There have been lots of developments lately in the music industry. More accurately, there are developments in the lack of a music industry. The old ways of charging for albums and having a controlled radio are going away. Mp3 download services and podcasts are out in full force. Despite this important and beneficial shift in models there is still a major problem that needs to be rectified. Music is still a one way street.
Look at open source software, wikis, social networks and all the things which are really taking off on the Internet. Every single person involved with these things are givers and takers, contributors and benficiaries, authors and users. With music the listener is still the listener and the musician is still the musician.
Of course, there are differences between code and music. Having people collectively modify a song as if it were a wiki is not the greatest idea. Not everyone has musical skills, talents and knowledge. You would probably just end up with a jumbled mess of sound if you operated in this fashion.
But just because music can’t be open in the same way that software is open doesn’t mean it can’t be open in some other fashion. Not only can music be more open, but it needs to be. How many times have you heard an awesome song only to find out that the other songs by the band are not as good or even in the same genre? How many times have you heard a song that has a good part, but the rest of the song is boring or even painful? Those are only problems because music is a one way street.
Here’s one way I propose for opening up music. Artists write songs and just record yourself trying to write the song. In fact, record everything every time you use your instrument. Who says the only thing people want to hear are finished studio recordings? Then your fans can listen and give you some advice. Like “hey, that bit is really good but that other one sounds a little off”. Artists absorb the user input and go back to the drawing board. Eventually there will be a finished product created by combining the musical skills and talents of the artist and the input of the listeners.
Death to authoritarianship (is that even a word?). Music, movies and everything else can be authored via collaboration rather than by a single author. If you have musical skills you should create music which more people will enjoy. If having the listener participate in the authoring process will help achieve this goal, then you should do it.
The last thing I want to mention is how this will change music listener habits. In the current environment people are spending their time trying to find new artists and new songs that they enjoy. In a more open environment listeners will do this less and instead spend that time influencing artists they know to get them to create better music. I’m not a musician and maybe I’m wrong. But I know that if I create anything it always helps to have more eyes and ears review it before I put the final seal on it. Why is music not that way?
Lastly, from a financial point of view this is a much better model than the one we are headed for. With the advent of people buying single tracks for a meager price musicians will not be able to sustain long term financial success unless many of their songs are wildly popular. Most bands I’ve found trying the new model are one hit wonders or zeros. Under the current model only the greatest musicians will quit their other jobs and the rest will be poor. With the model I suggest a few of the one hit wonders will be able to survive on their music thanks to the loyalty generated by the interactive fanbase.
Music is all about creating good feelings in those who hear it. We all know the ways in which music can make us feel good. But let’s add one more way in which music can make us feel good. Imagine going to a concert and hearing a song played that you helped to create. Then you hear a part in the song that you suggested. That “I did that” feeling is great, the same feeling you get when a big podcaster says your name or you see yourself on TV.