These are interesting times for online music. On the one hand, you have artists and fans embracing the new ways the web allows for creation, distribution and consumption of music. On the other, you have media corporations taking a desperate, extremist, and potentially dangerous stand against copyright infringement that could damage the inherent freedom of speech and innovative spirit that makes the web what it is.
The situation is so dire, this Wednesday is turning into a day of website black outs as Wikipedia, Reddit, WordPress, Mozilla, and the Cheezburger collective shut down their sites for 24 hours in protest of SOPA and PIPA (The Protect Intellectual Property Act) the anti-piracy acts that, if entered into US law, could allow the government to block, shut down, or direct traffic away from websites it thinks are hosting or promoting copyright-infringing material. It would also mean internet service providers and advertisers would be outlawed from doing business with these copyright-infringing sites.
Any sane mind knows the evil twins SOPA and PIPA must be defeated by the sword of righteousness, so it’s an apt time to look back at how the web’s openness has been a major boon for creativity, and there’s no better way to do that than through the lens of music. Ever since the broadband speeds have made it possible, music fans have been illegally procuring their favorite tunes from Napster, Limewire and bitorrent sites, forcing artists and labels to explore new business models at all levels of the industry and sending seismic levels of upset through the ruling hierarchies of the music world.
This PBS Arts documentary talks with Jon Cohen, co-founder of Fader, Ryan Dombal, senior editor at Pitchfork, Blake Whitman, VP of creative development from Vimeo, and Anthony Volodkin, founder of Hype Machine to see how the 90s model of big, mass drivers of popular culture like MTV, radio, and megalith record labels has given way to a much more democratized industry. An industry that has seen a burgeoning of smaller labels releasing an abundance of content and the rise of self-publishing—which itself has given birth to new models of curation to sift through this flowering of new material. While the arrival of video-sharing sites has allowed for a renaissance of the music video format, whose innovation and creativity is probably the only parallel you could make with the 90s music world.
So, supporters of SOPA take note: rather than suffocating creativity, these new models are allowing it to blossom.