What Internet Productivity?

Bruce Charlton poses a rather important question.

Whatever happened to the massive productivity boost which much (surely?) have been the result of the internet?

Because (surely?) the internet must have led to an unequalled, world historical boost in productivity?

A decade ago people all over the place were saying confidently that the economic effect of the internet would outstrip the effects seen by the invention of railways and telecommunications, and that new synergies from fast and universal communication would generate a society of massive capability (a huge step-up like the effect of the population concentration of the first cities, or the nation state).

Science and technology would be accelerated qualitatively by the speed of access to the scholarly literature, rapid and universal sharing of methods, critique and results, international collaborations…

That was the theory.

Yet economic growth since the internet came has been, well – ahem! – very modest…

Indeed, the current ‘credit crunch’ recession revealed that much of what economists had thought was internet-produced growth in productivity, was in fact a progressive increase in borrowing.

Charlton then goes on to suggest one explanation, that “Economists were correct, and there really has been a huge boost in productivity/ growth – but its measurement was not captured by GDP or other economic measures in use.” Charlton rejects this in favor of the idea that “The boost in growth has been almost-wholly or more-than absorbed by an expansion of parasitic bureaucracy.”

I actually think both notions are true. When I do my taxes at home with Turbo Tax instead of hiring an accountant, I have reduced GDP. When I get information from Google books rather than get in my car and drive to a library (or bookstore) I am reducing GDP. I am also saving money. Both these things are good for the society. Economist’s “hooked on growth” had better be getting this productivity improvement into their models..

As to the bureaucracy suck, it certainly looks that way in the Pentagon where it now costs about $1 million a year to send one soldier to Afghanistan. I think it cost about $45,000 per year in the Korean war and $85,000 in Vietnam.

Charlton has a third explanation, that “there was *not* in fact a huge boost in productivity.” Which is the better argument? Or are they both true?

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120 Responses to What Internet Productivity?

  1. Dan says:

    It depends on how you define “productivity.” One measure is, “Wall Street’s assessment of how much money you make for every dollar of your labor expense.” That definitions is pretty deeply rooted in the BSD school of Fraud Economics, the “Steal It All Now” philosophy.

    On the other hand, I consider myself. I have recently hauled yet another load of books out to the recycling bin. More IT/technology books dating as far back as 1997. Why? Because they’re hopelessly outdated. And most of them are not being replced…at least not by IT books. Back in the late 1990’s, I rebelled angrily against Microsoft’s push to switch from printed documentation to online documentation, for a variety of reasons. First, I wasn’t used to it. Second, low screen resolution made the material difficult to use efficiently. Third, I was dependent on Microsoft’s choice of tools and formats, and I didn’t like them.

    Today, I am a changed man. I can google just about any technology topic and find a plethora of resources. Many are bad, but I’ve learned to find the good ones. I don’t need to rummage through bookshelves to find the right book. In fact, even if I have the perfect book on the desk right beside me, I’ll still google, and get the answer that way. What used to take hours to track down can now take minutes or seconds.

    That kind of productivity boost, at least in my case, has been real and enormous.

  2. Morgan Warstler says:

    I keep saying this… eventually the world will catch up:

    If the Federal, State, and Local government made the same year on year gains in productivity as the other verticals (except mining) of the economy, since 1994…

    We’d have no economic crisis, we’d have very little in the way of national debt. We’d be saving more than $400B per year – our national debt would be less than HALF what it is now.

    It isn’t about having “less” government. It is about having “productive” government.

    Simple things like direct cash payments to the needy, rather than administrative bureaucracies to enforce benefits with strings.

    Wars: when you actually have government’s focus being productivity – there won’t be wars. Because it isn’t “guns or butter” it is “guns or keep the money in your pocket,” because we’d have a single line item on our email direct deposit confirmation that read: “Cost of Afghanistan War: $57”

    Drugs: We’d have legalized drugs already – just to reduce the cost of prisons and police officers.

    Schools: IF people knew that with capitalization costs included Public High Schools (in LA, DC, etc) cost MORE than the most elite prep schools in the country, there would be riots amongst the poor for school choice.

    Libraries / Public Parks: We’d still have public spaces, but the cost of maintenance would be far far cheaper, so OUR VIEWS TOWARD THEM WOULD IMPROVE – this is the hardest thing for liberals to wrap their head around.

    Everyone understands value. Everyone wants a good deal. its deep and lizard like. And when the cost of government isn’t its first focus, it MEANS that people will view it as a scam, they will want less of it.

    If public parks are run by private companies paying minimum wage, – voters will have a more favorable view of government, they’ll want more of it – because it is a good deal.

  3. Chris T says:

    Most likely the old economic measures and models are inadequate. We are in a post-scarcity environment with regard to information and human society is only beginning to use and adapt to it.

    Productivity growth has in fact accelerated substantially over the last 20 years:


    Gains have not translated into labor wage gains however.

  4. len says:

    There is a huge increase in commenting on blogs, watching videos, and otherwise amusing ourselves. The web was sucked into entertainment. What Betty White said.

    OTW, the productivity burst was absorbed into the small companies that can compete by virtue of access to information and cheaper IT.

  5. Jon Taplin says:

    Chris- Nor has it contributed to GDP

  6. len says:

    Please clarify that, Jon.

    Could it be the case that the Internet burst if unevenly more or less at the same time across all the economies you monitor? Could it be the case that GDP is being realized by near-time bursts in multiple nations? Could it be that the gains realized are being realized by transnationals where it doesn’t transform the bottom line productivity immediately (it does but at microscales) but is an active agent in reorganizing it during which gains and losses are balanced?

    It would be hard to deny that Google isn’t a) a creature solely of the Internet and b) contributing more or less equally to transnational economics?

    Also the Internet is largely responsible for the cost of the success of global engineering companies that can collaborate transnationally on products which no single nation can claim in their GDP in total if in part?

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  8. T Bone Burnett says:

    In my view, ‘the’ internet has failed. It has certainly failed the arts. The quality of music has collapsed, and the musicians aren’t being compensated for what they do. Google billed twenty eight billion dollars in advertising last year. Nine percent of their searches were music related. (Second only to the weather.) Google shared exactly zero of that revenue with the people who drove nine percent of their ad business.

    There has been a Broadcast Music License for decades under which the broadcasters share their ad revenue with music artists who drive the traffic to their stations. That license led to rock and roll and hip hop and the rest and was the fountainhead of trillions of dollars flowing through the economy.

    Radio plays music for free and sells advertising. Google plays music for free and sells advertising. The so called new media ethically and morally has to share their advertising revenue just as the broadcasters do. That would be the beginning of significant new investment in music. There has been NO investment in music in at least the last five years. Without investment, as we know, there is no innovation.

    Lady Gaga has had two hundred twenty million hits on one video. Her income from those streams was under ten thousand dollars. (Probably as little as three. Michael Jackson, who died, had the highest streaming income for the year- ten thousand dollars. Lady Gaga’s was probably around two or three thousand.) Lady Gaga made one hundred thousand dollars in digital sales last year.


    And why is there only one internet? It should rightly be called AN internet. Has there ever been a bigger hype? It makes old school record company hype look like a silent prayer.

  9. Chris T says:

    This is my (non-economist) take:
    I think the reason for the GDP/Productivity decoupling is that the economy is in the midst of a major restructuring that has been going on for the last 30 years. The credit fueled binge that we saw over the last decade postponed a lot of the needed restructuring. Most of the jobs created and then lost were in the low skilled services/retail and residential construction sectors, two areas dependent on consumption by the labor force.

    Technological advances were fueling significant productivity gains across the entire economy, but also made a lot of low skilled jobs redundant. This simultaneously created a lot of additional capital for companies and a large glut of unskilled labor. Since labor prices were low and a lot more capital was available for credit, a positive feedback effect occurred.

    Credit became easy to come by and people took advantage of it by spending it on consumer items and housing. Retail/service and construction companies reacted to the massive increase in consumption by taking advantage of the large unskilled labor pool and hiring a lot of workers at low wages. So, the job market picked up, which traditionally signaled higher wages, and creditors became even more willing to lend. This led to even more retail/service/construction expansion and etc.

    The flaw in all of this was that capital was flowing into credit rather than labor or other types of investment. That this was unsustainable became apparent in the housing sector first. Capital was flowing much faster into housing than wages and the cost of a mortgage quickly exceeded many workers’ ability to pay it. People began defaulting and the housing sector stalled and then collapsed as credit companies became cautious.

    So, to summarize, GDP has not increased as one would expect because technology fueled productivity gains were leveraged into consumer credit rather than labor or other types of investment. Without reciprocal wage gains, labor became unable to repay the credit it was taking on and other needed expansion was not occurring. The whole system was spinning its wheels without actually going anywhere.

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  11. Jon Taplin says:

    Chris T- Wonderfully cogent analysis of the problem. What is going to correct it?

