Forget Home Taping: Evil Robots Are Killing Music!
from the i-for-one-welcome-our-new-innovative-overlords dept
The entertainment industry has a long and storied history of incumbents freaking out about every technological advancement that alters the market. From iPods and digital distribution, to VCRs and home taping, all the way back to player pianos, it seems like they’ve never met a device they didn’t hate and fear. And they’ve yet to be right about any of them: whenever a group claims something is going to destroy the music or movie industry, that thing ends up expanding it instead. In the interval, they churn out scare campaigns and sob stories like “Home Taping Is Killing Music”, or the laughably intense anti-piracy ads that run before feature films, or in the 1930s, depictions of a vicious battle between musicians and evil robots.
That must be a textbook symptom of technophobia. You should only be warning the public about robot tyrants if you are a) dangerously insane or b) John Connor. Of course, as we now know, synchronized sound massively expanded the film industry, which in turn created countless new opportunities for musicians—while at the same time, closely-related technology advancements were turning the recorded music industry into its own powerhouse. Today’s entertainment incumbents have reined it in a little, preferring somewhat-believable lies over utterly fantastic ones, and focusing more on issues of “theft” than a supposed decline in the quality of the experience (they leave the latter up to technicians and weirdos like Prince). And yet there are still striking similarities between their message and the copy that appeared on those 1930s ads:
The time is coming fast when the only living thing around a motion picture house will be the person who sells you your ticket. Everything else will be mechanical. Canned drama, canned music, canned vaudeville. We think the public will tire of mechanical music and will want the real thing. We are not against scientific development of any kind, but it must not come at the expense of art. We are not opposing industrial progress. We are not even opposing mechanical music except where it is used as a profiteering instrument for artistic debasement.
Note the consistent refrain—”we’re not opposed to technology and innovation, except that we totally are”—and the characterization of what they do as the entirety of “art”. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
(By the way, there are several other amusing ads in the original post, and I strongly recommend checking them out.)