It feels like pretty much every day there’s some sort of new “techlash” story, about how awful social media is, about how it’s dragging down democracy, destroying lives, and that we’d all be better off without it. We’ve been arguing for quite some time now that while there are real issues of concern about social media, most of the narrative is exaggerated to downright misleading. So it’s actually surprising, but nice, to see the NY Times (which has been among the most vocal cheerleaders of the “internet is bad” narrative) have an excellent opinion piece by Sarah Jackson outlining how Twitter, in particular, has “made us better.”
Jackson has recently co-authored a book, #HashtagActivism that details what a wonder Twitter has been for traditionally marginalized groups. It has allowed them to communicate, to organize, and to bring their messages into the mainstream.
We found that movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo, while they had pre-Twitter origins, were pushed into mainstream consciousness by networks of ordinary people sharing firsthand stories, making demands and developing shared political narratives on the site. Without Twitter, these campaigns for race and gender justice would still exist, but they wouldn?t have nearly the same momentum.
The short op-ed highlights numerous stories that likely would not have received the attention they did without Twitter. Indeed, despite all the people who mock the “internet utopians,” it certainly looks like the idea of tearing down gatekeepers and giving a voice to all were ideas that worked for many communities:
Twitter users have disrupted a media landscape where gatekeepers ? in an industry that has always fallen short when it comes to race and gender diversity ? were for too long solely responsible for setting the agenda of what we talked about as a country. While most Americans do not have Twitter accounts, journalists and politicians often do, and they have turned heavily in the past decade to the activists, scholars and people of color on Twitter to inform their coverage and policies. When they haven?t done so, these communities have responded resoundingly online. And America has listened.
Twitter has fundamentally altered the ways many communities interact with the media, as users feel empowered to challenge harmful framing. ?I think the presence of Asian-Americans on Twitter has actually really showed journalists, editors and people in general in the newsroom how it is important to cover Asian-American issues,? one user told my colleagues and me in an interview for a report published by the Knight Foundation. ?With Twitter, you can call out a publication if they mess up, or if they don?t cover certain topics. Now there?s accountability.?
Yes, the same tools can (and sometimes are) abused, but the point we keep trying to make here is that we shouldn’t throw out the tools that do so much good just because sometimes they are abused. It’s nice to see at least some acknowledging this.
The recording is old news. Last century. Dead. The Access versus Ownership debate should have finished 10 years ago, but we’re still bickering. Access models (eg. streaming) are not supposed to replace Ownership models. They’re supposed to power a new reality, a new age for the Music business, in which the record industry possibly has no place.
“The Music industry” has become synonymous for the recording industry, just as it was synonymous for sheet music publishers prior to the rise of the recording companies. With new technology, come new companies, and the old companies move into the background. The new Music industry will likely not consist of those that depend on the recording (eg. major labels, or even Spotify), but those that apply technology to change what it means to listen to or interact with Music, just as the recording did in the 20th century.
Even the creative process will have to change.
Prior to the invention of the record, Music was far more participative than it has become throughout the age of mass media and mass consumption. Back then, if you wanted to hear your favourite song, you better know how to play an instrument, or have a member of the household who sings well, or you’re simply not going to hear it. That sounds extremely restrictive given our current reality, but it also gave Music certain characteristics that made it richer:
Music was participative
Music was mostly a social experience
Music was more intimate
Music sounded a little bit different every time
Music belonged to everyone
I believe these are natural characteristics of Music, that got temporarily pushed into the background in the age of Mass Media and Western individualism. Entertainment and Culture became passive, and the ownership of Culture became less ambiguous, economically. A Creating Class arose, and a Consuming Class. The companies selling the output of the Creating Class benefited from the passiveness of the Consuming Class, because you couldn’t consume high margin products while you create.
The KLF’s Bill Drummond about Recorded Music
The KLF’s Bill Drummond about what the recording took away from Music. From 1:23. Quote below.
“As the technology to record music evolved through the twentieth century, it sucked in and seduced every form of music around the world. They all wanted to become recorded music. They all wanted to become this thing that could be bought and sold. And that narrowed the parameters of what music could do and be. And it took away from music a big part of what can make music powerful, which is about music being about time, place, and occasion.”