  12. Jason says:

    Expanding on Dan’s (#1) comment – as a Web developer my productivity is increased greatly. When faced with a tech question, instead of hitting the books for 30-120 minutes, or worse, figuring it out myself, I can usually Google it and have an answer in about 10 seconds. Worst case, it’s obscure, and takes 30 min. This doesn’t necessarily make me faster, but it improves the finished quality of my output tremendously; everything gets done with very professional results (most of the time).

  13. Fentex says:

    It isn’t about having “less” government. It is about having “productive” government.

    The purpose of governmnet has nothing to do with productivity. Governmnets don’t exist to produce wealth, they exist to provide mediation between conflicting interests of citizens and for protection from each other and our common enemies.

    That is not economically productive except in that it creates an environment where one is safe to invest and plan.

    As far as governments and productivity are concerned the only connection is a desire for our individual economic choices to not be unduly hampered and government to be as efficient as is reasonable (but not so much it’s efficiency is fascist).

  14. Rick Turner says:

    Chris and Jon…

    It was simply a consumption bubble NOW to be financed by future generations. There are (probably) three generations of beneficiaries…the during and post WWWII generations…who gained tremendous material goods consumption “wealth”, and who all thought they deserved it. But their kids…us…our kids, and their kids and beyond will be paying for it for another century, especially since any of the real wealth is being squandered on MICC bullshit now…Iraq, Afuckinghanistan, Pakifuckinstan, Northstupid Korea, etc.

    The wealth of the planet is being squandered and destroyed as we vote for false prophets and waste our collective breath.

    Throw the bums out…

    Including O’bummer…

  15. Chris T says:

    Jon – A good part of it will be time. Market conditions are highly uncertain and there is no clear place to invest, so companies are sitting on their cash. One thing we should unequivocally not be doing is attempting to restart the credit bubble. Specifically, the homeowners tax credit is keeping housing prices from falling, even though there is still a significant inventory surplus. It’s delaying the inevitable and contributing to market uncertainty.

    Further out, the prospects for low skilled workers are bleak no matter what we do. They simply cannot compete with advancing automation or information technology. The economy as a whole will likely shift to less reliance on labor driven growth (ie: consumption). Workers must either become skilled or be frozen out of the economy.

  16. JTMcPhee says:

    Professor, I wonder if your graphical data-mining machinery could be turned to model some other stuff in two or more dimensions.

    Lots of folks identify “the problem,” that wonderful resort to “credit cards” of all types to fill their garages and closets and basements and storage units and of course landfills, roadsides, streams, lakes, rivers and big chunks of the with huge quantities of highly-and-heavily-marketed, unimaginable-pleasure-producing, JUNK. To be “thrown away.” Until, surprise, there is no more “away” for all that shite, and the stuff that comes from producing it, to be externalized under, onto or into.

    Wonder if it would help to produce something that makes visual, for the jaded and ignorant, just how much “credit” of different flavors was “extended” time-on-time? With pseudopodia showing the further excrescence of all that Funny Munny (derivatives and all that) which as far as I am concerned was a huge exercise in COUNTERFEITING, injecting carefully disguised fake money into the “stream of commerce,” and maybe ought to be punished as such.

    How about a visual on the volume of landfills and storage units over time? Maybe puffed up along some axis by the amount of crap in the Pacific and Atlantic and Indian and Great Southern Ocean “gyres?”

    And maybe some visual aids to help people, wage-earners not blinded by the faux-Patriot Dreams, understand what the diversion of Real Wealth from activities that “feed the people” directly or have something more of an “acceleration effect” than shipping an M-RAP to Notagainistan to be blown up by an IED made of a couple of the hundreds of thousands of 500-lb bombs and 105 and 155mm artillery shells that “we” have made so conveniently available to “Iraqi insurgents” and “the Taliban,” “our” necessary naming of that anomic rabble organized, if at all, around our presence as invader and common enemy, and aged tribal cleavages exacerbated by the “opportunities” of “our” presence?

    And how about some prognistication, too? Visuals giving a little form to what would you label it, a consensus view of how “recovery,” as in going back to the same stupid shit “we” have been doing for those decades that are all the fault of The Greatest Generation or the Baby Boomers or Gen X or who-ever is Just Before Us, would look, plotted maybe against “further concentration of wealth?” In reference to those segments of the population who have actually done the Making Out Like Bandits in setting up the Global Economy scam and knocking off and soaking up the apparent wealth that an economy possesses in the form of a belief in the perfectible future and the simple momentum of patterns of consumption?

    Wish I was “agile” enough to manage the technical skills to do stuff like that all by myself. ‘T’would be, I think, an enlightening exercise. Though we seem set on the path to a very Dark Age. To be aggravated by all the sick little efforts to get “consumption” beyond Maslow’s Needs back up to that higher energy state, with nothing to support the jump. And maybe the release of a very large quantum of energy as the system drops back to a more metastable configuration, or collapses into a singularity…

    Glad to see that Worgon, whose mental vehicle seems to be still obviously powered by the same Three Blind Mice in a treadwheel, is still driving around the neighborhood.

  17. JTMcPhee says:

    Chris T — “frozen out of the economy.” I like that. Goes along with Worgon’s and all those young folks’ Final Solution for accelerating the receipt of his Inheritance from his parents — tossing them on “ice flows,” like he wrongly, falsely and fraudulently infers those Eskimos up there do. And of course, having had the benefit of removing all the money from the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for all those “government programs” like roads and wars and the bureaucrats he wants to be charged to “make money.” Wow, we done seen what happens when pols actually do get to where they can “run government like a business.” And gee, what are the stats on how many businesses go bankrupt or dissolve or are absorbed or excreted from The Economy every year?

  18. len says:

    Burnett is right. It is straight up theft. Two coming features:

    1. The rise of the transnationals reliant on top-50 uni educations, family networks and economic/technocratic smarts is actually impoverishing the rest of the world. Destroying national institutions and structures while failing to replace them with transnational analogs protects their accumulation circuits but slows innovation and does not increase opportunities. It is a new plutocracy with it’s own private clubs. Say Davos.

    Who says? See United Nations Working Groups.

    2. There is a rough justice. The most vocal supporters of this ‘restructuring’, the Java-users and the open source community are suffering a later breaking but similar burglary as the more steely eyed companies such as Apple are slamming the door on them. The collapse of Sun is the example of what is coming. Brand loyalty isn’t much protection against that inevitability.

    Not a pretty picture.

  19. JTMcPhee says:


    All the cogniscenti who builded greatly for themselves and are still building the apparatus for enabling all this theft sneered at anyone who sort of dared to presume to lean toward implying that there might be a possible reason to step back a bit and take a look-see before dumping the guilds and handwork in favor of the New Age equivalent of steam-powered weaving equipment. Called those folks Luddites. Worst moniker you could lay on someone as an epithet, in the new operating system of the Web we are now entangled in.

    This cynic has to ask, given the vulnerabilities of this wonderfully so-far-interconnected “system,” when maybe we will all start seeing some of the kinds of things “Luddites” were so un-neighborly and out-of-the-ever-perfecting-stream-of commercial-history as to do to those beautiful efficient earliest-form-of-programmed-behavior productivity-increasing slave-making machines…

    Or maybe, out of pique and idiocy, some outfit like the North Korean “government,” of a group that produces some very smart if “oppressed” people amongst whom there will be many willing to trade humanity for a steady job, will produce “physical consequences” in the form of a BitBomb that will thoroughly ka-nuke the whole thing.

    Build up those firewalls, harden the IPs and the rest of the archistructure, and Katie bar the door.

  20. T Bone Burnett says:

    The very concept of artistry is under attack, perhaps a distant result of the liberalization of language which years ago advanced the notion that everybody is an artist- business is an art, and all that. Now hacks pretend to set a paradigm for artists. Not everyone is an artist nor is art for everybody, and anyone who says it is is most certainly not an artist. Perhaps art has been made obsolete by the wonders of ‘the’ internet. At any rate, ‘the’ internet has crushed productivity in the Arts.

  21. JTMcPhee says:

    I thought “Art” was the first name of the guy who invented the Jacquard Loom. After which invention, to the jaundiced eye, all the rest seems pretty predictable.

  22. JTMcPhee says:

    Speaking of liberalization of the language, of course it’s the “conservatives” that have done the most damage with their capture and on-its-head-turning of so many bits of the common tongue, including that “art of” thing. Do a googleplex on “the art of” and you get a lot of hits, among them this little bit:


    Now there’s the apex of the decorative arts…

    Not everyone is a great or even a good, fair, poor, execrable artist. Who judges? Juries, for exhibitionists? Artistry, artisanship, artsyness, where does it shake out?

  23. Warhol says:

    Art? That’s a man’s name.

  24. T Bone Burnett says:

    Short for Arthur.

