shop open mic night, but on the internet.
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If you've ever discovered a musical hidden treasure in your community, you'll know that there's something different about music you've discovered on foot. The proverbial tree falling in the forest may or may not make a sound; the question is whether you're huddled in close enough for it to make a song.