David Byrne’s Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists

First, a definition of terms. What is it we’re talking about here? What exactly is being bought and sold? In the past, music was something you heard and experienced – it was as much a social event as a purely musical one. Before recording technology existed, you could not separate music from its social context. Epic songs and ballads, troubadours, courtly entertainments, church music, shamanic chants, pub sing-alongs, ceremonial music, military music, dance music – it was pretty much all tied to specific social functions. It was communal and often utilitarian. You couldn’t take it home, copy it, sell it as a commodity (except as sheet music, but that’s not music), or even hear it again. Music was an experience, intimately married to your life. You could pay to hear music, but after you did, it was over, gone – a memory.

Technology changed all that in the 20th century. Music  – or its recorded artifact, at least – became a product, a thing that could be bought, sold, traded, and replayed endlessly in any context. This upended the economics of music, but our human instincts remained intact. I spend plenty of time with buds in my ears listening to recorded music, but I still get out to stand in a crowd with an audience. I sing to myself, and, yes, I play an instrument (not always well).

We’ll always want to use music as part of our social fabric: to congregate at concerts and in bars, even if the sound sucks; to pass music from hand to hand (or via the Internet) as a form of social currency; to build temples where only “our kind of people” can hear music (opera houses and symphony halls); to want to know more about our favorite bards – their love lives, their clothes, their political beliefs. This betrays an eternal urge to have a larger context beyond a piece of plastic. One might say this urge is part of our genetic makeup.

All this is what we talk about when we talk about music.

All of it.

That’s what I always say!

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The Quietus | How The Music Industry Is Killing Music And Blaming The Fans

But the longer the industry continues to cling to old-fashioned values, the more people gravitate to illegal sources that are reliable, uncomplicated and modern. It’s an extraordinary situation: in a roundabout fashion, the wider industry is inadvertently preventing fans from legally accessing music in the manner they’d like to, and which technology has facilitated, while blaming them for stealing because they’re not so wild about the systems that have so far been approved.

Whether the industry likes it or not, music is now like water: it streams into homes, it pours forth in cafes, it trickles past in the street as it leaks from shops and restaurants. Unlike water, music isn’t a basic human right, but the public is now accustomed to its almost universal presence and accessibility. Yet the public is asked to pay for every track consumed, while the use of water tends to be charged at a fixed rate rather than drop by drop: exactly how much is consumed is less important than the fact that customers contribute to its provision. Telling people that profit margins are at stake doesn’t speak to the average music fan, but explaining how the quality of the music they enjoy is going to deteriorate, just as water would become muddy and undrinkable if no one invested in it, might encourage them to participate in the funding of its future. So since downloading music is now as easy as turning on a tap, charging for it in a similar fashion seems like a realistic, wide-reaching solution.

Interesting essay about all the extra labor musicians are expected to do and much much more.

Why Facebook Cannot Be Trusted

About 10 days ago I was informed that Facebook, in its infinite, benevolent — and, apparently, irreversible — wisdom, had decided that our “Fan” page was actually a “Community” page. There was no explanation for the involuntary re-categorization. Nor was there any recourse offered, other than a link that said “if you think this reassignment was made in error, click here”. That was not an link back to the original configuration, but a way to submit a request to get the original settings restored.At first I did not think too much of the change. It looked like the page was performing precisely as it had before the involuntary change. But then I started to notice one mission-critical difference: I could no longer set the “default tab” for first time visitors to the page.

I did not fully grasp what was happening until the good folk at DamnTheRadio (just recently a subsidiary of the FanBridge e-mail service) – whose excellent customer service typically responds to user inquiries within just a few hours – explained to me that Facebook, again in their infinite, benevolent –  and apparently arbitrary and capricious – wisdom, had eliminated the”set default tab” feature, but only for “Community”pages!

In other words, for reasons unforeseen and unknowable, Facebook had a) changed the category of my page and b) consequently disabled what I regarded as the single most important feature of the page.

Online Fandom ?? Fans or Friends?

Last weekend I gave a talk at the International Communication Association about the increasingly interpersonal nature of the relationships between musicians and friends. In it, I draw on the interviews I???ve done with musicians to identify some of the positive new rewards they get when they can interact directly with their fans, cover many of the tricky interpersonal issues they face in trying to negotiate how much those relationships can be like friendship, and briefly summarize the main strategies they use to manage boundaries in ways with which they are comfortable.

Here it is in PDF form for download:

Fans or Friends?

Any and all feedback (especially the constructive kind) is welcomed!