  25. T Bone Burnett says:

    Who judges?


    As Barnett Newman said, “Time washes over the tip of the pyramid.”

  26. len says:

    Build up those firewalls, harden the IPs and the rest of the archistructure

    That’s been done. What comes next is increased integrated surveillance of the systems to detect bad ops in near real time. That is where some of those who championed the institutions that enabled the new noveau are finding themselves in some trouble. To keep it business worthy, those that have say over this are locking it down.

    Sorry, T, but no one gets to say who is an artist and what is art. As you’ve said, you ‘only work with the best’ and that turns you into a member of an elite. There is nothing wrong with that and as Callie pointed out with reagards to her status, you can be justly proud. On the other hand, when it comes down to access to resources, it becomes your elite against their elite in competing for audience at a price point they will pay. As long as the price point is not yours to control, an intermediary is determining what is product if not what is art. I remember well when country was what Willie played at the Ryman not what Rascal Flatts played at the CMA. If someone goes to an A&R cat and says ‘this is art but it ain’t commercial’, the door swings one way.

    Don’t fight that battle, tall man. Fight the battle you always win: making the best of the best. It is a win not because it sells the most copies but because the copies last the longest. For such as myself, well, I won’t be renting The Kids Are Alright because it doesn’t touch me. I’ll be looking for Agora because it does. In this the choice is not what is the best art but simply what is felt.

    Universals last. The Internet hasn’t changed any part of that. Institutions and structures are in flux and even you have noted in recent interviews the importance of revaluing the forms and formats to adapt to those changes.

  27. len says:

    Who judges?


    As Barnett Newman said, “Time washes over the tip of the pyramid.”


  28. Hugh says:

    Possible fourt option: The ‘net is nascent. It’s too soon to tell.

    An economist who can isolate its economic impacts probably will earn a Nobel.

    Burnett aks, Why only one? Helluva question. So fa there’ve been two generational instantiations, and not ago some of the ARPAnet progenitors were scoping the possibity of a third, fatter and cleaner pipe. But by then the apparatus already was imbued with the free-for-all spirit of the open frontier replete with imported Russian whores and snake oil barkers like David Plouffe. Maybe Jimmy Stewart, or at least Randolph Scott, will ride in and lay the cornerstone for a civilized new place to rival the red light districts and opium dens and freak shows and pickpockets that largely define the present melée. The original net was a lyceum, something of a virtual Cosmos Club hardened against thermoneuclearism. Perhaps a new, third net will borrow the best from the first and second ones while distinguishing itself by principled commerce and fair exchange. That rules out Google, so, hmmn, what will be the name of the new one? WikiNet? TrojanNet? VirginNetways?

    P.S. T Bone just pointed us to something entirely within the People’s power to achieve politically: licensure reform. What a compelling account of how radio licensing–something as simple as that–laid the ground for such big doings in art, culture and commerce. Kinda makes one believe in the promise of goverment. And yes, Fentex, totally agreed: Gubmint not the producer. No, indeed not. Rather, gubmint as nest-builder of the economy and, agreed, as guardian of the nest.

    P.P.S. Chris T, you refer to conditions of post-scarcity. Frankly I hadn’t encountered the concept for a long time. Not that your cogent comments are unclear, but would you mind expanding on the point a little?

  29. len says:

    Governments don’t exist to produce wealth, they exist to provide mediation between conflicting interests of citizens and for protection from each other and our common enemies.

    In so far as national governments go, that is so.

    1. The role of national governments in regulating the Internet is not established. As with our Arizona kerfluffle, for who’s interests will national interests regulate?

    2. Given the web (not the internet) is a creation of transnationals, can transnational interests preempt national interests and by what structures and institutions will such regulations be applied an enforced?

    Trying to work those out has consumed most of the cognoscenti for twenty years once the W3C at the behest of the narrow interests of commercial members preempted the role of the international standards bodies that existed to enable cooperation by national bodies. Having failed to do that, the W3C became largely irrelevant and the decisions are being made as in Arizona, in a patchwork fashion. Russians are blocking YouTube. China and Pakistan have blocked social networks. Transnational IP theft is epidemic and largely yawned at. Meanwhile as Burnett points out the production structures are being eviscerated even as the transnational intermediaries are increasing their take of the transactions.

    Rotten to the core.

  30. Hugh says:

    Rotten to the core, yes, but in the face of international abuses what future do you see for U.S.-led reform, such as the licensure reform advocated by T Bone? Are the Yanks already outflanked, or can they still weigh in? Irrespective of internet regulation per se (and excepting the simple licensure approach that would mean revenues from taxes, fees or fines), could the federal government once again provide the CONDITIONS for beneficial change?

    JTM and I recently rehearsed the interesting extent of the Framers’ preoccupation with commerce and prosperity–McPhee dating our constutional provisions all the way back to Babylon, bless him. Suffice it to say–and this is to subtract nothing from Fentex’s fair thumbnail account–the U.S. was conceived with a view to its prosperity, ever in competition with (if necessary, over against that of) other nations. Even the Sons of Liberty construed tyranny chiefly through the lens of the violation of property, and the nation’s charter and subsequent history, ignobly imperialistic though it sometimes has been, don’t let up on this economic imperative until about 20 months ago, with the advent of hair-shirtism.

    To mix metaphors, if ARPAnet was the Alpha, and the current thieve’s bazaar the Beta, then can the USA & Partners still go VHS and freeze out the Beta adopters?

    P.S. I see at stake, in the AZ case, watershed tests of federal authority going far beyond immigraration reform, for which personally I can hardly wait. I don’t know what they teach about the Constitution at Harvard, as I studied and taught out West, but out there they teach that the Feds work for the states, which granted powers to the central goverment which powers are subject to revocation by means prescribed. So on one level the case boils down to this: Who do those pricks think they are, with their argument of force majeure?

  31. Chris T says:

    Hugh – The cost of storing, disseminating, and accessing information has reached zero. This is nothing less than a complete revolution in human affairs.

    To see how big a deal this, think about how information storage, access, and distribution has changed throughout history. Prior to the invention of the printing press, information storage and access was entirely controlled by a small group of elites (the ‘cognoscenti’). Only they could read and write, but even their access was limited by the steep costs of storing and distributing information.

    The printing press brought the costs down considerably for distribution (by enabling rapid copying); making it feasible for the non-elite to access information. The actual storage of information was controlled by elites however, as someone still had to initially record it (which was still expensive in materials and time). Because they controlled storage, they also effectively controlled what got distributed. Distribution was still slow and haphazard for everyone as new material still had to be transported (which is costly) and no one could request something they didn’t know existed.

    Flash forward to the 19th century, new technologies came along, bringing the costs of both storage and distribution down even more. The telegraph brought the cost of distributing small pieces of information long distance close to zero, but the initial transmission was still time consuming. Better production methods led to dramatic drops in the distribution costs of information and the steam engine allowed rapid delivery in bulk (‘bandwidth’). The cost of all aspects had fallen dramatically, but it was still fragmented, haphazard, and still more expensive than most people could afford in quantity. So, elites (ie: publishers) still decided what got stored and distributed.

    The 20th century added TV and radio as means of widely distributing information quickly, but these were still well out of the price range of most people. A few people controlled broadcasting, advertising, and publishing and therefore determined which musicians and artists reached the mainstream. Information itself was still heavily fragmented and could be slow getting from place to place in bulk.

    The internet (and information technology more broadly) has thrown all of this on its head. The only barriers associated with storing and accessing information is time and the interest of the user. Once stored, information can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection and distribution is almost instantaneous. Storage is effectively unlimited and anything from short messages to entire libraries can be transmitted at will in minimal time. Information (whether written or recorded) created by billions of living or dead people can be searched rapidly for anything a person wants. Immense data sets can be rapidly collected and organized. Most importantly for human society, elites have lost control.

    The implications of this are profound, and humanity is only starting to exploit it. Those predicting a revolution were correct, but they forgot that revolutions are about creating new paradigms rather than continuing old. Revolutions are also inherently chaotic and unpredictable. Different parts of society go in different directions at varying rates. Some are affected immediately and others take longer. In the mean time, confusion reins and events stop making sense (ie: the economy has not been behaving like economists have expected or past experience would have predicted).

    The industrial revolution took over two hundred years to fully play out. The information revolution has only been going for about twenty.

  32. len says:

    what future do you see for U.S.-led reform, such as the licensure reform advocated by T Bone?

    The radio stations are already fighting it publicly. The good news is there is an FCC for their regulation. For the web?

    And that is why reform will be challenging but if the past serves us, no matter how low the cost of reproduction, the cost of production and the elite that controls the accumulation circuits both in terms of production (who played, who wrote, who sang, who produced) controls licensing costs. Elites of transnational production teams take on the same economic roles as the elites that run the oil companies.

