In a very interesting interview, Jaron Lanier describes something that annoys me to no end (boldface mine):
I’m quite concerned that in the future someone might not know what author they’re reading. You see that with music. You would think in the information age it would be the easiest thing to know what you’re listening to. That you could look up instantly the music upon hearing it so you know what you’re listening to, but in truth it’s hard to get to those services.
I was in a cafe this morning where I heard some stuff I was interested in, and nobody could figure out. It was Spotify or one of these … so they knew what stream they were getting, but they didn’t know what music it was. Then it changed to other music, and they didn’t know what that was. And I tried to use one of the services that determines what music you’re listening to, but it was a noisy place and that didn’t work. So what’s supposed to be an open information system serves to obscure the source of the musician. It serves as a closed information system. It actually loses the information.
So in practice you don’t know who the musician is. And I think that’s what could happen with writers.
This happens to me all the time (the gym is the worst).
There are a lot of reasons why the music industry got hit hard, including some severe self-inflicted ones. But radio always served, even in the era of 45s (ur-mp3s for you young’uns), as a way to introduce new music to people. Essentially, it was free advertising (when royalties were paid, it was ‘advertising with benefits’). But that system only works (or works well) when you can actually figure out what was played. Too often, there’s no way to do that.
Unlike many, I never mourned the death of the album–there were a lot of crappy albums. What can be called ‘decontextualization’ is about who is defined as the author. That is, who will make much of the money. When music becomes identified with the channel and not the musician, what we’re witnessing is the de facto ownership of music by music channels–and less payback to musicians and music companies. Over the long haul, that won’t work out well. We will get the musicians we pay for.
And, as the kids used to say, because I can: