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Content is King

If it’s true what they say, “Content is king” when dealing with the web and digital media, I was wondering how to reconcile the recent popularity of the “free music download.” Today, George Micheal announced that he will no longer be charging for music and that all his hits, misses, and almosts will be available on the web for downloading, free of charge. This got me to thinking…why is it that music seems to be the only artistic medium that appears to be struggling with the concept of on-line publishing and the mechanism by which royalties can be counted?

If you look at books, artwork, or any other media, the digital revolution does not seem to have impacted any of the mechanisms for providing payment to artists or creators. Rather it appears to be the opposite in many cases; folks who provide the content are making it rich when their websites are feeding a now larger audience. Authors are make more money while consumers are going to their web sites, no longer satisfied with just reading and owning the book, no, they want the T-shirt and, in some cases, are even willing to pay a website for “exclusive content” so they can gain insite into the author’s mind and take a peek at new or unpublished works.

I think there exists a cultural difference in the music camp. Most folks who own books are proud of their collections. Sure, we have free books available in libraries all around the country but folks who read, and I mean really read, usually have masses of books in their own homes. It’s not good enough for them to be able to peek at a book down the street for free at a library or in a glass cases; even download it for free, no they would rather own it entirely, so they can show it off. We take a certain amount of pride in ownership of artwork too. Having looked at a piece of artwork in a gallery pales in comparision with owning an original and hanging it above your couch, for example. So, this leads me to ask, what is it about music that they can’t seem to catch on in the same way. What happened to the folks who had large music collections and took pride in ownership of music?

The younger generation seems to have taken offense with the very word “ownership” as if amassing a collection of music cannot allow one to “own” anything at all. The current reasoning is that music cannot be owned any more than it cannot be copyright protected. It’s just not socially acceptable for younger folks to even contemplate owning music, rather they connect into an endless stream of continually availalbe music feeds, which are inherently free. Their mindset provides for no ownership of that which should be free.

I don’t think there will be any resolution to the current on-line publication wars until these semantic and philosophical difference are addressed. Sure record companies think they “own” music because they are the ones taking the risk on the artists so, in their mindset, they should be the ones to reap the rewards. They feel they have earned their residual incomes, and take offense if any youngblood coming in and trying to milk their cash cows. Meanwhile, the young folks feel that anybody cashing in on this new “revolutionary” tool is a “sell out” and not warranted of their time. There has to exist some sort of common ground, coupled with a philosophical shift, before any resolution will take place. Sure the kings of industry can try to bog down the courts with criminal cases, but this won’t produce consistent results, not with the propensity of downloads available. And the young folks can continue to fight “the good fight” as they see it but time is not on their side. Eventually they will tire of the endless chatter, the lack of selection, and just grow bored, moving onto video games, software, or some other pirated item. But where is the artist in all of this? Any why hasn’t music learne it’s lesson from other art, embracing the real king as being the content, not the messenger?

Until next time, this is Carol, the Carol in “Carol’s Little World” signing off.


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