    Internet technology barely affects production. It affects distribution. The costs that Chris is talking about don’t really apply in the long run because it is the release source that determines value. The news good or bad is that songs as recordings are becoming like virtual game goods. As designs, that is as well-written, composed arrangements, lyrics etc., that is a different licensing circuit and more attention focused on that as a means to license on the web would yield better results than simple mechanicals for recordings.

    Not all nodes are equal. Who makes more difference to perceived value in the art circuits than what. How to figure that into the transnational circuits is a challenge because it is largely art of the deal stuff.

  33. Fentex says:

    the production structures are being eviscerated

    Market researchers tell us the music industry is thriving, while the recording industry fades. More movies are being made than ever for more income and profit than ever. I’m told TV companies are raking in fortunes (cable in particular).

    Many are telling us there’s quantitively more, TB tells us it’s qualitively worse and the wrong people are profiting.

    How to measure the reality? I know I’m aging and becoming distant form youths aethetics – what am I to think if I don’t like popular music?

    My parents certainly wouldn’t have liked Sisters of Mercy or Talking Heads. My fathers favourite music was Ivan Rebroff singing Fiddler on the Roof.

    I don’t listen to popular music outlets like the radio at all but did recently when I got tired of the CD’s in my car and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the entirely local music on the station I listened to.

    It did however all seem a little amatuerishly produced.

    Would it be such a bad thing if a burgeoning middle ground grew partially at the expense of investment in the very best?

    It’s a question I’ve often wondered. When I played cricket I used to get angry with the amount of my club fees that were used to fund the club representative team. Similarly when I played football I resented the fees taken to fund national teams.

    Today I get very angry at the expense of paying for cable to watch Rugby live – the price of our nations professional representation.

    But if no one paid those sums it’s likely the quality of the top level games would suffer and the world seem a little dimmer for their absence.

    While I as fit and played sport myself I’d not be exercised, bt now I only get to spectate, well, it’s nice to have the best to watch.

    Similarly if the world went on with greater quantities of art produced and artists managing to get by but with lack of control of distribution meaning investment wanes and the highest quality flattens, does the ability for all of us to find our niche at the cost of losing some of the best of us pan out?

    Hard to tell now if that’s what will happen, the proof will be in the pudding and I think the Net is too valuable to risk hampering it to avoid having to confront the changes it brings.

    I’m still confident that the empowerment modern technology brings will be of greater benefit than the loss of concentration of investment. I certainly think artists will be better off as a whole with the keys taken from the gatekeepers.

  34. Chris T says:

    “The costs that Chris is talking about don’t really apply in the long run because it is the release source that determines value.”

    Once created, digital recordings are trivially easy to reproduce and it becomes entirely up to the consumer whether or not they pay for the product. Goods only hold value to the extent the producer can also control their distribution. Hence why the music industry has spent so much time fighting to keep internet distribution under its control. The same problem will be facing the book industry soon and is slowly killing the newspaper industry. Counting on people to be virtuous as a business strategy has never worked.

    “Would it be such a bad thing if a burgeoning middle ground grew partially at the expense of investment in the very best?”

    The chances of a particular artist being the very best and also being found and promoted by the industry out of a population of 300 million in the United States alone is so remote as to not be worth considering (American Idle capitalizes on this).

    People are surprisingly willing to express and record themselves artistically for free and now they have a means of distribution. The internet greatly increases the chances of the very best rising to the top. We also have greatly expanded choices and can match what we listen to our tastes.

    I do not understand why people even bother to pay for industry produced music when they can find music that matches their tastes more closely and is far better for free or at a much lower cost.

  35. Hugh says:

    Chris T,

    Thank you for answering my question about scarcity. I’d guessed that that was what you meant, and your right to place it into historical context–something you do better than I, dammit.

    Some years ago I was privileged to pursue a special study of the economic function called scarcification, and for years thereafter I’ve worried about the scarcifying dynamic in the context of our shift to service economies. As my own service, education, is expensively and so poorly delivered, I wonder whether the sufeit of now cost-free information will occasion a change of thinking about education or whether instead old bad habitscwill die hard. That’s why we resume the hoary debates distinguishing information from education itself.

    Education is conducted, sold, under the assumption of its scarcity. Is this not a sophistic illusion?

  36. Chris T says:

    Unfortunately, having access to unlimited information is pointless if people don’t know how to use it. Education is for learning how to think, and good thinking is still in short supply.

    Then there’s the age old problem of teaching a man what he doesn’t want or care to know.

  37. JTMcPhee says:

    Want OR care, or want OF care?

    To be eschewed: “i” before “e” except after “c” except for a few exceptions. Multiplication tables. The Kings and Emperors and Capitals of Europe and the several states of what used to be the United States; the Federalist Papers; anything by Marx or Kafka or Niebuhr or Sun Tzu (wait, keep that last one), anything about a possum living in a swamp with a bunch of other Interesting Animals…

    Unlimited “information?” To quote Gunther Toody: “Ooh — ooh!” Found a really great new Porn Site — “toecleavage.urg” Ooh — those dress pumps…

    If there ain’t no spiritual center to anything, why then you got that best of all possible worlds, dont’cha? <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1XAuEM02Sw"<Anything goes?"

    Yep, Axl, “Anything Goes.”

  38. Hugh says:

    When did Homo Sapiens Sapiens, the one who thinks about his own thinking, the self-reflective one, become so helpless as to have to be taught (by others) how to think, to learn (from others) how to learn? It’s multiply oxymoronic nonsense. Portentous, yet ridiculous. An exceedingly profound case of Might making Right, and making it stick. Bull, as McPhee would say, shit.

  39. T Bone Burnett says:

    Dear Fentex

    Which market researchers are you talking to, boy? Whoever they are, put your wallet in your boot. The music industry is cratering. Live Nation has had to cancel hundreds of shows this summer. Acts that have not had a soft ticket in years are canceling shows left and right. I don’t have to listen to market researchers. I am actually in both of those businesses. The whole of the entertainment industry is for sale. ‘The’ Internet has had over a decade to begin to deliver on it’s promise. It has not. It is a film flam, straight up. Market researchers! I got your market research right here.

  40. JTMcPhee says:

    Hugh, you gonna take the kid straight out of the Skinner Box at age 3 and turn him or her loose to figger it out on his or her own? With nothing more than a 16g or Wifi connection and a notebook computer?

    Wonder where that would lead — an interesting thought experiment.

    “Oh yes, we have no role models, we have no role models today!” Who was that, the Marx Brothers? And I don’t mean Karl…

    Part of the virtue of teaching, if there is one, is the opportunity to point out common seductive pitfalls — like Fascism, and Leninism, and Libertarianism — to keep the young persons from having to always clear every new field as if it was loaded both with Nuggets of Pure Wisdom, and Bouncing Betty mines…

    C’mon, kid, you can do it — come up with the Poetics all by yourself, infer all of Plutarch’s Lives, advance to tensor calculus out of Worgon’s Increased Intelligence, create a Just and Fertile World. NOT.

  41. T Bone Burnett says:

    Oh, and by the way, Fentex, if there is no recording industry, what gets distributed over the miracle of ‘the’ Internet?

    (I can tell you- horribly degraded copies of forty year old,,, information.)

  42. Fentex says:

    Which market researchers are you talking to, boy? Whoever they are, put your wallet in your boot. The music industry is cratering. Live Nation has had to cancel hundreds of shows this summer

    I’ve never heard of “Wallet in your boot” before, what’s that about?

    This post at Techdirt mentioned news of problems with Live Nation (which I personally know nothing about) and compared it to the success of smaller venues, with comments from someone named Tom Windish that there’s no problem filling smaller venues at lower costs.

    The suggestion is that the rise in cost of large shows has simply gone too far, especially the added service costs.

    This is what I meant by how are we to know and measure reality. Measuring the success or failiure of the grand scale may not be very revealing of the truth if the middle is burgeoning.

    This report from IFPI says recorded revenues dropped 7% globally last year, but grew in 13 markets. It illustrates the rtecording industries troubles, but this article on the greater music industry illustrates total growth while recorded income drops. The greater part of growth is in live performance, which I guess would frighten people thinking they need Live Nation to succeed if that business is failing.

    How much small scale online business is happening out of sight? Amanda Palmer is the online darling at the moment who keeps finding ways to profit from going direct to fans online, but surely not everyone can do the same thing? Well, that’s the argument – disintermendiation allows everyone to find their own way.

    We don’t know how many people for how much are finding niches and using free distribution online to exploit a small market. That just isn’t recorded by anyone and it can only be increasing at the moment.

    While hunting for those reports I noticed a lot of them published in 2007 but not so many since. Which I find curious, you’d think being a hot topic there ouight be a lot of studying going on and being published.

    Browsing a nubmer of reports I got the impression that a lot of lost income for the music recording industry is going to game companies as their income is rising rapidly and it crossed my mind it seems likely that the occassional teenage purchase of an album is easily supplanted by purchase of a game.

