BOB FINK, Friday September 29:

  1. Boy, has anybody else been following the media coverage ramping up for the Napster injunction hearing? There's a lot of worrying about what we want music to cost, but nobody's talking about what (or how) we want music to be. Just a general acceptance that music is a commodity, and we're in something like a battle between owners of oil pipelines and oil tankers over distribution patterns. (With Napster and its users playing the role of those nomadic tribesmen who live by stealing from the pipeline while no one's looking...)

  2. I would love Reebee's take on the gloom-and-doom picture painted in Salon by Janelle Brown, who predicts the self-destruction of Gnutella and all other file-sharing networks as soon as they get big enough to matter.

  3. Casper pushes me to extend the provisional framework I threw out in my last post:

  4. Finally, to follow Bob's point #1, I think the "good" v. "bad" technology (as it related to control over content) accurately describes pre-internet/napster music business. I would suggest the criteria for the new model will be control over the process of music consumption (i.e. whose hoops the consumer has to jump through in order to get the musical product).

  5. I wouldn't be so quick to predict the demise of the classical-music style "good" technologies, the ones that produce expensive collectible objects to sell. As one reporter pointed out, there is still gift exchange, right? (Wouldn't you be a little embarrassed watching a friend unwrap a home-burned CD of downloaded MP3s at a birthday party?) There are still situations where a pre-recorded object is a useful way to exchange music.

    "There's a lot of worrying about what we want music to cost, but nobody's talking about what (or how) we want music to be."

  6. Isn't it likely that we will still want to preserve music we value ("canonize" in the broadest sense) in stable and orderly fashion? I just bought a 4-CD set of the 1925-27 Armstrong Hot Fives and Sevens. It is packaged like a hardcover book, with glossy archival photos, elaborate and learned notes and references. It contains every scrap of music this group of musicians ever recorded, assembled—curated, really—into a concrete assertion of this music's lasting worth. (The liner notes throw around the word "classic" A LOT.)

  7. German musicologists had a word for this, too. They called it a Denkmaehler, a "monument," and it used to take the form of volumes of printed music. I imagine record companies are going to have to become ever-more creative in the ways they package and market monuments of recorded music. Musicology—box sets filled with studio outtakes and alternate b-sides—are a good start: sure, you could download that burst of studio chatter, or the scratchy acoustic demo of your favorite song, but what value do they really have without the full context? And thus the canonization of Led Zep and the Beach Boys proceeds apace. The next step (and this would involve technological advance) would be to take the "you are there" aspect of studio out-take compilations to the next logical level: interactivity. I can imagine a home sound system with its own multitrack mixing board, allowing you really to "get into" your favorite music. Ironically, this would have the effect of redefining the unit of musical "work" as the studio session, not the actual song. You would in effect buy the master tapes of an album, mix and remix to your heart's content, and then listen to the results. (This should keep the record companies ahead of the hackers for at least a few years. The sheer amount of information in 24 tracks of digital audio ought to be enough to keep any but the most fanatical from trying to distribute this stuff over the Net.)

  8. Remember Thorstein Veblen? Some people will still consume music for display—either display of their wealth (look how many CDs I have), or display of their cultural allegiances (look how much I value our musical heritage).

  9. Now before you jump on me and point out that the DIY remix strategy has been tried and hasn't sold many records...let me point out that the idea here isn't to sell "many" records. It is to sell a few, for premium prices, to those who still want to collect and play with musical texts. As I pointed out last post, in the absence of the justifying myth of "great" music, the mass of consumers have begun to see the record industry's insistence that everybody collect all types of music for what it is: pure pursuit of profit. They have decided that it is stupid to enshrine "Oops I Did It Again" on a piece of indestructible laser-encoded plastic designed to preserve the Ninth Symphony for all time and then force fans to pay $12.99 to listen to it for a month or so.

  10. And they are right.

  11. I think that in the pop music world (i.e., the world of uncanonized or decanonized music) "bad" technologies will get "worse." The habit of thinking of recorded music as a collection of expensive "things" will be reversed. Musical works may well be replaced by musical processes (an old avant-garde dream, by the way). When a magazine goes on the web, it stops publishing fixed texts at regular intervals and turns to a never-ending flow of constantly updated material. Why shouldn't Britney Spears' label do the same with her? It matters little whether there is an admission fee or advertising; all that matters is that fans tune in periodically to see what has "happened" to the collection of songs in various stages of formation that are available to be viewed/listened to/reacted to/modified/talked about/rooted for/flamed etc., etc. She need never put out an album at all, and if she did, who would rip it back into the flux of the web, since everything's already there...?

    [Preach on, Brother Beavis...]

  12. ROBERT FINK, later on Friday September 29:

  13. [oops, I sent off my last post before seeing Becky's...can't resist making this connection...]

    Yes, people like getting free music, but many people also care about supporting independent music, and would buy a CD of something they really like even if they know they could burn their friend's CD or find the whole album through Napster for free.

    Is buying the CD because you want to "support independent music" in fact the current-day version of buying the record album to show that you care about "good" music?


Continue the discussion
at ECHO's Napster forum


September 25 - Reebee Garofalo
September 27 - Robert Fink and Casper Partovi
September 28 - Becky Gebhardt

September 29 - Robert Fink
September 30 - Becky Gephardt and Reebee Garofalo