Future Sound Episode 2

artist: Stigmata date: 10/14/2008 category: features
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The Music Industry Broken Home

The music industry has a soap-opera-worthy relationship with the computer. Their love affair makes producing professional-quality music cheaper and easier than ever. Indeed, the computer-music romance has yielded offspring that not only affect the distribution and recording of music, but the sound of every style on the dial. Computers have a central part in the sound of contemporary rock, pop, hip hop, heavy metal and, of course, electronic music. But the computer is a cruel and unfaithful lover. At the same time it has been courting the music industry it has been in bed with pirates.

The Young And The Reckless

The soap opera of the new music economy has it's stars ascend to the stage. The Industry, a single parent once wooed by the seductive, two-faced Computer struggles to keep it's family, comprised of itself and it's two children, Music and Profit, together. Profit, the needy younger child, demands the majority of the Industry's attention, and has ultimately brought resentment into the small family. This resentment has only been supplemented by the conflict caused by the Computer's entrance. An irascible teenager bitter from years of neglect, Music is set on leaving behind it's parent for it's parent's ex-lover, the Computer. Seeking independence and individuality, Music has grown tired of the Industry's get famous claims and is convinced it can overcome it's lack of advertising dollars with the help of the Computer. The Industry is faced with a painful dilemma. On one hand, it is reluctant to cooperate with the Computer given their troubled past. Still, it recognizes that it's youngest child, Profit, will starve without the support of Music. With one child facing nutritional drought and the other turning on it's parent and snuggling up with a devilish electronic adulterer, the Industry has decided to try to make a deal with the Computer. It's reluctant, but the industry is a parent that lives for it's children.

The Meeting of the Music

No one wants to go to court, so the players come together to settle their differences and come up with a contract everyone can be happy with. It's a family dinner and the Industry has prepared a lovely five course meal. Music sits, playing with it's food pensively. Profit sits next to it's older sibling, devouring the meal like a sumo wrestler. Computer sits opposite the Industry, occasionally winking slyly but always checking it's cell phone for messages from it's pals, the internet users. When the Industry finally sits down, the air is thick with tension and the aroma of the meal. The diners are silent, save for Profit, who is already furiously tearing through a third helping of mashed potatoes. Finally, the Industry speaks. It starts calmly but quickly escalates into an emotional tirade, listing it's grievances and calling for a solution to end the misery. It talks of good times past and of how the Computer has taken them away. Tearfully, the Industry finishes with a plea, pointing to Profit and then glaring into the eyes of Music. The Computer will provide you happiness for now, but we are family and you need us, Music. Look at how sickly your younger sibling is! Remember how fit and healthy it once was! We need you, yes, but you need us more than you know now. Without our guidance and a strong monetary incentive, you will fail, Music. Think of the family! At this, Profit lifts it's head from it's plate and stares at it's older sibling. Music clears it's throat to address everyone but then pats it's sibling on the head and softly whispers, just loud enough that all the dinner mates can hear. We're all going to be ok. Then, looking up and with more volume and confidence, Music begins to speak to the entire assembled company. Computer and I have talked and we have some suggestions. I think we'll all pull through and be better for it. With that, the Computer pulls several pieces of paper from it's pocket and, sliding dishes to the middle of the table, places the papers in front of each diner. These are my propositions. Read.

The Electronic Compromise

Completely forgetting their unfinished meal, the family began reading the paper. Option 1: You can choose to fight Music and I. If you win, you might be happy. That said, I suspect you'll lose. I'm not so sure Music needs the Industry or Profit to survive or even to succeed, especially with me making distribution and production easier. Option 2: You can try to sell Music through me. Services like iTunes might mean a greater profit margin and allow you to make more money from fewer sales. People will still buy music but many will still simply pirate. Option 3: Music will be freely available. You will focus on merchandising, touring, performing and the like. Listeners will still spend money on music products, even if they choose to obtain the music for free. You may have to do with a little less but it might be the best I can do for you.

The Haze Of The Future

When it finishes reading the paper, the Industry looks up. With a cutting gaze, it stares at the Computer, drumming it's fingers on the table anxiously. It turns to observe it's children. Music is smiling, happily munching on a bite of pork chop. Profit is leaning back in it's chair, content after it's many helpings. Gradually, the Industry turns it's focus back to the Computer. It adopts an emotionless face but it's eyes betray it's attempt at ambiguity. It begins to speak.
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