Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Internet is so over?

In a rare interview with London's Daily Mirror classic pop musician Prince said "the internet is SO over."

But which internet is he talking about?

His continued efforts to rid YouTube of unauthorized videos and the 'net, in general, of pirated music, are well known. It calls back to the old theme of compensation for creative efforts, which was the whole point of licensing and the basis for most artists' incomes. These days, you probably have little choice outside touring, which can lead to merchandising as well. It's accepted as part of the promotional game, as though the old mainstay, the radio, has now spread all over the wireless world, leading to a fan-driven effort to share and promote their favorite musicians.

Prince is having none of it. Today. Not to be too cheeky, but the time once was he also considered anything but his unique symbol-as-name outdated, too.

The Mirror, which will also distribute about 2.5 million copies of his new album, 20TEN, quotes his frustration with iTunes not giving him advances on the new work he submits. He simply won't work for free if he can help it---and you know, outside of the arts, who is expected to do so? He benefited from a career during the days when people generally paid for recordings in a way they often now do not. His reputation alone, if not his continuing niche fanbase, allows him to tour (and merchandise) in a manner befitting the glories of Paisley Park. What effect withdrawing his work from the 'Net will have on his legacy is a question that's crossed my mind. I've also noted a decided lack of unauthorized Bob Dylan material; I'm not positive of his policy professionally.

This discussion, for many, portrays an artist out of touch with the changing world, though it's true that he actually maintains authorized sites for keeping touch.
I'm going to dig a bit deeper into the comments, though, in reflection of that point.

The internet generally is presented as a wide-open phenomenon, wherein any of a great variety of interests can be explored in a click. Yet it's also true that searches become insulated by one's interests.

If building one's private libraries and bookmarking one's favorite pages has, in fact, created a lot of personal iterations of the Internet, then for many the 'Net is an individual customization of what you think you really want. Thanks to links, your personal Internet could easily lead you to the latest trends, so long as your choices of pages contain the smorgasboard of such things.

The question of just how a new artist is supposed to earn a living leads to a quicker turnover of artists, as many will move on to more fiscally profitable life choices (if indeed in this economy you find them!). Perhaps it eliminates quite a few drek properties or long-in-the-tooth bands under obligation to a record company to continue plugging away, but that's a tertiary effect. You will find few artists, for various reasons, choosing to avoid the distribution and sharing of their material. Perhaps they simply believe art is for sharing, of, by and for the people. On a pragmatic level, however, your walled-off, unavailable product stands little chance of on-the-ground buzz when 5,000 bands and artists of some stripe can be found in San Diego County alone. Who will take a chance when there's so much free stuff to download?
One thing's for sure: there's no real crackdown in sight. The basis or demand for such a suit seemed to fade with the Napster case over a decade ago.

You can either try to get at the nuances of what Prince might be thinking or declare this comical. Either way, if we could get a serious discussion about what will bring back more jobs or what exactly we're trying to accomplish in Afghanistan, and achieve some sort of popular interest in a practical solution to such matters, we would be a much healthier people.

In the back of my mind, all I'm waiting for is "how will the Whale A tanker do in the Gulf?" So spies and eccentric declarations are like a break from either feeling utterly helpless, praying, or some more personal matter at hand. They're a bit philosophical, but practically entertainment.

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