The debate over the future of music is exhausted in the autistic mantra of the ,next big thing‘.
Actually anything ‘next’ to end the interim rule of file sharers, resetting the status to pre-web 2.0 and everything will be back to normal, as the content industries then will be able again to not only dictate the means of production, but of consumption as well. As a salvation, this next big thing was introduced by a commodification of goods. And given such capitalist exploitation logic, not only cultural debates tend to become rather boring.
Jip, I know, you want to make money with music/content, and that’s perfectly OK. But let‘s state the fact, no one knows what‘s next. Not really. But that does not matter, as the media are constantly changing, it‘s their nature as an image of communication and such as a focal point of civilisational evolution. Any next thing will just be an interim again.
When 5500 years ago the first alphabets did appear, this must have been a pretty big deal. And today? We just know traditions enabled through the new medium of writing, not the ones who were displaced by Scripture.
To a content industry, that has not digested the last media revolution, this might sound cynical, but our media environment has already changed again. Only more fundamental this time than any marginal change from grooves in a plastic disc, to pits on another plastic disc, to magnetic charges on a magnesium disk.
If you consider the 20th century the century of stored information, the 21st. will be the one of processed information. The redemption of the digital promise.
Digitalisation is the dissolution of information into binary code. Halftoning, screening of Information, sort of. In the beginning of the 19th century this was Braille and Morse code, but soon a few nerds realised the impact of this is less in information transfer but in new options of communication and participation.
Let’s say music is communication, not (only) a proprietary product.
When John Smoot of the record label Odeon dragged his recording devices in the Indonesian jungle in 1900something, the local musicians were stunned. Why the heck should someone listen to old, because recorded music? When new music is to be found on every corner, respectively on every village green, including good company, drinks, and fun with the band?
Before Digitalisation, recorded music could only be listened to. Music can only be communication if it is embedded in context. That is why we had to create our participation models around music ourselves, like sexual habits, politics, fashion trends. Today we use music itself to do so.
Any digitalised content a call for creativity in it‘s substance. Uninspired as a copy or playlist, in perfection as abstraction, rearrangement. And that is what the content industry is facing today.
User generated content was a smart move to get rid of the expansive part of delivering the fill material for devices and apps, and now as users really do generate their own content, no one has a clue how to handle this.
The typical skepticism about this scenario goes like: it is always easier to read than to write something. That may be true, but fifteen years ago, who would have believed that ordinary people buying shit loads of expensive computer to take a break from television and produce more than a trillion web pages?
No matter what may come next, music will remain. Because we can play again.
(an elaborated, longer version of this text will be published in postdigital in September)