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Blogger Book Club: Dust In the Wind

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As these things tend to happen, I read Kyle’s post on leaving the baggage of scores and recordings behind by going digital, and then a couple hours later while flipping through the New Yorker, I stumbled upon an observation from Sasha Frere-Jones pointing out that what was once conjecture is getting closer and closer to plain old truth: “recordings have become advertisements for shows.” Sure, sell what you can, but then don’t sweat the illegal downloads. Digital copies don’t mean anything when they are essentially infinitely reproducible. The copy costs pretty much nothing to generate, so monetizing the copy itself is probably a losing game. Raising an army to protect it is often even counterproductive. Ding, ding! It’s time to wake up and move on.

Both of these concepts relate to some of Lessig’s ideas: the real game is not the copy and we’re just spinning our wheels deeper into the mud (intellectually and practically) the longer we pretend it is.

When anyone can have pretty much anything, getting people’s attention will be the challenge. Many probably won’t even look for what little is sucessfully kept from them.  However, when media is a vast sea, most of us will be looking for some sort of beacon to cling to; a place where we feel at home and maybe even serve as a productive part of the club. What this suggest to me is that rather than trying to plug the dam and protect the precious copies, the smartest among us are experimenting with positioning their content as close to the front lines of their community’s public conciousness (and in the best cases monetized–even if the $$ won’t happen for a while–access) as they can mange. It’s dangerous out there, sure, but it’s the place to be.

As the celestial jukebox of digital content moves from concept to reality, the tastemakers will be key, and who will those powerbrokers be? I doubt it will be the usual guest list. A new guard is coming down the pike, and when it comes to the fine and performing arts, I’m dying to see who will take that crown.

Comments

  1. When anyone can have pretty much anything, getting people’s attention will be the challenge.
    Which is why it’s so upsetting to me that Lessig seems, in principle, to root for the underdog while holding up monolithic content providers like Amazon and Netflix as examples of “democratizing” the internet.

  2. Very well coordinated discussion here Molly.
    Corey, I think “Same sh#t, different day…” might sum up what this brave new world holds for independent artists.
    “As the celestial jukebox of digital content moves from concept to reality, the tastemakers will be key, and who will those powerbrokers be? I doubt it will be the usual guest list.”
    Molly, who are you referring to? Who are the “tastemakers” and “powerbrokers”?
    And they get to wear a crown? You mean a prize?
    I am not trying to be sarcastic – I am honestly not clear as to what your point is with this last paragraph.
    I liked where you were going in the previous paragraph. There’s a long history of artists creating community centric festivals and outreach in order to perpetuate their work outside the reach of corporate America. I’m thinking of New York City’s VisionFest or even the earlier days of New Orlean’s Jazz and Heritage Fest. But you sort of shift gears and express your own excitement about (if I’m following you…) the second (or third or fourth) coming of the next Pharoh in charge of all us slaves creating “content” (forget calling it art…).
    I’d say the new “powerbrokers” are advertising agencies looking to license out “content” for their clients. Am I way off here? I have a feeling I’m just not following your train of thought :) so forgive me. But please expound if you have time.
    P.S. My captcha was “grabs bank.”
    Molly responds: I’m thinking about anyone who introduces/promotes work successfully to “the audience”–the matchmaker, so to say. For instance, at one time if you were the head of a television studio, you got to say what shows made it into the public eye and what shows did not. Now, if they don’t want your show, you can put it on the internet. If it finds its way to the right (but different!) people, you can end up with a huge audience, even without the TV honcho. In my scenario (which I just made up on the fly to illustrate what I was getting at, so forgive the holes), you still generally can’t do it alone or as well as TV, but you can do it different and do it big. I think we’ll see that transition in the performing arts as well. Excited? Well, it should be interesting and (hopefully) more diverse. Unless we get so overwhelmed by all the content out there (think of all the bands on myspace) that we shut down and only listen to mainstream radio because the alternative is impossibly exhausting. This is why the matchmakers will be key (and why I gave them imaginary crowns).

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