Rabbits Full of Magic

16 January 2009

 

State of the Music Industry



Record companies are pressing for extending the copyright term in Europe, and as the above video describes, this basically boils down to what has been the sad fact of the music industry for decades and decades; that musicians and consumers will continue to get raped in the wallet. That shouldn't really be news to anyone. Being signed to a record label essentially means you are putting yourself in debt to them, and that if by the grace of God you end up covering recording/production/marketing costs, you will only see a small fraction of the profit. Why? Well, the record company took the biggest risk, didn't they? They paid for all this stuff, all you had to do was play music.

As an artist who has released five records on actual record labels, I've seen money from one of those (thanks, Momus!). Those behind the labels are my friends, and I didn't really care about making money because I knew they were financially nearly in the same boat I was.

I'll admit that I am extremely happy the major music industry will soon be dead. For one thing an immense majority of music they release is Godawful product tie-in, and the only reason THAT music has been selling is because the consumer machine of capitalism works so well. But now even those people are realizing it is easier to download a full record than to get in your car and drive to the store and back, it saves you $15-20, some gas money, wear on your car, and your precious time. The record industry is falling because it is being outsmarted by the same folks that line up to buy Britney Spears and Nickleback.

Another big case filed by the RIAA will be televised next week, streamed online and presumably Bitorrented to Kingdom Come shortly thereafter. We're talking cultural zeitgeist here. The defendant will be represented by a Harvard Law professor and his students, who released this:

Back in December, Professor Charles Nesson and his team of Harvard Law students filed a motion to admit the Internet into the courtroom, which is traditionally prohibited. Nesson is defending Joel Tenenbaum, who has been sued by the RIAA with punishment of more than a million dollars for downloading seven songs.

“In many ways, this case is about the so-called Internet Generation — the generation that has grown up with computer technology in general, and the internet in particular, as commonplace,” wrote Judge Gertner in her opinion. “It is reportedly a generation that does not read newspapers or watch the evening news, but gets its information largely, if not almost exclusively, over the internet.”


The major labels for years and years controlled the means of production and the means of recording and now they don't control a thing and that is very scary. Multitrack home tape recorders were used since at least the 60s (Pete Townshend demo'd Tommy entirely with solo multitracks) and multitrack recording software is easy to find and easy to use. Anyone with a spare afternoon can scrape together a home recording studio with more capability than the Beatles had when they made Sgt. Pepper. And now thanks to Microsoft, the production secrets behind the industry's most banal and mass-produced 'recording artists' are available even to people who probably never once thought about pursuing music:



So, what do we do with the fallout? I suggest we take those classic albums from the 60s that the industry has packaged and resold generations over, and transform them out of all recognition. In a few months the Direct Note Access version of Melodyne will offer a groundbreaking technology that enables you to go into a previously recorded song and hack each individual note as if you had recorded it yourself! Astonishing!


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