Many myths are linked to the internet. Freedom, border crossing, connection between people, sharing…. Isn’t there characteristics the Internet has in common with music ? Indeed, these two should get along quite well. But today, music also means “intellectual property” and “market” . Here comes trouble. Since 2000, we’ve been talking about the crisis of music industry. Peer to peer practices seems to be the ones to blame. But what is the real impact of the internet on the music world ?
You rock my world
At first, the internet was only considered as an opportunity for musicians seeking fame. Free, simple visibility is given by websites such as Myspace. Thanks to those, musicians, beginners as experienced, can show what they do and who they are. Myspace being also a social network, these musicians began to enlarge their audience. Many artists were discovered on the internet, such as Lily Allen. It became a parallel way to know fame. By using the internet some acquired a reputation, a public, and stood out. Musicians communicate about their new songs and their concerts without passing by other expensive mass media.
What’s also great with the web is that you can find all types of music, coming from all over the world. In the past, I would only buy a CD knowing that I would like it, not testing it before. The Internet is free, there are no risks taken. Streaming really opens your mind to songs you wouldn’t hear on the radio or buy in stores. I discovered Sigur Rós, an Icelandic post-rock band on the internet, I don’t think I could have done it otherwise.
Moreover, according to the majors, paying online downloading has more and more success. Put forward as a legal alternative to peer to peer, million songs has already been sold all over the world this way. Isn’t it great not to have to go out, look for a CD, do the queue and go back home to finally listen to new songs ?! I sit there, behind my computer, and I get everything I want almost instantly.
Rock & Roll Suicide
Internet, as great as it can be, is also a very tricky media. Visibility can paradoxically lead to invisibility. The web is open so everyone can post anything, anytime. Everyone can call himself a musician and the most talented and creative artist can be easily lost in this sea. For instance, Myspace isn’t anymore for musicians only, teenagers also rushed at it.
Peer to peer is also a problem, regarding the fact that musician is a real job. Music, this way, is stolen from the person who worked for it. I’m bad, I’m bad, you know it… This lead to a record industry crisis. Records departments tend to disappear from the malls, even specialized stores such as Virgin or Fnac foretell the end of it. Some artists even consider twice the idea of starting a career, knowing it will be harder than it already was. According to the Syndicat national de l’édition phonographique in the first trimester of 2009, music CD and DVD sales went down 18,5% in a year. the music market in general went down 16,4%.
Songs also loose value : as soon as a song is being recorded, it is to be found instantly on the web . Radios and TV don’t even have time to broadcast them. They are overwhelmed.
Here comes the sun
Nobel price Paul Krugman said recently in a New York Times article : “Bit by bit, everything that can be digitized will be digitized, making intellectual property ever easier to copy and ever harder to sell for more than a nominal price. And we’ll have to find business and economic models that take this reality into account.” This strategy seeks to take back music downloads and transform them into paying downloads. But hacking is hard to fight, especially when techniques such as DRM are not that reliable.
The Hadopi law is a French law that punish peer to peer as an offence to copyright. This law has been reinforced and adopted but the French senate today. I personally don’t know if repression is the solution. Some say it worked quite well in the USA but I am skeptic. Can’t we find another solution ? I don’t feel I have a particular legitimity to say what we should do however I think there should be discussions between music industry, musicians and economists. Something isn’t working with today’s system. Would awareness campaign be efficient ? I have to admit I may be naïve. Should music be free ? How ? By allocating a budget to musicians ? By paying them with advertisement ?
I do think other ways to download should be offered, but I also think it is a matter of time. Aren’t we just facing a simple change of format like another ? I mean, I look at my Spice Girls CD the way my father looks at his David Bowie vinyl disc : both are relics of the past ! It reminds us of another time and we feel nostalgic about it. To me, we are living a transition. What makes this change more difficult is that not only the “format” has changed, but also the “materiality” of music. Music went from material to immaterial. As for every change, society has to adapt. Here is a theme I will talk about a lot in this blog : how does media influence society, and how do we go from one media to another. Record sales are in crisis, but it won’t lead to the death of music industry.
To conclude, we have to stop blaming the internet for everything that changes today. Some announced the end of press, however we observe that newspapers can’t survive without an electronic edition but web newspapers need their printed edition to live, too. In my opinion, we should not talk about cannibalism but about convergence. Music industry will live forever, but not without the internet.