“Until 100 years ago, every musical event was unique: music was ephemeral and unrepeatable and even classical scoring couldn’t guarantee precise duplication. Then came the gramophone record, which captured particular performances and made it possible to hear them identically over and over again. [?] I think it’s possible that our grandchildren will look at us in wonder and say: “You mean you used to listen to exactly the same thing over and over again?”“
The recording is not the end of the line for Music. Every medium is a transition to the next medium.
Most people call performed music “live music”???
some people call recorded music “dead music”
The Media evolved and spawned Computers, the Internet, Video Games. The latter a highly Interactive example of Culture that went on to give birth to MMORPGs, where large Communities of players Interact and define their own Meaning, participatively. A particularly good example of the aforementioned elements coming together is Minecraft, a world-creating game where players work together to build whatever they can dream of. Deadmau5 uses this to enter a digital world of fan art and interact with his fanbase. Imagine what that’s going to look like with the unstoppable momentum Virtual Reality currently seems to have. The Consuming Class has become the Creating Class: Consumption and Creation are becoming, in part, synonymous.
Why is Music still static by default?
Why am I not being offered more ways to interact with Music?
Look at the gaming industry. It’s a 1,000 times easier to get someone to pay to unlock a ‘special ability’ than it is to sell them a piece of content.
Intimacy and Immediacy
The old Music industry is not interested in creating Intimacy. It’s hard to scale. The dominance of the recording industry’s model depends on hundreds of thousands of well-timed sales, and a long-tail that provides income until 70 years after the death of the Creator.
Yet the fact that we carry computers in our pockets that are more powerful than the PCs on our desks a few years ago, and always connected to the Internet, offers amazing opportunities for Intimacy and Immediacy, ones that fans are happy to pay for. It means that Kevin Kelly’s theory of a 1,000 True Fans will become increasingly easy to apply for a growing number of Creators.
The rise of Intimacy and Immediacy will benefit those Creators who work with small teams, who are open about their creative process, and involve their fanbase early on in this process. This enables them to secure funds through crowdfunding, as opposed to trying to secure investment from large corporations, whether recording companies or brands.
One can create dynamics of social competition within a fanbase. Who can recruit the most new fans, or active members? Who are the most valuable contributors to the Creator’s wiki? Who spend the most money on merch and who have the most complete collection? The ones that rank highest, get access to perks. A weekly 1 hour video chat with the top 10, weekly 10 minute preview of what you’re working on for the top 50, 20% discount on merchandise for the top 200, etc.
An app that has a great idea for how to get people to actively discover new Music, engage with it, and feel part of the artist’s success is Tradiio. It gamifies Music discovery and lets users invest virtual coins in songs they believe in. This helps artists rise to prominence on the platform and earn rewards. If this platform evolves from a reward-based game, to a real economy where users can purchase coins and artists can cash out, it would be a good example of the type of company the new Music industry will be made up of. Just to mention some other exemplary companies for music’s future: look at Smule and Sonic Emotion.
More on Games
The Gaming industry got into the same mess, at the same time, that the Music industry got into, brought about by the fact that what they thought was their product could suddenly be communicated through networks at zero cost. A whole new Gaming industry emerged with the arrival of connected devices: smartphones. Instead of charging money for the game, they made the game free to play and highly social, and instead charged for a limited set of actions.
Treat money-poor, time-rich fans as well as the money-rich, time-poor, because it’s the former that provide value for the latter.
Music needs a new format that’s feature-oriented, rather than content-focused. The content remains central to the experience, but the interaction around the content is what brings in the money. Likewise, playback of recorded music will remain important in the future, but perhaps not as the part of the industry that rakes in the most important part of Creators’ incomes.
There are countless examples of companies pioneering the future of Music. From aforementioned Tradiio, to ones started by game developers, Music business serial entrepreneurs, and artists themselves. First let’s start with an example from another part of the entertainment industry.
“The software will read your emotional reactions to the show in real time. Should your mouth turn down a second too long or your eyes squeeze shut in fright, the plot will speed along. But if they grow large and hold your interest, the program will draw out the suspense.”
Imagine applying that to music??Some companies are already closing in on that.
