Part One – Some Background. Long Tail, Net Neutrality & Free Culture
First, let me apologize for how long this damn thing is. Unfortunately, I need to make sure I get everyone on the same page more or less as far as what I see as the important ideas/themes to consider when looking at the current condition of Music (and all other Media). If the set-up is old news to you, bare with me while I school everyone else for a second.
Second, if you’re interested in what is going on with all this stuff, you really ought to check out the book: The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution by Dave Kusek. The first six chapters are available as a podcast in the iTunes Store HERE (iTunes URL Link). And a variety of links to where you can purchase the entire Audiobook can be found HERE.
This is where I got the idea of “Music Like Water.” In the first chapter of the book, Kusek talks about how in the future, music will flow like water without the constant interruptions we experience now when we have to buy or download it or move it from one drive to another. Music will just be there waiting. Like water through a faucet, it will pour. It will be as abundant and as varied as we like. I believe, as long as the Net remains neutral, this is inevitable.
Right now of course, that’s not at all how it works. But if you’ve got your ear to the tracks you can hear it coming. Digital Media, The Web, Search, Recommendation Systems, Social Software, RSS/Atom feeds, P2P technology, increasing connection speeds, accelerating processing power, the cheapening of storage – We are clearly on the threshold of a paradigm change. This is a particular moment in time when some very exciting things are happening with regard to how media is curated, discovered and distributed, not to mention how it’s created.
This stuff is much bigger than just music too. Of course all of these concepts carry over into Film, News, Literature, instructional products, the list goes on, but even beyond all that, this is a profound moment in history because the very process by which Human Culture grows, changes and spreads is changing because of the Internet and the invention of digital product. Anyone with access to blue-collar amounts of money can create media. Since increasingly anyone can participate in the cultural dialog, people are. This phenomenon is causing the few companies and institutions that have had most of the control over Culture in its many forms for all of living memory to lose market share as they increasingly find themselves in competition with Everyone and Everything else.
The “Everything Else” is also called the Long Tail and is examined by Chris Anderson in his book, “The Long Tail: Why The Future of Business is Selling Less of More.” This is a good book to read or listen to because it brings to light an important fact: There is more value in the sum of all the less-popular and niche products than there is in just the “Top Hits” we’ve grown up with.
The “Everyone Else” is me and you. What we are participating in here is what Lawrence Lessig calls the Read/Write Web. Rather than a one-way, or Read-Only form of media, digital media and the Web are very conducive to dialog. One example of this dialog is sampling in music. Another is the blogosphere. And there are many, many more. The Hands-On, Read/Write, Two-Way “remix-culture” that we are finding ourselves in suddenly makes you and me part of the “Everything Else” I mentioned a moment ago.
In this way, we are taking market share from corporate media and so corporate media is losing influence over our Culture and losing Money as the value they can offer advertisers is falling. And guess what. They want to stop it. That’s exactly what the Net Neutrality debate is about. If the Net becomes un-neutral, it will be like handing the freedom to participate that we now enjoy over to companies that stand to gain from preventing our participation in Media, and our access to a variety of media products.
If you want to learn more about Two-Way Media and how Corporate Media is trying to control it, go read or listen to Lawrence Lessig’s book: “Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture.” It’s free!
Almost everyone I know uses illegal means to access media products at leas some of the time. Often it’s just too inconvenient to get media the legal way. Actually it’s often not even an option.
The traditional purveyers of Culture are losing money because of this. Media have been selling eyes and ears to the advertisers that fund them since before your parents were born. It’s not paranoid conspiracy-theory-speak when I say that the corporate media want to maintain control over the Culture Markets.
MORE ON THIS TO COME. In the meantime, check these out: