Has the Internet Solved the Problem with Music? Did Indie Music Legend Steve Albini Kill the Sharing=Theft Argument Once and For All?
On Saturday November 15th, 2014, legendary recording engineer (Nirvana's In Utero) and independent music business icon Steve Albini gave what should be a widely-discussed keynote address at Melbourne Australia's annual Face the Music conference.
The provocative point that Mr. Albini was making?
The future of music may not be as grim as some have been saying...
Mr. Albini's argument?
The music business might actually be getting better. Yes, the internet is squeezing out the middlemen - whose lamentations are many (see below) - but there are noteworthy positives as well.
In light of the awful things some internet-skeptics - like Prof. Jon Taplin of USC and author Robert Levine - have been saying about the music business and the internet, Steve Albini's talk will likely cause some consternation.
But I welcome Mr. Albini's voice - as I've been struggling to make a similar argument for some time (you can check out representative prior posts challenging Prof. Taplin's hyperbolic assertion that "the music died in 2001" and Mr. Levine's equally ridiculous assertion that the internet is "simply too chaotic to provide the infrastructure for a 21st-century economy" to see how I've tried to say what Steve Albini said more expertly and authoritatively in Melbourne last weekend).
If you're a music fan or care at all about how 21st culture is evolving, I strongly urge you to read the full transcript of what Steve Albini said at Face the Music (The Guardian has kindly provided a full transcript, accessible via this link.)
For the purposes of this post, I'll include just one excerpt from Steve Albini's very entertaining Nov. 15th, 2014 talk here - an excerpt that seems especially noteworthy to me in light of my ongoing feud with fear mongerers like Prof. Jon Taplin and Robert Levine.
Here's what Steve Albini said about the evolving fan relationship to music in the age of the internet:
"There’s a lot of shade thrown by people in the music industry about how terrible the free sharing of music is, how it’s the equivalent of theft, etc. That’s all bullshit and we’ll deal with that in a minute. But for a minute I want you to look at the experience of music from a fan’s perspective, post-internet. Music that is hard to find was now easy to find... Long-forgotten music has been given a second life. And bands whose music that was ahead of its time has been allowed to reach a niche audience that the old mass distribution failed to find for them, as one enthusiast turns on the next and this forgotten music finally gets it due."
If that doesn't grab your attention (e.g., if you're not curious about how Steve Albini goes on to address the sharing = theft argument), you probably should check to see if you have a pulse.
I am so grateful to The Guardian for reporting on Steve Albini's talk.
And I'm grateful for the internet, which is making circulation of Mr. Albini's ideas possible.
(I'm not sure whether any account of what Steve Albini said has shown up in major outlets in the US yet - many also have an interest in the old ways of content distribution.)
From my perspective, Christmas came early this year.
The only other thing I'd like under my tree?
I'm also hoping a video will show up of Steve Albini's full talk on Face the Music's YouTube channel.
UPDATE: Nov. 30th, 2014
Here is the video...