Example: Inception, by Hans Zimmer and RjDj
Music producer and film composer Hans Zimmer collaborated on an app for the Inception movie, with RjDj, a company that specializes in Context Aware Music and Augmented music, founded by one of the co-founders of last.fm, Michael Breidenbruecker. Hans Zimmer on the project:
“There’s a thing I’ve been searching for and I’ve been working on forever now, is a way to get beyond recorded music. To get beyond ‘you just download a piece of music and it’s just always the same’.”
The application they made draws information from the world around the user, and transforms it into fantastic music. It seems as if you’re being immersed in dreamlike worlds, as happens in the movie.
They continued their collaboration and made another app for The Dark Knight Rises. RjDj also created a Reactive Music game called Dimensions, which owes its name to the trippy effects of the Augmented Music that make it feel like you’ve just crossed into another dimension. The game is free-to-play, and offers in-app purchases to unlock new experiences or further augment existing ones.
I asked two of the people behind RjDj whether people are ready for adaptive music. This is what they had to say.
“I think many of them are ready. Apps like Inception or Dark Night Rises show that people are really into this sonic experience. The problem is how this is presented packaged. I can tell you from experience that not many people hear the difference between 5 hours of generative music and 5 hours recorded music. So really… no one cares if your music changes all the time through an algorithm and never sounds the same or if [it] is a preproduced track. Music has to have a reason why it is dynamic and not linear… that’s why we sync it to real life.”
“I think Inception especially proved that if the experience is delivered in a way that makes sense, perhaps within a bigger conceptual framework, then millions of people can understand it and really like it.
As for people understanding the depths and details of how reactive music changes. It is very very easy to lose a huge part of the audience here. I think its fair to say that only musicologists and very serious music listeners could pick out the ways in which detailed generative music is changing for instance. Making a reactive music experience meaningful requires that the listener can tangibly feel that the change in the music is linked to his / her activity or life in some direct and hopefully emotionally powerful way.
Often making linear music is about manipulating the emotional state of the listener into particular states of mind over time for dramatic effect. Reactive music poses a different set of possibilities – what if the music is manipulated by them / their emotional state? As a composer this is totally different – its like using a sniper rifle instead of a shotgun – you can make your music hit exactly the right spot for the moment.“
Adaptive soundtracks are actually quite common in games, where the Music transforms depending on the player’s absolute and relative position (it’s called Dynamic Music). Some developers are chucking all the other game elements aside to focus fully on that.
Proteus has been described as a non-game. The game (or ‘game’) was developed by one developer and one sound designer, and places you on a mystical island. There’s nothing there to kill, no need to score points, and you can’t die. All you have to do is to wander around the island to discover new areas and to enjoy the way objects around you influence the soundtrack. This is the literal embodiment of the phrase ‘soundscape’. The changing seasons, different weather conditions, time of day, and varying ecosystems all have an impact on the Music.
I asked David Kanaga, the game’s sound designer, whether this is something anyone could do, in order to understand whether this could become a more mainstream medium for Music:
“Yes, anyone could do it. It’s maybe even more natural than writing static music in a way. That said, very few people are doing it, and maybe it takes years of UNLEARNING, which maybe means everything needs to be played again, to stop fixating on what’s successful and beautiful in recorded music, in Sgt. Peppers and Pet Sounds, to find the play aspect of those and to move on, to stop admiring recordings.. improvise only, this is the tactic that i’ve been practicing myself to try this unlearning.. no serious learning is needed, really, but the UNLEARNING is totally necessary.”
Example: Biophilia, by Bj?rk
In recent years many artists have taken to releasing albums as apps. Bj?rk had a particularly interesting take on it, releasing her album as a 3 dimensional galaxy that can be navigated and interacted with. The app even became part of MoMa?s collection.
Through the use of in-app purchases, the user can unlock new parts of the galaxy, which provide new Music to Interact with.
Example: Don’t Be Scared LP, by DJ Vadim
Ninja Tune veteran DJ Vadim released an ‘immersive album’, which allows users to interact with different elements of the song, recomposing it according to their own wishes. What better way to create a sense of Intimacy between your fans and your Music.
Example: Central Park (Listen to the Light), by BLUEBRAIN
Then there’s Bluebrain, a musical duo that produced their own apps, location-aware albums, one of which can only be used in New York’s Central Park. In a way it’s similar to Proteus, except in this case, the soundscape is mapped to physical locations rather than virtual.
Recently a new music startup by one of the creators of Google Maps started making waves: Weav. Weav’s aim is to simply make music elastic. Unlike Spotify’s new feature which picks songs that match your tempo while running, songs on Weav’s platform will actually adjust to your pace. The team created tools for musicians to create dynamic music: you don’t just write the song, you also program rules for it to recompose itself and adjust to different tempos. Co-founder Lars Rasmussen:
“We believe that as our lives become increasingly digital, and as our increasingly powerful mobile devices play greater and greater roles in our lives, having a song that can change and adapt — in real time — to what you are doing will become increasingly important. And delightful. This is why we built Weav.”
If you’re waiting for disruption in the music industry, don’t look at the big platforms like iTunes or Spotify. They belong in the Age of the Recording.
Look at platforms that offer actual Interactivity, Immediacy, Intimacy, and Involvement. Now more than ever can Creators help give shape to future formats of Music, and to new ways to connect the listener to the Music.
Imagine Music in the Age of the Internet of Things.
Music may be static, but it doesn’t have to be. And the relation between Creator and Fan certainly shouldn’t be.
The NSA can’t get enough data, as is evidenced by its shiny, new data center and its multiple efforts to either bypass laws entirely or have them rewritten in its favor. General Alexander, in particular, wants all the data. Everything. And as Mike covered earlier, he’s not shy about grabbing the data first and worrying about the legality later.
In his enthusiastic pursuit for more data, Alexander seems to have bypassed any sort of confirmation that adding more data is helpful. Here’s one issue the indiscriminate data harvesting raised.
“He had all these diagrams showing how this guy was connected to that guy and to that guy,” says a former NSA official who heard Alexander give briefings on the floor of the Information Dominance Center. “Some of my colleagues and I were skeptical. Later, we had a chance to review the information. It turns out that all [that] those guys were connected to were pizza shops.”
Tons of noise, or rather, tons of dots, the kind intelligence leaders seem to believe we’re still short on. Alexander certainly liked connecting dots, but seemed unconcerned if the resulting picture was completely unintelligible.
Under Alexander’s leadership, one of the agency’s signature analysis tools was a digital graph that showed how hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people, places, and events were connected to each other. They were displayed as a tangle of dots and lines. Critics called it the BAG — for “big ass graph” — and said it produced very few useful leads.
When you have tons of data, you have to filter out the noise if you’re going to use it any meaningful way. Alexander may have learned from the previous experience that while many terrorists may purchase pizzas, not everyone who purchases pizza is a terrorist. Hence the first level of “auditing,” as Marcy Wheeler points out at emptywheel.
As I noted last month, the NSA’s primary order for the Section 215 program allows for technical personnel to access the data, in unaudited form, before the analysts get to it. They do so to identify “high volume identifiers” (and other “unwanted BR metadata”). As I said, I suspect they’re stripping the dataset of numbers that would otherwise distort contact chaining.
I suspect a lot of what these technical personnel are doing is stripping numbers — probably things like telemarketer numbers — that would otherwise distort the contact chaining… I used telemarketers, but Alexander himself has used the example of the pizza joint in testimony.
In other words, it appears Alexander learned from his mistake at INSCOM that pizza joints do not actually represent a meaningful connection. His use of the example seems to suggest that NSA now strips pizza joints from their dataset.
Separating the signal from the noise is the first step for working with any large data set. But the NSA’s separation step operates under the assumption that every number with an inordinate number of hits is just noise. If the NSA is now stripping out eateries as possible connectors, it could very well be filtering out links to terrorists. Wheeler goes back through the series of missed connections by intelligence and law enforcement agencies that were uncovered after the Boston bombing.
I also suspect there may be one gaping hole in the NSA’s data relating to the Tsarnaevs: any calls and connections through Gerry’s Italian Kitchen.
Gerry’s was, if you recall, the pizza joint involved in the 2011 murder in Waltham: the three men were killed sometime between ordering a pizza and its delivery 45 minutes later. I’ve been told both Tsarnaevs had delivered pizza for that restaurant before then and Tamerlan may still have been.
