I suspect that in seven years time, recorded music will be delivered and consumed in ways that seem science fictiony to most of us now. I dig this article in The Economist about one particular trend (and it references a prior, more detailed article) of bundling music with hardware. Musicians who wish to make a decent living through music, as I do, are going to have to extend their creativity beyond music and into the complexities of the economic model. The mechanics are shifting. The wheels are being blown off. A hundred years ago, people simply didn’t have recordings to listen to. Songs were the thing. Songs could be popularized, they could travel. They could be bought and sold. Americans played songs at home, using sheet music. They had town choirs. Songwriting was a profession, but ‘professional’ musicians-as-performers (beyond teachers, church cantors, etc) were mostly people in travelling revues playing popular songs. At some point, as radio rolled in, maybe folks would go see T
he Carter Family if they passed through town, and The Carter family played some original songs alongside folk standards. Radio, TV, record players… These technologies – and the industries that sprung up around them, allowed people to attach their affections to musical artists instead of just songs. And that revolution didn’t happen all that long ago. A couple generations, is all. We’re in the midst of yet another revolution, where technologies are making music as free-flowing as air. That’s just nature taking its course. The trickier question is how we’ll fashion an economic model that will allow musicians (assuming they’re offering something that enough people value) to earn a respectable living and thus continue to create music… In a time when most young music lovers don’t own a CD player or bother with paid download services – quite understandably. Besides the fact that music is a central aspect of human ritual and experience, not to mention that the culture is rightfully rev
olting at having been charged 18 bucks for a CD that cost a buck to make. Nevertheless, in the last century, people have developed an appetite for recorded music, and for quality, sophisticated sounds and performances on those recordings. The mechanics of the music biz are in massive flux, but I trust that ultimately, people value recorded music enough that economic benefit will find a way to flow through to the artists who create the best of it. The weird and winding path leading to that new economic model will be strewn with a great deal of road kill. Not for the faint of heart.

(Sent from my Palm phone.)

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