    I don’t have much direct expereince of the music industry and I don’t personally have anything invested in it, so how can I tell if my lack of concern is just the same indifference I have for other people dislocated by changes in economic circumstances? I worked as a milk delivery boy in my youth but that jobs disappeared today and I didn’t rail against its going away.

    Do I just not know that something valuable is being lost? Or do people with vested interests overstate their value?

    It’s hard to measure reality, and to know if the adjustments these changes in circumstances will cause in the future are a nett benefit.

    In my judgement I remain confident that these new technologies, the disintermediation and free distribution of the Net, will be a net benefit for having empowered people to produce art for themselves and others in whatever market they seek for themselves.

    Whether or not I’m right about music in particular we all knew the Net was going to kill a lot of jobs. That’s what the ‘Productivity’ Jon asked about would first manifest as – the destruction of work made unneccessary and easy to automate.

    However poeple are to profit in the future it can’t be from solving the problem of distribution of anything digitisable. That’s done.

    Let’s suppose the collapse of the recording industry completes, and a divestment of employment destroys the production of high quality music. Well, then society can choose to reinvest in it with a tax to disburse and fund new art.

    But we’re not there yet, before increasing everyone’s taxes and funding new vested interests we ought wait a while for a definitive measure of it’s need. The economic dislocation of some today doesn’t seem anymore compelling to me than the economic dislocation of others in the past.

    Which opinions ignore the moral argument TB made that Google is stealing. I don’t think that’s true – Google doesn’t host or stream music. But other people definitely do when they fetch music.

    Although I think the claim that YouTube is just a host for other people is a bit disingenious – those people won’t profit if Google runs adds on YouTube pages will they?

    If music collection societies are allowed to sample and charge music stations I don’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed to similarly sample and charge YouTube.

  43. T Bone Burnett says:

    “Let’s suppose the collapse of the recording industry completes, and a divestment of employment destroys the production of high quality music. Well, then society can choose to reinvest in it with a tax to disburse and fund new art.

    But we’re not there yet…”

    Fentex- that is not right. We have been there for some time- at least five years. We have passed the point of no return. And the concern is not merely for the record industry or the quality of music, but for the quality of our lives- the quality of our community’s life. Sound is important. Music is important. Both have suffered greatly in the digital age. The effect is felt throughout our economy. All of the ancillary businesses that depend on and are fueled by the recording industry- travel, hospitality, hotels, restaurants, taxi cabs, clubs, theaters, arenas, stadiums, concerts, studios, engineers, transportation, retail stores, printers, brokers, sound companies, brewers, distillers, growers, lawyers, instrument makers, gas stations, and of course, t-shirt manufacturers (I will stop what is a much longer list here)- have suffered also. All told, there are few people that are not effected. It is cavalier to say otherwise. Our culture is impoverished by this reality.

    And, for the record, Google does host and stream music. Search Bruce Springsteen. The top of the page is a picture (image and likeness, supposedly under the artist’s control) that can be dragged and dropped, and a list of four songs that can be streamed for free from iLike. The idea is that one can stream it once for free then, if he likes it, he can buy it. However, all one has to do to stream it again (for free) is refresh his browser. And every time he does that, Google sells more advertising.

    The only other Google search category, as far as I know, that has this type of configuration is weather. When one searches weather, a four day forecast is at the top of the page. Google knows that if someone searches weather, he wants the forecast for the next few days, and that if someone searches for a recording artist, he wants to hear some of that artist’s music.

    Music is Google’s second most searched category. Every time someone searches for a musician, Google sells advertising. The left side of the page is a list of search results, the right side of the page is a list of advertisers. And every time someone clicks through a link below the iLike box, there is another series of advertisements all of which bring Google revenue that is not shared with the the artists who are being searched. And so on and so on.

    (By the way, your milk analogy does not hold water. We may not have milkmen, but milk is not distributed for free. Fentex, I think of you as a first rate intellect, but your thinking on this matter is flat out lazy.)

  44. T Bone Burnett says:

    Oh yeah, and in that list I did not mention musicians.

    And writers and publishers and arrangers. And singers and dancers.


    (Put your wallet in your boot? You want me to tell you what that is about? Seriously?)

  45. Jon Taplin says:

    To me the issue is simple. We have been talking here for months about the economic miracle of specialization and trade. So America bought in whole hog and decided to specialize in intellectual property, soft goods, not hardware. And we got really good at it. Only one problem, it turned out there was no trade for our special talent. Evryone felt they should get it for free.

    We were screwed.

  46. T Bone Burnett says:

    Cruel but fair.

  47. T Bone Burnett says:

    And, Fentex, if you really were asking about wallets in boots, please see Jon Taplin’s post above.

  48. Fentex says:

    I’m guessing “wallet in your boot” is a saying about putting your money in a safe place. Not a saying where I’m from.

    Is there a moral problem with Google selling advertising alongside search results for music? I hadn’t heard of iLike before, which a little research tells me is ‘partnered’ with Google (whatever that means).

    I tried a Google search for Bruce Springsteen, and no iLike anywhere in the results. I guess that’s down to Google location based results (and possibly market rights restrictions). I tried it with a U.S based proxy and got a bunch of Rhapsody links to his top songs first up.

    Although it’s annoying that Google has grabbed so much of peoples attention that they profit so heavily from selling advertising to their profits don’t come at the expense of the recording industry though, do they?

    Google has taken the newspaper classifieds and a good chunk of TV’s and magazines advertising revenue. It’s the P2P networks that have distressed the sale of recordings, and they don’t work through or with Google.

    Surely it’s more accurate to say ISP’s and backbone bandwidth providers are profiting from them rather than Google I would think. Some of what was spent on CD’s is now spent on monthly data, caps and traffic (or so ISP’s would like – it’s why those that provide unlimited plans constantly try to cap them and charge for overruns).

    I used to argue the big tech companies ought to have bought the media companies just to fund a supply of media across their pipes but it turns out, as Jon says, they didn’t need to pay for the resource as so many people seem so willing to do it (I’m constantly amazed at how blase so many are to rip and upload media so routinely and not be troubled at all by the obvious crime).

    I recall a study once (a long time ago now) by someone who said net users don’t like paying for resoures online because they feel they’ve paid already. That as long enough ago that it was back when net use was significantly more expensive, but I think it might remain valid today as people probably pay more but for better connections and expecting more for the money.

    Supposing support for a licence existed, would it not make more sense to apply it at the ISP level? And work with that feeling. Companies like Google can relocate, but not everyone connected to the Net can.

    Do it for Music then Movies, TV, Book publishers, any business who’s product can be digitised and copied will demand similar consideration.

    Is it really so bad drastic methods are required? What has happened to make that long list of places music is desired to make them so horrible?

    I thought the problem which vexed people was the reward for artists.

    Am I too understand the contention is rewards have sunk so low that investment has declined so far that the public is being denied the fruits of the most talented because they can neither be discovered, nurtured nor funded to produce their best?

    My biggest problem with that thought is I went out to a show with a fiend a year ago and bought four CD’s from the band we saw because of the excellence of their music.

    So I wonder if what’s broken isn’t the quality of music but the business which occupies the gap between musicians and customers. Might it not be the thought that there can any longer be a single large popular market is outdated?

    In the 1970 ~ 1980’s a lot of authors who tried to project into the future worried and wrote about the thought that things like the Net and increases in the number of attention seekers would fragment people into enclaves of different thought and cultural allegiances. People would get their news from services they agreed with and not a common supplier.

    Could it be the effort to market en-masse to the public is faltering because the monolithic market is fractured and the blandness of product is an attempt to cross fractured markets?

    I don’t think I believe that (much as Fox news seems to support the theory).

    But it may still be true that there’s now something fundementally wrong with how existing music businesses are organised. Has the era of big acts passed?

  49. len says:

    Ask game makers such as the folk who produce WoW if they think Farmville isn’t hurting the craft and the industry.

    Digital reproduction: I have a xerox machine. I can make money fast and cheaply. Should I be able to spend it? After all, information is information, right?

    People can’t be counted on to be virtuous. So we have law and taxes. The challenge is to craft a national solution to a transnational challenge. So we have to do what the Russians, the Chinese, the Koreans etc are doing: lock down our ISPs and if they don’t cooperate, shutter their servers. Fine.

    Note that Google is trying to get into the government cloud services business.

    Has the era of big acts passed? No. Cheap tickets have. And despite what you think, local markets are collapsing too. No one with any brains gets into a business that has no chance of getting them to the lifestyle to which they aspire.

  50. Fentex says:

    Cheap tickets have. And despite what you think, local markets are collapsing too

    Are you sure of this? I long expected the price of live acts was going to rise somewhat because artists would look to performance for increased income but there has to be a limit to that.

