30
May 00

The death of music retail as we know it?

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The death of music retail as we know it?: the most interesting things in this article are the things only barely touched on – the apparently common, even fashionable attitude that music should be free. Something about that worries me – not so much the implications it has for the much abused copyright system and the CD-price-inflating music industry, but more the sense of an underlying flippant selfishness which is perhaps more to do with Internet culture in general than to do with the Napster issue. How many of the people who ‘think’ music should be free could articulate why, beyond a few grumbles about how expensive that last REM album was?

Does the whoa-cool-site, where’s-the-next-one? mindset which surfers seem to nurture and thrive on lead to a culture of instant gratification – and does it matter, if so? A big part of me thinks it does – if you think of the last ten or so really good sites you visited, how many times did you even bother to drop the webmaster an e-mail saying that you liked it, let alone why you liked it? Probably none – it was just raw material for an office e-mail or the day’s blog, if that.

The people who created the sites just seem too remote – you don’t know them, so they don’t matter. Same with the musicians who made the records you’re copying off Napster. That’s why when people on the internet talk about ‘content’ being cool they tend to mean the personal blurts or gonzo rants that form the majority of journal writing – this ‘content’ tends to be much more confessional than it is insightful, but why worry about that? They offer the all-important personality fix, the thing which helps you ‘get to know’ the writer, lets the writer into your mental social network, which is the only thing that matters a damn in a ‘faceless’ environment like the ‘net. And the inevitable end result is a medium where exhibitionism counts for a lot more than quality of thought.

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