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After 35 years as a recording artist John Cougar Mellencamp felt compelled to reflect on today’s art.

People remember when music existed as an art that motivated social movements.  Artists and their music flourished in back alleys, taverns and barns until, in some cases, a popular groundswell propelled it far and wide. These days, that possibility no longer seems to exist.[1]

Distinctions can easily be drawn between calls to action like Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” and calls to complacency like John Mayer’s “Waiting On The World To Change.”  As Mellencamp points out, music is in a sad state.  Furthermore Barlow suggests “[c]reative people may have to renew their acquaintance with humility.”[2] Artists should write songs because they need to, not because they fit in shrink-wrap and generate revenue.

Pitchfork, an uber-respected music-criticism site, playfully rated “Music“ a 6.8 out of 10.[3] According to the review, authored by Pitchfork editor in chief Ryan Schreiber, the popular medium that predates the written word shows promise but nonetheless “leaves the listener wanting more.”[4] While obviously created in jest, there certainly exists some truth behind this point.  Perhaps this young generation of technology embracing pirates are nothing more than the product of the vacuous state of today’s content.  If the record industry provided goods that had intangible social value, as music purportedly used to have, their concerns of declining perceived value would be instantly alleviated. Continue Reading…

Hundreds of startup companies came to the marketplace each year.  The biggest challenge these brave startups faced is to compete with “free” illegal alternatives. As the sellers of cable television have known for thirty years, and the sellers of bottled water for much more than that, there is nothing impossible at all about “competing with free.”[1] One company has managed to thrive against “free” by simply being more user friendly than its illegal competition.  As experts predicted when Apple launched the Music Store, it could beat “free” by being easier than free is.[2]

A different approach to competing with free was successful for Indie911.  Indie911’s CEO, Justin Goldberg, believes traditional gatekeepers were an inefficient way of allowing music to flow to the public and sought to create a place where the public could find artists that were slipping through the cracks.[3] In his tenure as an A&R person, songwriter, and employee of Sony Music Publishing, Mr. Goldberg took issue with the fact that less than 1% of the music out there would ever be heard.[4] Continue Reading…