    Is news that Live Nation is having trouble selling performances an indication that prices have risen to outstrip demand and ought now fall (perhaps also a reflection of stressed finances in a recession)?

    I wondered, after checking their booking site and seeing a number of long established acts, if suddenly older acts have lost their audience and not gained a new younger one to replace it.

    For a long time there it looked like famous acts were going to their grave performing to packed audiences, but wasn’t it a surprise when we learned how they could still command attendance? I wonder if the surprise has worn off.

    I’m not very attentive of music acts but I notice there seems to be very little in the way of outstanding talent garnering attention. Lady Ga Ga gets a lot, but her music seems the very definition of disposable pop.

    TB appears to suggest (if I understand him) that there is an absence of talent on show and it’s due to loss of investment due to loss of income from the collapse of selling recorded music.

    He speaks as someone in the field, can I deny an opinion of experiences I don’t share? My problem is I can’t help but imagine the fright dislocation of established mores must instill in someone – even if TB is wholly sober and accurate in his estimation how does the observer tell that apart from the vested interests decrying shifts in power or the old reacting against the new?

    I don’t recognize this horror but I don’t stand at a good vantage to see it and don’t experience a visceral reaction.

    I think I’ll turn on my cars radio a bit more.

    If by local markets you mean smaller performing venues where less famous, perhaps local, acts perform for cheaper prices are you sure? Sites that argue this toss, such as the article on Techdirt I linked to earlier, keep reporting strong business in independent and mid scale businesses.

    In recent months OK-Go and other acts have famously celebrated freedom from their label contracts in anticipation of greater independence. What is one to make of that if things are so dire?

  51. Fentex says:

    I just read this article on Live nations last year.

    It seems to say, though I guess we’ll find out next year, that this was a not untypical lull, with a not unusual number of cancellations in a year saturated with expensive acts.

  52. JTMcPhee says:

    Information is information? It’s all the same? “Mein Kampf” and the Dead Sea Scrolls and “Cats!” and the “Eroica”?

    Maybe the disconnect is that there’s variation in value and Truth and “utility,” for lack of a better word. I know, value to whom and for what? You can make a spear shaft or a shovel handle out of the same piece of ash. If you already got a spear, gained by popping the cervical vertebrae of an inattentive sojer-boy, you can take the ash from the other guy and make him make you more spears.

    What I hear implicit is the long, painful, opiate-moderated death of Values, the summary execution of Judgment, the drawn-and-quartered end of Civility and Comity and all that weak-sister “worthless” shit. To that point where Everything is Everything and you get to worship at the sacrificial-blood-soaked High Altar of the Holy State of Maximum Entropy, and you get there through the back doors and trap doors and Trojan horses and data-crawlers and various viruses and just the accretion of Masses of Bits, plowshares into swords, dealing death as WorldwideWarcraft “entertainment.” To the accompaniment of “The Ride of the Valkyries” which, to close my little circle-of-Hell vision, is a leitmotif not only for a scene of incredible informational richness in “Apocalypse Now,” and used to het up the hormones of pimple-faced post-pubes in a bunch of fucking war simulations/”computer games,” but for a wonderful bit of deep, dark Norse mythology leading to what I think is in gestation: not some namby-pamby Interregnum, but a full-Monty Ragnarok.

    Oncogenes are “information,” I and numerous humans who are dear to me have had their brush with them and didn’t find the “information” “useful.” I read that “identity theft,” what a wonderful couplet, is on the rise, fueled by the ever-increasing “store” of “information,” and of course that even more valuable (when “unrestrictable”)commodity, “access.” Coupled, of course, to the real nature of most humans, who unfortunately for libertarian and other utopian creeds, generally have a major missing bit of “information” in the parts that process incoming and turn it into self-pleasing outgoing, in pursuit of the beloved “lifestyle,” the part as len puts it that the sucker expects to be “virtuous.”

    Good luck “fixing” anything, except in the most local and seemingly defensible of domains, so many of which end up looking like the Waco Whackos and the Ruby Ridge Slippers and those “villages” in what we arbitrarily and obscurantly call “Somalia” and “Notagainistan.” ‘Course, the various tribal locust armies off the steppes and out of Persia and Germania and whatnot had, um, not a lot of trouble riding, ah, “roughshod” over even heavily-defended fixed positions.

    Information is information. Everything is everything. Nothing “means” anything. Mean people suck–

    up all the resources and energy in any system, eventually.

    Can’t kill to keep it? Or take it? Give it up, Charlene and Charlie.

  53. Hugh says:

    T Bone,

    Do you really think that I’d advocate Rousseauistic naturalism and the Wolf Boy of Avignon? Of course not! Between that extreme–and by the way, “Emile” is a shell game; witness Sophie’s sorry fate–between that extreme and the opposite extreme, the extreme control and manipulation that comes from the illogical presupposition that humans “need to learn how to learn” (how could they even learn “how to learn” were their capacity for and interest in learning not a priori?), lies an authentic relationship between teacher and learner. The most ancient relationship is one of true immitation, the learner’s emulation of the master–say, a master class with Parkening, his own in turn with Segovia, etc. This relationship, one of trust and respect in the presence of instructional authority, is predicated upon the learner’s wanting what the instructor has. It might be a Scout who wants to learn geocaching, and seeks guidance from an older Scout and/or a Scout counselor.

    Unlike Rousseau and his 1960s acolytes, I can’t imagine a desirable world in which adults do not make concerted provisions for the protection and rearing of the young. And if the adults want to provide in common the conditions for education, then Margaret Mead and I can’t think of anything more definitive of human culture. But when you have scientistic pedagogues certifying that we proto-humans are now fully human because we’ve been taught satisfactorily how to think, um, not good. Only a replicant who himself had been so taught would think like that.

  54. bernard says:

    TB . Google should be a clearing house for the art, the dowjones of the art. It would be only fair that You get paid by the amount of downloads.

  55. Hugh says:

    Another note. I’m asserting that the means of education–genuine education (which is not principally concerned with the exchange of information)–are not scarce. We assume that the means are scarce, we are told that they are, yet they are not scarce. They are scarcified.

  56. len says:

    If by local markets you mean smaller performing venues where less famous, perhaps local, acts perform for cheaper prices are you sure?

    Yep. That’s the end of the business I see through the young acts I know and my own experience. Nashville is a dead zone according to the folk I know who do stage work. They are clawing for money now, having to bundle multiple acts, play for free, etc. The level of musicianship is good because access to the information required to cop licks is cheap to free. The problem is they sound the same as a result. They are wonderful soft targets for the club owners who have been keeping local act wages at 1972 rates without scaling up. The supply is enormous (a direct effect of having parents who are engineers) and Gresham’s Law is in full force. I see more business in the churches that pay better although it squeezes the innovation and narrows the subject matter.

    Meanwhile, information is information but everything is not everything. If the transnationals are the ones benefitting from the structural changes, that’s where we can start redressing the damage done. So, I don’t want to xerox American dollars. That would hurt my team. I want to xerox New Zealand dollars and use the free Google currency convertor to determine where best to trade it up. 1 New Zealand dollar = 0.7262 US dollar so I’ll have to shop around to get the trades in the right order for maximum benefit to me.

    Why start there? Well the kiwis don’t have much in the way of a military and disabuse nukes so they are an excellent soft target and can’t fight it. Of course we’ll collapse their economy and the Cook Islands very quickly so we need to be sure we have some secondaries lined up. Europe is slim pickings and England, well, nah. Ugly folk. Hey, Brazil! Money AND resources to squander and since they don’t take very good care of their stuff it’s only right we should take it and manage it for … their… benefit.

    Civilization: hard to create, easy to lose.

  57. T Bone Burnett says:

    “I tried a Google search for Bruce Springsteen, and no iLike anywhere in the results.”


    The four songs next to the picture are offered by iLike. (It says it there under the songs.)

  58. Hugh says:

    Do tell, ’cause I was wondering too, Does this cratering subsume also the smaller, more accoustical acts that don’t require contract attorneys, ad campaigns, teams of technicians, security provisions and all the rest? What’s stopping them from showing up on the homier side of the Summer circuit and performing at our local playhouse or nearby festival, earning the money and going to the next gig?

    It’s really saddening to hear of the crisis of conditions necessary for the success of major live performances. I guess what I’m asking is, how wide the crater? How deep? Anyone left standing who won’t soon perish from virtual radiation sickness? Is there a renegade way to beat the bastards, were the collective spirit willing and the flesh not so damnably weak?

  59. T Bone Burnett says:

    “Although it’s annoying that Google has grabbed so much of peoples attention that they profit so heavily from selling advertising to their profits don’t come at the expense of the recording industry though, do they?”

    They do.

    “TB appears to suggest (if I understand him) that there is an absence of talent on show and it’s due to loss of investment due to loss of income from the collapse of selling recorded music.”

    I’m sorry that I have have not been able to make myself clear. I am saying the quality of the listening experience has collapsed to the point that listening to music is making people deaf. There is also evidence that digital sound itself causes nervous disorders.

    I do not think there is an absence of talent. But the world of music is in steep decline. Whatever Live Nation might be saying publicly, I know their concerns first hand.

    “My problem is I can’t help but imagine the fright dislocation of established mores must instill in someone – even if TB is wholly sober and accurate in his estimation how does the observer tell that apart from the vested interests decrying shifts in power or the old reacting against the new?”

    I am not writing out of fright or as a vested interest, Fentex. I am simply writing down the reality. But with the way most music sounds these days, I don’t blame you for keeping your fingers in your ears.

  60. len says:

    Does this cratering subsume also the smaller, more acoustical acts that don’t require contract attorneys, ad campaigns, teams of technicians, security provisions and all the rest?

    They have places to play. The money isn’t very good. Money isn’t everything. And yeah, some of those acts do need that. It depends on fame, a dangerous commodity to have without the wealth although having a very tight group of friends around one can help a lot.

    Someone just handed me a CD of “Billy Bragg and Wilco: Mermaid Avenue Vol III” which is their renditions of Woody Guthrie songs. The songs are great. The recording quality is terrible.

  61. Hugh says:

    I believe I understand. Am just asking and learning. (and BTW, the have not only places to play but places to stay, including in any one of my family’s places, any of them. Yet that’s not to say that grassroots support is a desirable alternative to just compensation and due recognition.)

    T Bone’s authoritative report causes me to click over into Praxis mode, to Action, the more radical me. What can be done? I’ve been worrying about this possible outcome for some time, and have some thoughts about initiatives to propound. If I put them up and y’all in the know shoot them down in turn I won’t get discouraged, but will learn how better to fight the trend.

    Taplin has been worrying this issue, here and elsewhere, for some time and I feel a fool for not having seen earlier that Internet greed was blighting art. This can’t be allowed to stand. If nothing else it’s our patrimony at stake. I speak too often of the conditions for education. These are not they.

  62. Chris T says:

    Hugh – It took until the 17th century for the scientific method to become formalized and widely used. Experimentation to test hypotheses as a method to understand the external world seems obvious to us now, but was not always so. Common psychological biases are also not obvious unless explicitly pointed out during the learning process. The internet cannot substitute for a good teacher when it comes to these.

  63. len says:

    On the other hand, Hugh, NetFlix figured out they had to pay more to get better and beat the performance of competitors and as a result, $$$.


    Again, art of the deal coupled to innovation.

  64. Hugh says:

    Intersting, Len.

    Chris T,

    Agreed, but with strong precursors circa 1175 -1275, a more seminal and complex era than even the 17th, so we might as well teach the two in conjunction.

    I’d be about the very last to suggest that info-tech such as that afforded by the Internet is a substitute for learning from the scary worlds of authentic experience, any more than the ludicrously technologized and scientized processing of modern, mass schooling is so. By asking about post-scarcity in the info trade, I’d have done better to enquire analagously about a seemingly unrelated economic sector, such as manufacturing or agriculture. I’d never meant to imply–in fact never did imply–that education has much to do with the traffic in factoids; was rather asking whether similar strides, post-scarcity, might be made in other fields such as my own. I realize that it sounds weird, but it’s important, or at least important to me. The same technologies may be accelerators of growth on many, even unanticipated fronts. The same engines that now blight the arts may be the engines of a new flowering of artistic expression. I don’t know. Am just asking.

    What to me is “dismal” and also promising about macroeconomics is its accounting for base motives. In a service economy, the drive to scarcify is serious and ominous indeed.

  65. bernard says:

    An acoustic bass player told me ounce in a jam session ” Hey man your problem is that without electricity you are NOTHING”. After reading an essay on objective music, the one that heals, I do agree that recording it is just not the same thing, nevertheless internet provides the information about it.
    TB I am interested by what you wrote :There is also evidence that digital sound itself causes nervous disorders. Could you explain me a bit more. Thanks.

  66. JTMcPhee says:

    Hugh, I thought one of the really well deserved hits, even here, on economics both macro and micro, is the pretty much complete failure to account for the base human motives, let alone the nature of humanity as a social and political beast. Everything focused on extrapolation of the motives and understanding of the “classically trained” pseudoscientific economist to The Whole World. “I’m so concerned about my reputation that I won’t cut your throat, fiscally speaking.”

  67. T Bone Burnett says:

    Is Digital Music Affecting Your Health?

    By: John Diamond, MD



D.P.M., F.R.A.N.Z.C.P., M.R.C.Psych., F.I.A.P.M., D.I.B.A.K.

(First published 1980, modified and with a postscript, 2003)

    Music is one of the great therapies. Throughout recorded history in all parts of the world, music has been used as therapy. In fact, of all factors that have been investigated, probably none enhances the Life Energy and reduces stress more effectively than music.[1] Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the fact that at the age of seventy, when some 50% of American males are already dead, some 80% of musical conductors are still alive, healthy, and productive. The tremendous therapeutic power of music has always been recognized, and it has been the subject of many discourses, from the time of Pythagoras to Moses Maimonides and beyond.[2] To me, as to Pythagoras, music is not mere entertainment or amusement (the absence of the muse), but therapy. It is one of the most potent modalities that exists for actuating what the Greeks called thymos, what Hippocrates called the vis medicatrix naturae, the healing power that exists within us all: Life Energy.

    There are still many cultures in which there has been no divorce between music and healing. For example, in many so-called primitive societies, the healing shaman is nearly always a musician, and music and incantation are as important as all the other aspects of his profession. The only remnant we see of this in our society is the use of music in religious ceremonies, a custom which dates back to a time before the separation in our society of medicine and religion. And thus throughout the centuries and today, over and above the usual satisfaction or the more physical enjoyment we may derive from music, there is another quality, and it is this other quality, this Life Energy enhancing quality to which I have devoted a major part of my research over the years.

    I have tested many thousands of phonograph recordings recorded over a period of over eighty years, and it has been found that almost without exception this music has been therapeutic,[3] often highly so. In fact, it has been used for stress reduction, relaxation, general tonification, analgesia, as part of modified acupuncture techniques, and as adjunctive therapy in drug withdrawal programs. Music has also been used in programs to overcome fears and phobias, alleviate insomnia, and even for the “tranquilization” of acutely disturbed psychotic patients.


In 1979 this changed. I suddenly found that I was not achieving the same therapeutic results as before, that playing records of the same compositions to the same patients was producing a completely contrary effect! Instead of their stress being reduced and their Life Energy being actuated, the opposite was occurring. Music examples that I had long used to promote sleep now seemed to be actually aggravating the insomnia. And I found in one case that instead of the music helping a patient withdraw from tranquilizers, it seemed to increase his need for them. Special tapes for businessmen to use during their rest periods seemed suddenly to increase rather than reduce their stress. These findings were very alarming.

    When I investigated these paradoxical phenomena, I found that in all cases they were related to the use of digital recordings. These were vinyl records made from digital masters.[4] When I substituted analog versions of the same work, sometimes even with the same performers, the positive therapeutic effects were again obtained. There seemed to me little doubt that something was “wrong” with the digital process. Apparently the digital recording technique not only did not enhance Life Energy and reduce stress, but it was actually untherapeutic – that is, it imposed a stress and reduced Life Energy. Through some mechanism of which I am not aware the digital process was somehow reversing the therapeutic effects of the music!

    In a number of instances I had analog and digital performances that we could easily compare. One was of Zubin Mehta conducting Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. The digital performance (on London) had a stress-inducing effect whereas the old analog performance (on Vox) did not. Also the early LP transfers of Caruso and McCormack were Life Energy enhancing whereas the Soundstreamed digital versions had the opposite effect. Yet these were records of the same performance. The only difference was the digitalization process. And this was apparent even though the original recordings had been made nearly seventy years ago. Other examples were the Japanese Denon PCM recordings of various Czech performers whose earlier versions were on the Supraphon label. They were the same performers and the same works. The only difference appeared to be the digital process.

    As a part of my work and as one of my research tools, I employ muscle testing, in a modification of the standard Applied Kinesiology testing. It is modified as I first presented to an ICAK conference in 1977. See the description of my study with Dr. Florence Kendall in my Kinesiology Report Number 10, December, 1977. At the request of Dr. Goodheart, I demonstrated this again at the ICAK conference in Monte Carlo in 1995.

