Editor's note: Wow, nothing generates letters like opposingcolumns on MP3 and new music distribution models. Read on.
NAPSTER, ANOTHER SONGWRITER'S VIEW
Regarding Wendy Waldman's letter to “Feedback,”which appeared in your December 2000 issue: As a composer,songwriter and producer, I have a vested interest in the quick andjust resolution of the issues regarding the broadcast anddistribution of music via the Internet. This has caused me toquestion why the Internet isn't treated in the same manner as anyother broadcast medium and simply licensed accordingly? BMI, ASCAP,etc., should collect licensing fees from Internet service providersas they do with radio and television broadcasters. Availablewatermarking technology would provide a means of accounting fordownloaded or broadcast music in the same way that radio stationplaylists provide tallies. This would seem to resolve or circumventmany of the issues currently surrounding the Internet andintellectual property rights, while providing rightful payment tothe creators/owners of distributed musical material.
AND IN THIS CORNER…
Let me begin by saying that I have been a great devotee ofStephen St.Croix's terrific column (“The Fast Lane”).It is only with admiration and respect that I write to differ withsome ideas expressed in the January issue's “MPPromises.”
The public appears to have voted in favor of new musicdistribution systems that circumvent the traditional music industrythat we all have come to know and tolerate. I suspect that noamount of bloodletting, flagellation, swinging the dead snake orrighteous indignation can change either of these two facts: The newInternet music distribution mechanisms exist and are not going togo away; and neither the artist nor the consumer community“loyalty levels” to the music establishment aresufficient enough to dull this “threat.”
Clearly, the music industry can't be blamed for the rise ofInternet music distribution systems anymore than yesterday's familyfarmer or furniture craftsman can be blamed for the rise ofindustrial mass-production systems that led to their demise. And,frankly, the “loss” of today's music property anddistribution industries saddens me no more (and possibly less) thanthese other epochal industry changes.
Copyright and intellectual property laws, as we know them, aregoing to change. The world is a pretty old place, and musicianshave been creating music far longer than today's copyright lawshave been in effect. Truth be told, it's pretty tough to argue,especially when contemplating the great music cultures of the past,that the musical arts can only be served (or, are best served) withtoday's disintegrating model.
Assume that the public will continue to love music. Assume thatan increasingly networked world will accelerate the discovery,rediscovery and cross-pollination of all types of global music, andthat music lovers will have instantaneous, pervasive and (darnnear) free access to this content from (darn near) everywhere. Ialso assume that the new music industry, as it comes to exist, willneed to move away from mass production and toward masscustomization; away from monolithic and toward decentralized (oreven democratic) structures; away from product-centric towardcustomer-centric (with “customer” defined as bothartist and consumer); and, finally, away from“marketing” and toward “service.”
I would humbly submit that Stephen St.Croix and all of the otherpeople that produce music for a living or simply for love are goingto remain very much in demand, and that the definition of the size,shape, trajectory, artistic potential and ethics of the new musicindustry is constrained only by our ability and willingness tore-examine our assumptions, hop into the fray and get our handsdirty.
AROUND THE CORNER
It is ironic that Stephen St.Croix is featured as Mix's“Technical Provocateur” in the magazine masthead andthen comes across as the last champion of technically antiquatedhyperbole in his “MP Promises” column.
St.Croix apparently holds the obsolete view that the“creator” is the driving force in the production of artin a digital culture. Wrong. He's still speaking from the analogculture, where authenticity (where something comes from) is king.In the digital culture, resonance (where something goes) rules. Thestory, not the author, is the point.
Analog culture, like analog electronics, depends on a continuum,a bed of meaning in which to carry the signal. Remember when youused to cut tape? Well, that meant from point A to point B. Digitalculture, on the other hand, does not depend on a continuum. It isentirely discrete and can therefore be assembled and dissembled atwill. Future artists will not be the “creators” of“original” tunes and other works of “art,”but the assemblers and dissemblers of the signs and symbols of thetimes, which exist only on the dazzling, superficial surface of thehyperculture. In the future, we will all be “repro”people.
MP3 downloads are merely one manifestation of the trend toappropriate the signs of the times and make them“unique” to one's commercial moment; and commercialmoments are all that exist in a digital culture. Othermanifestations of this trend are already familiar to readers ofMix: the appropriation of samples, riffs, popular musicclichés, etc. The kings of the digital future will not be theartists and creators, but the brokers — the ones who link upthe digital flotsam of interesting sounds and symbols and send themout into the etherworld of transitory meaning, where they areassigned a commercial value and broken down for other brokers tosell. Everybody will get a taste (including“creators”), but no one will eat the full meal. That'sbecause a “meal” is an analog experience. In thedigital future, it's all grazing and fast food.
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