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4.11.2006

my tambourine is still shaking 

It's pretty clear to everybody that major labels are having a hard time adjusting to the effect of new technology on their business models. It's less of an adjustment and more of a sea change in terms of business practices. While the advantages of social networking websites and filesharing and cheap recording equipment is obvious to users of MySpace, BitTorrent, and GarageBand, the wake-up call to marketers seems to be incredibly delayed. I tend to zone out when quarterly financial reports come out, because they say the same thing over and over and over again. CD sales down a certain percentage, profits down a certain percentage, but the growth of digital music revenue, if it continues to expand exponentially, promises to exceed anybody's wildest dreams. It seems to me that as more of these reports that come out, more people are learning to harness the power of the internet.

I think maybe the politics of fear had a huge impact on the first few years of the millenium, but as it continues into absurdity, the scare tactics - while very real to the defendants in court - are symptomatic of some kind of kamikaze attempt to preserve an order that actually disappeared a few years ago. (What am I talking about? Music or the White House?)

In the end, major labels will refine their various departments, seek out the right kind of talent, and figure out how to re-route the massive amounts of dollars that flow through their creaky pipes. It will take years, because an entire population raised without CDs has to become working adults, and eventually the older veterans will come to a point of understanding. When we get there, I wonder if the indie/major divide will be any different. It is true that in our current circumstances, more independently-minded, young/technology savvy kids have an advantage. That can go one of two ways though - it can cause a revolution, or it can provide the experimental evidence that will point the majors in the right direction. Which is more likely?

As for my own music, which I give away for free for several different reasons, I continue to believe that the surest, most stable and most favorable way to pursue a musical career has nothing to do with selling sound recordings. Most music can be got for free these days, and I doubt the abilities of a free-market government to find a way to limit that. I doubt the goals of smart record labels will continue to involve suing their fans.

This op-ed article exposes, in the simplest of ways, the hypocrisy of the music industry and the impotence of the beaurocratic structure. Poignantly written by Alan Berry of Berry's Music.

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