what to do about it

Assume that the internet has music in a mess. What can be done about it?

Step one: identify musicians who are finding ways to thrive in the new conditions.

For example, DJs make recordings to promote their live performances. They earn a living on performances, not recordings, and so are usually at ease with gratis distribution and redistribution of their recordings.

Another example is Jonathan Coulton, who says:

I’m an artist who’s making a very good living, and maybe this will surprise people, but the largest chunk of my income is from selling mp3s (about 40%). Everything is CC licensed and a lot of it is freely available, but people still choose to buy music from me. Touring would be a bigger part of it but I keep the schedule light to spend more time with my family.

In my experience the benefits of the new landscape easily offset whatever devaluation trend is happening, at least in terms of independent artists. I compete with free and come out ahead, and I can’t imagine I’m the only one seeing this kind of result.

Step two: help these musicians grow until gains in their businesses offset losses for other musicians. For example, identify legislation which benefits singing stars at the expense of DJs and nix it.

Step three: there is no step three.

Anyway, if the internet really does have music in a mess then this process is already happening naturally.


Music like water is a flying car.


While I was writing this I was listening to a good song on Jonathan Coulton’s web site: Re: Your Brains (mp3)

2 thoughts on “what to do about it

  1. It is, I think, a similar formula as what needs to apply to other “homegrown” industries. For example, organic health foods, green building materials, hand-made goods (e.g., Etsy). All of those areas have been undermined and/or currently are undermined by regulations designed around past industries.

    Altogether, it’s interesting to recognize that the music business is heavily regulated through copyright laws, technology laws like the DMCA, the sanctioning of performance royalty organizations and FCC regulations on broadcasters.

    One escape from all of that is staying small, which is ideal for boutiques and DIYers (e.g., expensive solar panels and DIY compost bins, respectively). And, as a market that is ultimately accepted into the mainstream regulations, I think it’s quantity that makes the difference: so many people being interested in the boutique and DIY products that the very definition of mainstream has to change.

  2. Spreading understanding concerning creative commons and other permissive licensing as important cultural technologies. At the same time that the internet makes cultural interchange easier, it also allows meta-interchange of culture; share and keep sharing and emulating the success stories.

    Even if it’s Prince selling $2100 coffee table books.

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