In yesterday’s New York Times, Paul Krugman writes about the effect of the digital revolution on the music, art, and publishing business:
“. . . In 1994, one of those gurus, Esther Dyson, made a striking prediction: that the ease with which digital content can be copied and disseminated would eventually force businesses to sell the results of creative activity cheaply, or even give it away. Whatever the product — software, books, music, movies — the cost of creation would have to be recouped indirectly: businesses would have to ‘distribute intellectual property free in order to sell services and relationships.’
“For example, she described how some software companies gave their product away but earned fees for installation and servicing. But her most compelling illustration of how you can make money by giving stuff away was that of the Grateful Dead, who encouraged people to tape live performances because ‘enough of the people who copy and listen to Grateful Dead tapes end up paying for hats, T-shirts and performance tickets. In the new era, the ancillary market is the market.'”
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Certainly, the digital revolution poses a challenge for those of us who try to make a living selling our music. CDs still sell at shows, but even with exceptional reviews, radio air play, etc., sales at stores and on-line have dinmished during the past five years. Much of our music is now available for download at sites like I-Tunes, but it’s really too early to tell whether this will become a viable alternative to packaged CDs. As to “accessories”, well, we do have Hen Cackle Caps, Very Lonesome Boys T-Shirts and other amazing items for sale on-line, and they are making a difference in the world of fashion, especially with the recent passing of one of our greatest competitiors, Yves Saint Laurent.
But there are other challeneges the digital world poses to all of us, and we intend to explore some of these in the following weeks, as time permits. Our next attempt will be to explore the differences between the analog and digital worlds, and what specifically this means to music and musicians who make it.