But Gerry’s is also where the brothers disposed of some of their explosives the night of the manhunt, and it may well have been what brought them to Watertown.
So a connection to the brothers going back years when they worked there, a connection to the 2011 murder, and a connection (however tangential) to the manhunt. Yet (I’m guessing here) any ties the brothers had through that pizza joint would not show up in the dragnet collected precisely for that purpose, because such data is purged because normally pizza joints don’t reflect a meaningful relationship.
Here’s where the NSA’s collection activities become a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. Leave the pizza places in and everyone is linked to terrorists. Take them out and you delete helpful connections. The agency will probably point to the need to access more data, in order to somehow further filter the previously collected data. It has most likely already devoted several million dollars towards solving this conundrum — more analysts, more tools, more data. The one thing it hasn’t considered, apparently, is the simplest solution: targeted collections.
[B]ecause this was a dragnet, rather than a collection of the brothers’ calls, this pizza connection may have been hidden entirely in the data.
The continuous, ever-increasing flow of data into the NSA’s haystacks has just as much of a chance to bury useful connections as it has to bring them to light. Intelligence agencies don’t care much for targeted data acquisition, preferring to pick it up in bulk “just in case.”
It’s as though the collection of data is its own end. I suppose the only “fortunate” aspect of this dragnet is that its occurring in a digital age, thus keeping the NSA’s data centers from looking like interior shots of a particularly horrific episode of “Hoarders.” The theory is that this will prevent terrorist attacks. But in practice, it keeps looking as if our intelligence agencies could be just as ineffective with half the data.
As home theater systems advance in quality, many people are wondering why anyone would bother heading to the theater at all. Theater owners are aware of this issue and many have been improving the quality of the “theater experience” by offering larger, comfier seats and moving beyond snack bar staples into craft beers and brick oven pizzas.
There's still the undeniable draw of being the “first” to see a new film, showing up at a midnight showing or on opening day. There's also somewhat of a communal experience that can't be easily duplicated at home, unless your living room has seating for a couple hundred friends.
I recorded a commentary track to be downloaded, put on an ipod and listened to in the theater as you’re watching Looper. This is an odd thing I tried with Bloom, and have gotten a few requests for it again, so here it is. It is totally different from the commentary track that will be on the Blu/DVD, a bit more technical and detailed. Needless to say, this is NOT to be listened to on a first viewing, or before you’ve seen the film. Also, please work it so that a glowing screening is never out of your pocket during the movie.
This is a great way to connect with fans and get them to shell out for first run tickets multiple times. Johnson is a cinema fanatic who's managed to turn his love of the silver screen into a career making movies that appeal to other movie buffs. This move makes perfect sense. After a viewing or two of “Looper,” any true cinema freak would love to run through another viewing while having every aspect of the film broken down by someone as deeply in love with the art form as he or she is.
Plus, as Johnson mentioned, this isn't simply version 0.9 of the DVD commentary, but a more technical and detailed breakdown of the film. “Totally different.” He's obviously got more knowledge, information and energy than he knows what to do with, considering he's done this before. This offering will put the director and fan together for a film-length geekout. This connection puts them back into the theater (selling scarcity) and primes them for the eventual DVD/Blu-ray release (another scarcity). Throwing thoughtful freebies to your fans tends to make them happier to open their wallets later.
Turns out that exhibitors (folks that own the theaters) weren't too keen on the idea of people showing up to the movies with iPods. They felt it was going to be too distracting (or something) for other people in the theater who weren't wearing iPods for the show – like the commentary-listeners would be laughing when nobody else was laughing, and that'd create some kind of problem. Based on that, they suggested that if Weinstein Co. went through with the commentary track promotion, they'd start pulling the flick from screens. So the commentary track promotion has been tabled until we're at a very low theater count.
No rumbling from theater owners on Johnson's actions has been detected yet, but one wonders why exhibitors would be so willing to sacrifice repeat viewings in order to protect single viewings from possible offense. If this had been promoted rather than buried, who knows how many films would have experienced a boost in box office sales thanks to a multi-viewing incentive.]
