Tuesday, June 19, 2012

This is, like, chilling

You may have already heard of young Emily White, who has quickly become the poster girl for clueless millennial cultural destruction.  But if you haven't, you may want to peruse her narcissistic NPR blog post on how she has never paid for music, so like, why should she start now???  All she wants is a  digital catalog of everything ever recorded, that she can access at will, and at a price she determines (but one, you sense, that is very close to zero, as that seems to be all she has paid for the 11,000 songs she has in her library so far).  Is that too much to ask?

Whew. Emily's "whatever" shrug is beautiful, really, in something like the same way the open jaws and blank eyes of an oncoming shark are.  (She shares the same purity of purpose, and the same simple, satisfied self-regard.)  And though we're quite used by now to the economic plight of musicians, don't imagine that Emily's consumption habits won't soon be the norm for books, articles, movies -indeed anything that is recorded in any medium.

But she does remind me that what we often think of as theatre's great handicap in the digital age - that it's hard to record its essence, that it is essentially evanescent, that you have to be there to experience it - is, in some ways, a blessing in disguise.  Theatre never depended on the business model that, for a time, so wildly expanded the music business (which is itself slowly being battered back into a dependence on live gigs for its very survival).  Not that this model is a particularly healthy one - but at least Google and Microsoft aren't bleeding it dry.  Although rest assured, I'm sure someone like Emily is dreaming of a way to destroy it, too.

4 comments:

  1. While I admit that I was in a bit of a tizzy and I deserved the subsequent ribbing-- I have encountered this attitude before regarding plays.

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  2. What's striking is that this girl actually worked as DJ - music was her "life," and yet she thought she should never have to pay for any of it. It's hard to understand that kind of deep, deep hypocrisy. Essentially, to her, musicians were New Age slaves; she "owned" their output automatically, out of some kind of cosmic principle.

    Although I wish people could more often see the larger picture here: what digital technology has done to musicians, it has essentially done to all of us, in some degree or another. Digital technology creates massive boosts in productivity, without the workers involved accruing any leverage from it; hence their wages stagnate even as the profits of the ruling class soar. This is its economic essence; it dissolves the traditional parameters of time and place that always shored up "value," and so far nothing has come along to replace them.

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    1. Indeed. Two trends will define the next century: the exponential rise in population, and the steady shrinking of the job market. Result: a large segment of society that is pretty much superfluous and powerless. Couple that with rising cost of living, mounting debt, and poor health - the 21st century is gonna be a powderkeg. I might have to go Occupy a cave somewhere.

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  3. The digital technology was praised for a long time for its ability to cut out the middle-man (i.e make it possible for artists to work without major labels taking a disproportionate cut) making every one an "entrepreneur" but not everyone can be an entrepreneur.

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