The Music Business And The Big Flip

from the when-will-it-come dept

Another excellent piece of writing from Clay Shirky looking at how the music business chooses which music to publicize. He points out that in the writing world the “big flip” has occurred. It used to be that you needed publishers to filter down what was worth publishing, and then pursue that. It was the “filter, then publish” model. Now, however, thanks to the web, the model has become “publish, then filter”. Sure, there’s a lot of crap out there, but it’s quickly filtered, and the quality stuff tends to rise up. The nice thing about this, of course, is that the filters can be more easily set to different tastes, and more stuff gets produced, so that things that otherwise might never see the light of day are suddenly able to. However, the world of music is still stuck in the “filter, then publish” world of A&R people from music labels. Shirky suggests that eventually the music industry will realize that the “publish, then filter” world offers much more in the way of opportunity, but it has to follow certain criteria for it to work properly. For example, it needs to offer more “false negatives” than “false positives”. If you end up listening to a lot of stuff you don’t like, you’re unlikely to trust the system in the future. But, if you miss a song or two you would like, it’s not such a big deal. It also has to be simple to set the filtering. I think that this is clearly the type of thing that P2P networks should have started offering a long time ago. The real benefit to “music sharing” systems, as opposed to “music downloading” systems is the ability to have other people in the music sharing network act as a filter for you. If it were more formalized, the potential advantages are huge. As Shirky points out, if the music industry embraced such a system, it would make life for the A&R person much easier. They would still have a job – but their job would be to try to sign up the acts that are successful in the “filtered world” to contracts where they can be marketed. In the same way that newspapers still function in a world where bloggers often report the news, the music industry could still have a place in a world where P2P users help filter the music.

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