Guitarist Chris Randall, formerly of Sister Machine Gun (and founder of Positron Records, along with running plug-in creator Audio Damage) has an epic post detailing his thoughts about the music business (and the recording industry) and the monumental changes it has gone through over the last decade. He pointedly declares that his post (in PDF form, due to limitations of his site) is not a manifiesto. Randall calls it “more of a mission statement, really,” and it does exactly that, with many stops along the way.
The underlying current of the piece is that music (along with other forms of art) cannot honestly be discussed in terms of monetary value. The sale price of an mp3 or an album has very little to do with how the fans value the music. No one talks up how much they spent on something when discussing their connection with a band or singer. Instead, they talk about more ethereal concepts, like where they were when they first heard a certain track or who turned them on to a certain band. Randall gives a personal example, as seen through the artist's eyes:
The funny thing about music is that people can tie a certain song to a specific event in their life that occurred when they heard that song; the two become inseparable… I first noticed it in 2004, on the last real tour I did as a performing artist. The first day of the tour, I was in the audience waiting for the opening band to go on, and someone came up to me and said “it’s so cool you’re here! The first time I heard you was…” and then went on to describe a particular life experience that was occurring when he first heard a song I wrote. There were over sixty shows on that tour, and a night didn’t go by that I didn’t hear that speech, or a variation of it, at least once. It quickly became a running joke, The First Time I Heard You, and soon after that it became a conversation I dreaded. It was a heart-rending thing to hear, night after night, because I thought they were saying “you used to make things I liked. Now you don’t, but I’m here out of nostalgia.” It took an epiphany to realize that the First Time I Heard You conversation is is meant as a sincere form of flattery. “You are an ARTIST. You created something that MADE ME FEEL. This is IMPORTANT and I need to TELL YOU so you know that we have a CONNECTION.”
This led Randall to the following conclusion:
That epiphany, and a realization that the act of creation can and should be entirely decoupled from the business of commerce, is what I want to talk about. In fact, let's boil it down to a pithy aphorism: the coin of this realm is reputation, and our imagination is an ATM.
Many artists and (especially) artists' “representatives” have argued that the current market for all things artistic is unsustainable, a race for the bottom fueled by cheap technology and piracy. That their efforts have done little to reverse the process hasn't made them any happier and it certainly hasn't made their few, minimal attempts any smarter or any more effective. Randall went through the whole process as an artist, having the “rug yanked out from under him,” and joining the chorus of disaffected artists cheering on the destruction of their former employers. This cheering, while admittedly fun, did little to actually change anything. Major labels kept acting like major labels, signing everyone they could talk into a contract. Meanwhile, the internet changed things for those wired into it, with little effect anywhere else:
There was a brief period where it was kind of fun to watch the entire music industry collapse in on itself, like a dying star. Can we get more of Metallica suing people for liking them, please? But Seans Fanning and Parker didn’t make Napster because they were moved by the plight of the working musician. They did it because they could, and the act itself, the act of petulant children bent on destruction, was nothing more than a path to greater things for them, increasing their reputations. The music industry, for its part, was eminently destroyable, as it had created an economy of artificial worth, by virtue of its “throw all the spaghetti at the wall and see which noodles stick” business model.
Napster effectively made music free, and yet, for several years, record labels continued to overspend and overvalue their own music:
That’s fine, and business is business, but the problem is that all those bands think they are special flowers (and the labels are in no small part enablers of this thinking; they spend a lot of time and effort making those artists feel like special flowers), and if their record cost $500,000 to make, then it is worth $500,000… Simple economics: a product’s worth is what someone will pay for it, for the most part, not what it cost to make. Hence the utterly false values ascribed to music today.
