One of the most destructive forces against ideas has been the coalition of music labels against new technologies, the internet, its listeners/customers, and the artists that actually make the music we all listen to. Wired has a great short article about how we will soon see The Year The Music Dies (and they also have a humanizing piece about the despised Hilary Rosen – spokesperson for the RIAA, the industry’s backwards lobby group).
For years, the safest path to success in the music business has been to hunt the teen market. But by ignoring career artists at the expense of the latest trends, the labels have lost touch with wide swaths of society. Ultimately, Timothy suggested to me that night, the industry as we know it could vanish not so much because of technology but because few people over the age of 30 would care if it did. “I can’t believe that the business I’ve spent my life with could be about to disappear,” he said. “And I also can’t believe it’s happening so fast.”
If the industry collapsed, as he predicted, would artists and listeners be better or worse off? After a brutally difficult transition musicians and fans might on the whole benefit. The star-making machinery may crumble, but people will still pay for music, whether it’s live, licensed, or digitally delivered (at a competitive price). Look at the bluegrass and gospel circuits, which provide long careers and middle-class lives to some of America’s greatest performers. Look at the techno bands that are winning an audience by selling their music to advertisers. And look at artists like Phish, Prince, and Wonderlick, who are trying to use the Internet to deal directly with their fans and bypass the middleman.