Is technology destroying music and culture?

A book about how technology is destroying cultureIn the August 28, 2017 issue of The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert writes about a the impact of technology on culture. She reviews a new book by Jonathan Taplin, “Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy.” While technology and the Internet have benefited us with convenience and expansive social connectivity (especially for niche areas), it has also damaged culture. That is the premise of the book.

Taplin offers the example of Levon Helm, the drummer for the Band. Though he never got rich off his music, he was supported by royalties into middle age, earning about $100,000 a year. Continue reading →

New troubles for music industry

various iconsRecent reports highlight new troubles for the music industry and artists who try to earn a living through music. What the digital realm giveth, the digital realm taketh away. Like so many other developments, these erode cultural support for musicians. I’m no fan of the corporate music industry, which has long taken advantage of musicians, but most musicians these days just can’t win. Continue reading →

Inside the music hit factory

The Song Machine book coverHit factories are nothing new, as John Seabrook chronicles in his fascinating book, The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory. But something noticeable shifted in the mid-2000s that has had an enormous impact on the sound (and, for me, the quality) of pop music. That is Seabrook’s first point. His other point is that, contrary to most predictions that the digital revolution would lead to a new egalitarian era where a thousand music flowers would bloom outside the grip of the record industry, hits have become even more important than before. Continue reading →

The demon offspring of Napster and Spotify

AurousHere we go again. Aurous, a decentralized music player that is a cross between the original Napster and Spotify, lets users listen to millions of songs from various sources, all for free and without ads. The app uses the BitTorrent network to link to streamable music from various sources. Its creator, Andrew Sampson, describes the app as a music player that simply piggybacks off other platforms. While some of the sources are legitimate, like YouTube, many others are unregulated operations that basically steal music, like the Russian site Pleer. Continue reading →