Plenty of new services have arrived which seem to push the “value” of music down even further. Lots of criticism has been leveled at Spotify for its “low” payouts. Artists have noticed that streaming services' per-play rates aren't going to be much help if you've sunk thousands of dollars into recording an album. This isn't the listening audience's fault, though. This is still just a matter of artists valuing their art above what the market will actually bear. Randall points out that, if anything, Spotify's per-play rates are too high, if compared to the public's valuation of the music in question:
Something happened to me a little while ago that makes me think the Spotify valuation is high, if we’re using currency as our means of valuation. SomeoneI know, who is in the military, was recently deployed to Iraq. While she was there, a friend of hers gave her a portable hard drive with 250,000 songs on it…
To her, this hard drive was “cool,” and furthermore “a neat present.” That it contained roughly 1/8th of all the commercial music ever recorded by Western civilization didn’t change the fact that, on a visceral level, the worth of it to her was essentially the cost-of-replacement of the physical drive itself, because she could always get another copy. If you want to affix an actual monetary value to music, that value is now, and ever was, a function of two things: the true cost of the medium it is stored on, and how easy that medium is to duplicate. The quarter million dollar fine the U.S. government could theoretically levy as punishment for copying that hard drive reflects the false economy the labels have created, not the actual value of the music itself.
To be clear, I am in no way implying that art doesn’t have intrinsic value. But that value is not quantifiable in dollars. If we extrapolate the cost of that hard drive to the individual songs, we can say that each song cost roughly 4/100th of a cent. While this is about 2/3 of the payment for a typical Spotify stream, the money went to the drive retailer and the manufacturer that made it, and none whatsoever went to any artist, publisher, or label.
So, if it can be argued that the monetary value of music is zero, how does any artist hope to make a living? Randall argues that the first step is to realize that music's power to create emotional experiences is “priceless” (in the good sense of the word) and work from there. The true potential lies in the connection, not the value ascribed to someone's songs by an outside force.
As an artist, if you choose to fight this battle over monetary value, know this: you will lose. That is a foregone conclusion. In fact, you have already lost. All of that nonsense with numbers and who’s getting paid and whether life is fair or not is all inside baseball, and the average person (the one ultimately footing the bills, it must be said) couldn’t give two shits. To them, pieces of art are tied to memories and experiences; they are either trying to recapture the emotions they felt when they first experienced the art in a particular context, or trying to create new emotions to go with new contexts. They are willing to spend a certain amount of money, for altruism’s sake, if it’s convenient.
This is where the artist needs to step in and connect. Not only are they fighting against a zero-dollar valuation, they're also competing for the hearts and minds of potential audience members (and customers) who are blessed with more choices than ever before. Barriers-to-entry are all but gone and the world is filled with people creating because they suddenly find that not only are the tools more powerful, but the options for dissemination are nearly endless. If you can get past the “valuation” issue, you can do great things, and quite possibly, make some money as well. But first you've got to do some letting go.
[I]n my honest assessment, the opportunities are far greater now, and the rewards as ample or perhaps even more so. It’s easy. Just forget about money. Seriously. Let it go. You’re not getting paid? Join the club. Robert Johnson and Scott Joplin were the founding members. Muddy Waters, HP Lovecraft, and Jackson Pollack each got an achievement award. David Crosby gets the Bad Life Decisions Honorable Mention. You’re in good company. You should be proud.
Randall points out that he's not trying to make the case that creating art in hopes of making a living is the wrong angle to take. As he says, there are still several creative people collecting paychecks, including session musicians, graphic designers and various positions in the game, computer and television industries. He also makes it very clear that he's not, for lack of a better term, One of Us. [broad emoticon wink at TD regulars]
Neither do I want to come off as a neck-bearded freetard. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are not many groups of people I disdain more than the Doctorow mashup crowd and their inspired thinking that art + art = better art, and everybody has the right, nay, the responsibility to make their own Mickey Mouse movies. If that’s the sort of thing that floats your boat, so be it, but on your head.
Randall offers this alternative plan for struggling artists: the currency of reputation. Build a solid one of those and people will throw money at you. He points out the astounding success of Amanda Palmer's Kickstarter project. Did she need all that she collected to move forward with her career? Very definitely, no. But people showed up in droves and helped her, as Randall puts it, “cash in some of that reputation for real-world money.” The same thing for Penny Arcade, who “chose to cash in their reputation that they earned through years of slogging it in the trenches.” Your first step as an artist is to start “banking” reputation.
These Reputation Credits, an arbitrary unit of my own devising, are a reflection of how earnest you are in tending your public-facing persona… [I]f you contribute to the human cultural experience, you do earn them, and the more you contribute (or, perhaps, the higher the quality of your contributions) the more you earn. You can then turn these in for real-world dividends that can, for instance, pay the rent or buy sushi.
