Pondering The Future of Music

So I’m headed to the Future of Music Policy Summit, which brings together people from all corners who are passionate about music – musicians, policy wonks, business “leaders,” etc.

It began yesterday at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and runs through Tuesday. I’m on a panel called “Critical Condition: The Future of Music Journalism.” Apt title, though it makes one wonder: Isn’t this patient already on life support? Will report afterward.

For now, though, I’ve been thinking in broad terms about the future of music. Being a dreamer, I find myself believing there will be a future. Here are a few dreamer-ish notions and modest proposals that might pop up in discussions about ways to move music (and the music business) forward. Please add ideas! Think big!

· Metadata. If iTunes loves musicians so much, how come the service – and, to be fair, all download services – are so reluctant to make complete personnel information available to consumers? It’s vital for people to know who’s playing cowbell on their favorite song – that’s one way people explore music. It helps connect dots between things a listener knows and things she doesn’t know. Credits should not be hard to find, or treated as “bonus content.” Right now. Today.

· Rock Star Micro-Financing. With very few exceptions, the folks at the top end of the rock foodchain are good philanthropists, helping causes directly with funding and by raising crucial awareness. And while some are label honchos who involve themselves in the building of careers, many direct their dollars and energy away from the arts. What if someone built a roster of worthy music projects in need of funding, and then followed the model of something like www.kiva.org, and convinced stars to contribute small anonymous loans to launch them? That could be a wonderful, low-impact karmic boomerang situation that just might cultivate interesting music.

· Respect Music Public Service Announcements. Flame away, but our over-mediated world has brought us to a place where the contributions of musicians are not at all obvious and frequently taken for granted. It’s time to stand up for the creators of music as educators and oracles and healers, and to gently suggest that acquiring tons of music is not the same thing as appreciating it, or evolving as a listener. It seems silly, but it might just be constructive to remind an 11-year-old that there’s more to music than the instant gratification of “Look Ma! I’m a guitar hero!”

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#1 from SAm - 10/07/2009 7:32

I wish the future didnt have to do with an ipod.

#2 from Lance, Seattle - 10/08/2009 7:13

Regarding “Respect Music Public Service Announcements”.  I agree.  If people would stop being so greedy and paranoid on this topic maybe we could calm down and start working on a mutually beneficial solution to this problem.

As with all controversial issues, the problems arise at the extremes and the solution lies in the balance between.  Record companies and music hoarders represent the extremes.  The balanced solution I use is to get albums from the public library, listen to them for a week, make note of the ones I like, and buy them at a later date as I have the money to do so.  That way, I get the broadest experience and the musicians I value get paid by me for that value.


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