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Above & Beyond's Tony McGuinness on the Changing Ways We Consume Music

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Above & Beyond
Photo by Amelia Troubridge

As one-third of the English progressive trance trio Above & Beyond, Tony McGuinness has had a front-row seat to watch the evolving ways the world consumes music.

"It used to be the lack of availability of music made it more valued," McGuinness tells New Times. "You'd go to a club and hear a song, and you'd have to track it down. Then you'd spend weeks getting to know it. An album was valuable because you spent money on it. People's record collections were a display of their soul.

"Now," he continues, "with streaming, music has become like electricity or water. There's no less effort in creation, but in consumption it just comes out."

Above & Beyond has found a way to stand out from that never-ending glut of music. Their latest record, Common Ground, cracked the top three of the Billboard 200, a rare feat for a trance group. Their twin labels Anjunabeats and Anjunadeep have as steady following as well. McGuinness attributes this success to building a community and paying attention to that community.

"I used to work for Warner Music. Success was defined by getting on radio and TV. We've bypassed that old system. We've gone to being [an act] that has a lot more fans than people realize. We played the Hollywood Bowl without going through normal channels. I think increasingly that's the way the world will be. People are choosing by themselves what they listen to. The days of Madonna and Prince are gone."

Above & Beyond will be camped out in Miami for the better part of Miami Music Week to spend time with beloved fans. They will perform at the RC Cola Plant March 28 and host label showcases March 30 and 31. "I think the first thing people [take] away from our shows is [that] the people are so incredibly kind. People sing, cry, hug. The roomful of people is a wonderful place to be, even before we start playing."

There also are a couple of album debuts. On March 20, Anjunabeats will release its annual Miami compilation, featuring an exclusive Dimibo Remix of Jason Ross' "Elements" as a sweetener. Above & Beyond will also release a companion album to Common Ground while the group is here March 29.

McGuinness and the rest of Above & Beyond have fond memories of their annual pilgrimages to Miami. "I love the architecture and the escape for us Europeans from the weather. It's a unique place. I love to sit on Ocean Drive and watch the world go by. My, does the world go by."

He's also intrigued by how Ultra Music Festival will fare at its new location. "Ultra is extraordinary. I preferred it the first few years at Bayfront. I'm sure it will find its feet. We had an awful experience one year when it rained and shorted all our equipment."

But whatever calamity comes from a live music experience, McGuinness thinks disaster is preferable to closing off in this age of streaming. "Before we retreat to our social media world, it's a wonderful surprise to engage with people who like the same things."

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Stream Anjunabeats in Miami 2019 below:

Above & Beyond: Miami 2019. 9 p.m. Thursday, March 28, at RC Cola Plant, 550 NW 24th St., Miami; 786-747-5091. Tickets cost $65 to $150 via tixr.com.

Anjunadeep Open Air: Miami. 2 p.m. Saturday, March 30, at Maps Backlot, 342 NW 24th St., Miami. Tickets cost $60 via seetickets.us.

Anjunabeats Miami. Noon Sunday, March 31, at Delano Beach Club,1685 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $65 to $80 via tixr.com.

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