And how, exactly does on do that? By utilizing these four steps, many of which echo a familiar mantra around these parts:
Put it in front of as many people as possible.
Engage the resulting audience.
The more you do this, the better you’ll get at it, the more Rep Credits you’ll have, and the further they’ll go when you need to spend some of them. People want to be entertained. They’ll go all honey badger on some good entertainment. Give it to them, for fuck’s sake, and stop bitching about money. That’ll come in its own good time.
There's a ton of great writing and insight in Randall's wordbomb. (It runs over 4,400 words.) I encourage you to take a look at the whole thing. It's not often a musician will offer up this sort of clearly-laid-out perspective on the last decade+ of the music world.
Disparate aspects of the ongoing advance of technology throughout the world are coming together in a very interesting and heartwarming result. As groups continue the attempt to connect everyone in the world by the near-future, we’ve also seen how social media has been used recently to organize and deploy protests and citizen activism, particularly in the Middle East. But those two stories are converging into a fascinating display of communication between two rival nations in that troubled region.
In case you’ve been sleeping under a rock these past few months, it turns out the governments of Iran and Israel have some minor quibbles with one another. As a result, there’s been much saber-rattling and boot-stomping between the two governments and popular opinion tends to be it’s a matter of when, not if, the bullets and bombs begin flying. If one is not nuanced enough to separate out these nation’s governments from their people, one might assume the common people in each state are equally rivalrous. This separation is made all the more difficult by the way both nations close off communication with one another, such that an individual in Israel is completely unable to make a simple phone call to an Iranian area code (it’s blocked at the government level).
But if you happen to think closing off all communication is silly and counter-productive (like me), you’ll be delighted to know that the internet is here to save the day. CNN has the story of one Israeli citizen, Ronny Edry, a graphic designer, who thinks the prospect of pre-emptive war with Iran is absolutely insane, so he developed some simple but striking “posters” and put them up on Facebook.
“My idea was simple, I was trying to reach the other side. There are all these talks about war, Iran is coming to bomb us and we bomb them back, we are sitting and waiting. I wanted to say the simple words that this war is crazy,” said Edry.
The images featured pictures of various Israelies, such as Edry himself and his neighbors along with their children, and a message:
Now if you’re cynical, or you watch too much cable news, you might be wondering what the big deal is. So an Israeli made some posters and put them on Facebook. So what?
The response, said Edry, was overwhelming. “In a few hours, I had hundreds of shares and thousands of likes and it was like something was happening.
“I think it’s really amazing that someone from Iran poked me and said ‘Hello, I’m from Iran, I saw your “poster” on Facebook,’ ” Edry said.
And that’s when the posters created by Iranian citizens in return began flooding in. Posters with messages of peace and commonality. I found one particular post on Edry’s Facebook page from an Iranian to be particularly heartening:
We share a common history, have been sharing both our great and ancient cultures, languages and poetry together. … We are so similar, and politicians cannot cut a tie that has been tied thousands of years ago. I am proud to have you as my friends.
I’m not going to go all peace, love and flower power on you, but this is why the internet age is so important. It’s also why cutting off communication between nations, or allowing even the first steps of internet censorship to take hold, must be stopped at all costs. It’s not just about copyright, or flash mobs, or YouTube videos showing Spaceballs clips. The internet is ultimately about people sharing with one another, whether they’re sharing thoughts, images like this, or whatever. It’s about commonality. It’s about creating a web of bonds through which communication and understanding can flow.
And now, I’m realizing, it’s about giving every man and woman the power to do what their blowhard, acrimonious politicians won’t do: talk to one another.
Despite the fact that more women than men are now online, there still seems to be some perception out there that the internet is still a male-dominated world. Perhaps one reason for that is that men value their online connections more. At least that’s the results coming from a new study showing that, on average, men tend to feel stronger connections with online communities. Of course, the report doesn’t seem to explore why that is. It could potentially have something to do with the fact that early on, the internet really was male-dominated, and the community structures fit better with typical male interactions. It will be interesting to see if this remains the same, or if, over time, there are better forms of community that allow both men and women to feel equally strongly connected to their online communities.