Via Salon.com, an interview with Dave Allen, former bass player for the punk band Gang of Four, who offers fascinating thoughts on the effect of the internet on music and, by extension, all art in the face of the current internet age. The article is provocatively titled “Stop Blaming the Internet, It Has Always Been Hard For Musicians”:
Mr. Allen’s comments within the interview are nuanced and not easily summarized, though the headline does offer one clue as to his ultimate view of the internet and whether it has negatively affected musicians and the potential money they make on their works. One of the points he makes is that it has always been difficult to make any sort of a living as a musician and that the ones that find public favor tend to make money while those who don’t…don’t.
Granted, the internet has created new obstacles and problems for musicians as well as artists in general (movies, books, etc.). Today, piracy is a big problem, but to Mr. Allen, one has to accept the new reality just as in ages past others have had to do the same (ie, blacksmiths vs. cars, radio vs. television, etc.)
The topic of the internet and its affects on society is a fascinating one to me. I see the effects every day, from strip malls/storefronts that are more empty than full to my own purchasing habits. As little as five years ago I would eagerly go to the local Best Buy or bookstore or Target to see what was new, from books to movies to music. I would eagerly look at the Sunday newspaper and its ads to see what interesting stuff was about to be released.
Nowadays, I look at the internet. I don’t buy music anywhere but over the internet. I’m buying fewer and fewer films in stores, leaving my viewing to either Netflix or, if I really want a movie, to Amazon (the movies that I want to own tend to be the ones not available at either Best Buy or Target). As for books, Amazon is again the way I usually go.
Five years ago I couldn’t imagine a future without a nearby bookstore. Today, I don’t really miss them.
Yet I can’t help but feel for the people most hurt by all these changes: store employees. Used to be that High School, College students, and others found temporary or permanent jobs in stores that catered to people like me. Nowadays, though, you won’t find me in those type of stores (if they exist anymore) looking for the product I can more easily find on the internet.
As for the artists themselves, one can find ways to promote and make your work available over the internet. You will surely lose money to piracy as this is a sad given. However, at least the product is out there, and perhaps more visible than ever before thanks to the internet. If you told me my humble books would sell in places as far away as Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Australia, etc. etc., I wouldn’t have believed it, yet there it is.
We’re in a new age and one has to wake up to the realities of it. This is not the first time this has happened to society. It won’t be the last.
And so it goes.
Please read the interview. Whether you agree, disagree, or are neutral regarding Dave Allen’s comments, you should find them at the very least interesting.