Future of Music

This Future of Music Summit is the kind of event that would have made me crazy in person–too many pretentious indie-rock know-it-alls faced off against soulless suits–so I credit Pitchfork for doing a great summary.

Everybody seems to the CD is dead and that few people sit and listen to an album straight through. So what comes next? Apparently there was talk of three possible futures:
1. The “celestial jukebox” model, in which all music ever is posted somewhere in the sky and users pay a subscription for access to all this great stuff. The problem here is figuring out the complicated chain of rights for remuneration–who gets how much of a cut?
2. The “money in the kitty” model, in which everybody pays some sort of tax on every computer, iPods, piece of audio software, and any other device that potentially helps them copy or listen to music created by other people. An even bigger problem here: not only does everybody have to agree how to split the kitty as with model one, but there needs to be some sort of tracking system to know who’s “selling” the most (since nobody’s selling anything).
3. The old-fashioned model in which artists make all their money from playing live, and product (including albums) are an add-on.

I’d sort of like to see model 3 return. It’d be nice from a cultural perspective–people would be encouraged to consume music in a group rather than in isolation on headphones. I remember big rock concerts in the 1980s and all the colorful weirdoes you’d meet. You can still get some of that in smaller venues, but big concerts are now filled with security and overpriced to keep the riff-raff out. As a result, you get a lot more “down in front” than “want a hit off this?” Deadheads and metalheads are things of the past. Plus, as a musician, it sounds great–players are rewarded for the amount of craft they put into their live show, not for how good they look on TV and whether they have access to a multimillion dollar recording facility and engineers who can polish turds.

As a fan, #1 sounds ideal. I think of how much money I spent on vinyl and CDs, and now spend on hardware and software to get that material into a convenient portable form, and I think a couple hundred bucks a year would be reasonable for accessing a service like this.

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