(c)2001 by Michael Riversong


We humans produce an astounding variety of music. Recording technology has made this fact clear. Each nation on Earth has spawned several distinct styles of music. These have been combined in too many ways for anyone to track over the centuries. The ability to exchange musical ideas all over the world has created even more new kinds of music.

Because of recordings, musicians also have an advantage in terms of making a living. In previous ages, we had to put up with whatever whims of government in allowing us to perform live. Sometimes there was a lot of opportunity, and sometimes unauthorized musicians were hunted down like rabid dogs. Having recordings to sell can serve to stabilize a musician's livelihood under a variety of conditions.

It is possible for a recording to proliferate extensively without any regulation at all. Some of this is through pirating, which is of course unethical, but it still can serve to spread the consciousness of a particular musician, group, or style beyond any natural or administrative borders.

The first recording media were cylinders and then discs made mostly of wax. These were fragile and difficult to transport. Later on, discs made of more durable substances were developed, but these were still susceptible to heat and especially scratching. Various kinds of tapes were developed, which were a bit more durable, but were also subject to decay. In 1980, CDs were created, which are much more durable, being a bit difficult to scratch and much more tolerant of heat and cold.

Now we have unprecedented opportunities to spread music further than ever before. Computer technology has given us numerous formatting options, including hard disks and MP3 files. These forms are expected to become even more varied in the future. We will literally be able to take music almost anywhere and take up almost no space with its media. This of course poses a threat to both totalitarian governments and monopolistic corporations.

Some totalitarian governments, notably China, are trying desperately to set up Internet police forces in a vain attempt at thought control. This is not going to work very well. The Internet is simply too big and open for any kind of control to be universal.

Some of the largest corporations are also involved in desparate attempts to regulate the Internet, frantically buying up other companies and setting up proprietary formats of various kinds. This isn't going to work either. Most people just don't care about proprietary formats.

Furthermore, many of the large corporate music marketing methods just aren't working any more. For example, record clubs are dying off rapidly. Most are expected to close down within the next couple of years. These used to make a lot of money for major music companies. Mall record stores may follow. Why buy a clunky CD when you can simply download what you want into one personal device?

These personal MP3 devices could easily be served by music dispension kiosks, which would allow a person to cheaply pick up tunes at will whenever visiting a mall.

Marketing of music can now go back to old-fashioned methods. Musicians can get involved with small communities. They can produce files for these communities worldwide, and then gather support in many new ways. Patronage may come back, in a powerful decentralized form.

Audiences can be anywhere. Support can be anywhere, and not always in the same places as the audiences. It is now possible, thanks to the Internet, for a musician to be supported by patrons halfway across the planet. This has happened. New musical ideas can be transmitted instantaneously anywhere. And anyone can be a patron of the arts, without necessarily even having to be wealthy.

Here is a list of actions that will enhance this process, and create a golden age of musical awareness:

Hunt for free promotional downloads, and share them with friends. This will expand awareness of musicians.

Send contributions to musicians who you like. These don't have to be huge payments. It can be sort of like shareware works in the computer industry.

Musicians, provide whole songs as downloads, not just "teaser" excerpts. These whole songs will expand awareness better.

Also for musicians, release a lot of material. You never know what will catch somebody's fancy.

When musicians are in correspondence with individuals, just recommend one product to a customer. This is especially true if you have a lot of material available. Get to know your correspondents well enough so that you will know which product an individual would like best.

Everyone, get involved in mail lists or chat rooms that bring together musicians and patrons. This is one of the most important actions that will make it possible for musicians to thrive and produce greater works.

When left to themselves, most people want what is good and life-enhancing. But, when left to themselves, most people will fail to take any action that leads to a better life. That's why it is important for ethical musicians to take the lead. We of all people should be the ones who have faith in God, and who actively promote the idea that music should inspire people to be better.

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email: mriversong@earthlink.net