postapocalyptic visions of the record industry

From the comments on sue em all not good for labels, here’s Greg on the prospects for the music industry:

It’s kind of like Dr. Bloodmoney or one of the other good Phil Dick post-apocalyptic novels: most of civilization may have been destroyed, but some industrious tinkerer out there can probably put together a wood-burning car, the kindly kid in the radio shop turns out to be telekenetic, and the small rodents evolve high intelligence.

On my optimistic days, I find this state of affairs exciting and stimulating — you never know what weird creature could come along mext — but just as often it seems dreary and near hopeless: there is, after all, a lot to mourn for.

And Victor’s response:

it does seem that taking something away as fundamental as charging per “copy” would be wrenching under the most visionary, forward thinking authority.

Meanwhile, the death of “my favorite band” seems to me a cultural phenom almost separate from sue-em-all and more a by product of other forces. Kids don’t seem to pin their parental-anxieties on celebrity rocks stars like they did in past generations. I don’t mourn that.

Unlike most, I don’t think things are over for the labels. I think that they are going to shrink to the size of the licensing opportunities, for example in helping jeans, cars, and games to sell. But once they get there they’ll stop shrinking, because the recordings they own will stay cultural milestones. If the song publishers — an industry rooted in the 19th century — can remain a big deal in the 21st century, the record companies can find a durable niche as well.

2 thoughts on “postapocalyptic visions of the record industry

  1. I agree with your prognosis. I don’t think that the labels are going away completely; there will still be corporations called Warner Bros. and Atlantic and what not, but they will simply be licensing houses.

    I think if you ask a regular person what “record label” is, they’d probably focus on the discovery and financing of new music. Is a label that doesn’t do that really worthy of the name?

    A music industry populated with corporate licensing operations that don’t produce new music (wood-burning cars) and tiny net labels with tiny niche audiences that do (smart rodents) is exactly the post-apocalyptic world I was referring to…

  2. I agree that there will be places for commercial labels–and that some of those places, I add, will be cool indeed. Proper niches, better marketing, less exploitation.

    My post-apocalyptic sci fi construct is “Silent Running”, except in this odd version, Bruce Dern is not the custodian of a wonderful forest, but instead the curator of what ended up being the somber buzz (kill) of needlessly chainsaws.
    A chainsaw ranch–a commercial scrap heap.

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