June 02, 2001
Digital Music

The Revolution Will be Commercialized. Well, I wouldn't say that the "MP3 Revolution" ever occurred, if only because distributing the same old song for free and faster is still distributing the same old song (and thus totally not revolutionary, or substantial break from the status quo). The Salon article saves the most interesting bit for the last paragraph:

The collapse of the independent digital music industry brings us back to the beginning, back to the truly do-it-yourself indie roots of the Net's earliest days. Collective projects that are free from any corporate ties are still flourishing, and small companies with nifty ideas lurk on the fringes. The major record labels, in turn, will do what they've always done: They'll take advantage of their newly acquired Internet start-ups to develop music services designed to reap an already profitable industry even greater profits.
Exactly. So, once again, let us shed any pretense that big corporations are going to do anything interesting (in the "revolutionary" sense, anyway), and start writing more Wired Magazine-style profiles of people who are doing interesting things on a small scale: those collectives and small companies mentionned above. If interesting ideas (i.e. ideas that change the status quo) ever do come out of big companies, then I'll be pleasantly surprised (emphasis on surprised).

What the article didn't cover is the real hope for digital music distribution, which has little to nothing to do with bands signed to major labels. It has to do with the fact that people don't have to rely on the radio to find out about new music. In addition to all the copyrighted music that one has to download illegally, there are a large number of recorded live performances available online, if you know where to look.

Corporate control of the internet starts with the capacity to make people aware of a certain set of music, and to control what how people find music. If alternatives can be created, it has little to do with what the technology is, but rather how it is used. For example, non-mainstream music scenes have flourished through the old music distribution mechanisms, so they will most likely continue to do so through the new ones. Whether a system is created that can support a significantly greater diversity of local and niche artists, is up to the small collectives and local organizations that got all of one sentence in the Salon article on the "digital music revolution". And their success is up to... us.

Wow. That sounded preachy. And yet, I believe it.

posted by dru in politicsoftech