We live in a world dominated by the mythos of the solo artist. And people can easily get down when they discover they can’t compete. But here’s one solution: cooperate, instead. That’s the story of LA’s TeamSupreme, documented in an extensive short put out over the weekend. And it might be better news than any new gear, especially if you yourself has been frustrated by the scene.

We can talk in circles about what may be working or broken in electronic music
making. But imagine whatever you might like to change – and then imagine that you worked on that with other people, rather than alone.

Now, labels and collectives of various sorts can offer this sort of promise. But TeamSupreme goes beyond what those have typically offered. For one thing, it isn’t necessary to conform to a particular sound. On the contrary, TeamSupreme actually create elaborate scenarios and rules called “cyphers” that force them into new territory – a regular, reality show-style production battle that has earned still more attention.

You can join in on the latest cypher –
details on Facebook. (Hmm, maybe CDM should join in on one, if I can think of what it should be!)

And the relentless focus on making others better can prove transformative. Instead of keeping production secrets to themselves, they aggressively ask questions and push each other further so everyone gets better. Instead of attempting to exclusively self-promote (which can eventually repel the spotlight even when attempting to hog it), they get attention for one another. My friend Steve Nalepa has a great success story there, where the collective gets BBC Radio 1 play with Mary Ann Hobbes – something that would have been all but impossible if they’d gone it alone.

In fact, what if it’s really the emphasis on selfishness in music that’s holding the whole scene back? What if we stopped telling that story, and started telling stories like this more often?

I was a witness to the power of TeamSupreme just this weekend. This crew comes out and supports one another. The Los Angeles area itself is not a bad geographic mirror of the Internet itself. It’s massively populated and diverse, and rich with talent, but it’s also spread out and decentralized. There are occasional portals that are better known, but they’re too small for the general population, and they don’t always have the best stuff.

But everywhere I went, TeamSupreme members were there – behind the DJ booth, in the audience. They excitedly talked about the premiere of this very film.

And pretty soon, you realize that these people are good to know both for their ever-expanding individual talent and the networks they’ve built around them. I’ve gotten to watch this flourish from a time years ago when I went to lecture at Steve Nalepa’s class at Chapman. (As it happens, I knew Steve, too, for the same reason, thanks to an artist gathering called a “mind meld” held on the Atlantic coast.)

That starts to suggest how a city like LA could reach its potential. If LA is the Internet, adding something like TeamSupreme is like discovering Google for the first time.

TeamSupreme loomed large at Ableton’s Loop conference, too – Dot was a radiant member of a panel I was on, and there, as in LA this weekend, you could almost spot the TeamSupreme members just by the aura of bubbly enthusiasm and positive energy that floated around them.

Working together was even a theme I heard at NAMM, too, by the way, among technologists. It was clear the center of gravity at the tech show was cooperation, not least being the friendly hub of modular gear on the floor.

Anyway, I’m rambling in a California-to-Russia-induced jetlag haze, but I expect I’m preaching to the converted. And if you’re not yet converted, that’s even more reason to dedicate yourself to watching the portraits of the artists and collective and taking notes.

And there’s no reason to feel left out. Because whatever you’re doing, and whoever you know, you can begin to construct just this kind of positive force in your own music. We’ve got more than enough of the Dark Side of the Force in music. Maybe it’s just time for some more Jedis.

Here are those individuals. I have to say, I’m also a sucker for the fact that these people combine instrumental and vocal skills and training, too. Music tech is sometimes so closed in on itself that it is weirdly inarticulate when talking to musicians.

We’d love to hear from you. Got a collective of your own? Other ideas for how to work together? Let’s discuss.

(We can also celebrate by uploading our fixed code that shows comment counts again, so you know how much we want to hear from you!)

  • I don’t know if you could class it as a “collective”, but the community feel and support that I find as a member of the lines community forum (previously the monome forum) is just outstanding. yes it’s very beardy, but people really care and there’s a lot of very productive and collaborative people there. Living in rural Wales it’s important to stay connected in any way I can.

  • Jacks

    Eriel
    Indigo is a recording artist, creative director and activist from northern
    California. Check out her music on soundcloud.

    https://soundcloud.com/eriel-indigo