    If you play a digital recording, it will be found that the muscle that was previously testing strong and could easily resist the pressure, will be unable to do so – that the digital effect has so stressed the subject that he cannot resist. Something has happened. Some stress has been introduced which is now manifest in this negative response. Perhaps even more striking are the differences in stress effects found upon testing a recording session in which digital and analog recordings were made simultaneously.[5] Similar effects are also apparent with the human speaking voice using this newer digital recording process.[6]

    This effect obviously is not due to the performer nor to the composer, since other recordings, analog, of the same performer and the same composer do not have this effect. In fact, they are therapeutic – that is, they reduce stress and enhance Life Energy on testing. There is a yet-to-be-identified factor involved in the digital technique which is causing this stress. At some level the ear is perceiving a signal which it recognizes as being unnatural and alarming. This instantaneously causes a stress reaction which is manifest in the loss of muscle response on test.

    Many audiophiles and engineers state that they have noticed that they can discern something vaguely “wrong” with the digital recording process but cannot quite pinpoint the problem. Using the test, it can easily be shown that, using the same playback system, the difference between analog and digital recording does exist. While we certainly enjoy the benefits of this major technological breakthrough, there are subtle physiological effects still to be considered.

    It is important to emphasize that this is not a test of muscle strength. It is a test of the integrity of the acupuncture system. Through it flows the electromagnetic energy of the body. A heavy, powerful testing is a test of muscle strength, not of Life Energy, and it is, in essence, a different test. When I demonstrated my findings at the Audio Engineering Society conference in Los Angeles in May 1980, I was accused of pushing too hard when the subjects were failing when the digital records were being played. In point of fact, pushing “too hard” if anything will fail to demonstrate the effect. It is not, I repeat NOT, a test of muscle strength. Hence the testing requires considerable expertise. It is not for casual and amateurish usage. It is a professional discipline.

    This test has been performed both by myself and others under double blind test situations on many occasions, and the results always tend to be about the same, with many provisos. In particular, I wish to emphasize that for accurate testing there are many variables that must be controlled, many more than I can elaborate upon in this short presentation. Furthermore, as I have previously stated, for accurate interpretation I test not just at the one superficial level of testing that I have described above, but in at least twelve deeper levels as well. It is only when all the variables are accurately controlled and testing is carried out at all levels and parameters that the findings are meaningful.

    I am more aware than any pro-digital advocate of the shortcomings of the test. And I would like nothing more than to be able to read a meter instead. However, although many electronics experts have tried to help me to design such an instrument, they have never been successful. They finally realize that perhaps the body itself may be a better test device than any instrument that we can make. Will we ever measure the difference between violins, or poems?

    I personally believe that the proper research tool can be designed, but it will not ultimately be related to any muscle test. It will involve measuring the change in electromagnetic activity in that part of the body where is situated what we may call the acupuncture central processor, because it is the electromagnetic disturbance there which is manifested as a weakening of the test muscle. And it is there, centrally, that the stressful effect of the digital recordings occurs, being then reflected in a diminished acupuncture energy flow to the specific meridian feeding the muscle being tested.

    What if my findings and those of my colleagues are correct? For many years now, nearly all recordings of otherwise therapeutic music have been made using the digital process. The implications of this, both for today and for our future, are very disturbing. If the major therapeutic recording artists of today are recorded for posterity using the present digital technique their efforts will be valueless for us and valueless for future generations. No more will we be able to call upon the therapeutic powers, the true healing powers, of the musicians of our day as we have called upon the musicians of the past. This will mark the end of the therapeutic era of recorded music. The great technological advance of being able to bring the greatest performers into our homes for true entertainment, and much more importantly, to raise our Life Energy, will have been destroyed.

    When a man comes home stressed after a day’s work and puts on a record of a Schubert piano sonata to help him re-energize, the opposite will occur. He will become more stressed. And he will learn over a period of time that music does not help him to relax as he had expected. Or a person who as part of his religious pursuit plays a record of the Bach B Minor Mass will perhaps recognize that he is further removed from his goal – that instead of serenity, instead of holiness, instead of a feeling of life enhancement, the opposite has occurred. The music has become untherapeutic, contrary to its true nature.

    It is no longer Music!

    We will then cease to regard music as being what it is: one of the great therapies. Our recorded musical heritage will still satisfy the brain but will do nothing for the rest of the listener. Our true recorded musical heritage will be at an end.

    I have frequently been in the position where discoveries first made through “unscientific” means have later been validated by what would be called the more usual scientific methods, and I have no doubt that in the future it will be recognized that the findings concerning digital recordings will be validated. But by that time, it may be that many works of our great artists will have been preserved in an unacceptable form.

    By correcting the digital technique, we may actually now be able to make recordings more therapeutic than they have ever been before, more so than analog. By discovering the central problem in existing digital recording techniques, we may be in a position then to so improve them that we ultimately have advanced the therapeutic benefit to mankind.

    Postscript, May 2003

    Finally, about two years ago, I was contacted by several of the major recording and electronic companies who said that they never forgot my address to the Audio Engineering Society in 1980. They said they knew then that I was right with what I had presented about the negative effects of the digital process, but unfortunately it was released anyhow. They asked me to help in finding a solution to what they were now calling “digital fatigue.” Over the years I have tried many methods but all without success – until now.

    Back then in 1980, I had only digitally recorded and/or mastered vinyl LPs to test. The arrival of CDs a few years later increased the problem. As with LPs, but more so, the stress leads after a certain time (different for each individual) to a reversal of their usual ethical and medical standards of belief. The effects of this profound change that I have now investigated for some twenty years are I believe a very important etiological factor in the increase in childhood and adolescent disturbances, (witness the soaring rate of Ritalin prescribing), and in the escalating violence in our society.

    Especially when we recall that the digital process is no longer confined to recorded music but is now affecting us nearly all day: TV, radio, telephones etc. It is we who have become digitalized!

    With the advent of Direct Stream Digital (DSD) recording, it is now possible to conclude that the negative effects I have stated above are due not to the digital process per se but to the mode of achieving it, Pulse Code Modulation (PCM). For DSD recordings do not have these negative effects.

    Although it was suggested, unfortunately the record industry did not make analog backups of their digital (PCM) sessions. So now there is a (very expensive) twenty year hiatus. Hence some SACDs (the CD format for DSD) are being released which have gone through the PCM process and are as negative as regular CDs.

    Increasingly over the years, music lovers are turning against PCM – they are feeling what I first demonstrated nearly a quarter-century ago. And they are resisting – proclaiming that it doesn’t sound like, feel like, analog. Cold, no heart. That is to say, untherapeutic.

    (We must remember that a generation has probably rarely heard non-PCM music – for it is now so pervasive in concerts halls as “digital reinforcement” as well.) Perhaps now there will be a change. We all know something is wrong – and the solution is available.

    I write this not only as a music lover, and a believer in the therapeutic power of music, but even more so as a doctor gravely concerned with the increasing disturbance in our society, especially in the children. The very essence of Music is the expression of peace, of comfort – of love. And this PCM has destroyed, even reversed!

    As a very experienced sound engineer and producer lamented, “Music has lost its Spirit.” That’s it – exactly! And a generation has grown up not knowing it any other way: not knowing the higher dimension of music – the True Music.

    And if their music has lost its spiritual dimension – then so have they!

    We have lost our love of Music because we no longer feel loved by It. We must get it back – and we can.

  68. bernard says:

    TB appears to suggest (if I understand him) that there is an absence of talent on show and it’s due to loss of investment due to loss of income from the collapse of selling recorded music.”

    A lack of purpose, remember the sixties.

  69. John Papola says:

    Busy day. Haven’t read the thread. I will. in the meantime, let me point out a serious fallacy in the post:

    When I get information from Google books rather than get in my car and drive to a library (or bookstore) I am reducing GDP.

    Huh? Are you eating the saved money? When you get more done with less cost, you have more income left over to spend on other things. So instead of just having the information you wanted, you now have the information AND SOMETHING ELSE.

    GDP is a measure of economic transactions, so in a sense, when you fail to transact you are for that one instance not contributing to this annual accounting identity. But that is not the point. Higher productivity frees your resources to do other things. And, provided that you are not frozen in fear of unusual uncertainty, you will do other things with your savings.

    The money companies save in going paperless and switching to VOIP and doing teleconferences instead of flying people around goes into more production and more output.

    This isn’t theoretical. Productivity is the root of prosperity.

    I’ll try to take on the broader post and conversation later, but this point is very very important. GDP is just an after-the-fact accounting of spending. We’d be better off as a race if it wasn’t measured at all, just like the “trade balance”. These things aren’t helpful information. They’re tools for pseudoscientists and witchdoctors who call themselves “macroeconomists”.

  70. len says:

    The money companies save in going paperless and switching to VOIP and doing teleconferences instead of flying people around goes into more production and more output.

    Depends on the business and the businessman. When the last company I worked for was sold to an overseas company for a four-to-one profit, it was after the money masters had choked all the real productivity out of it through cost-cutting before and after selling it to the US investment company. It’s basically a shell full of obsolete products but somehow the European company that bought it didn’t mind. I’ve seen similar cost cutting savings go into the Bellagio coffers as the businessman chased “big scores through networking” that failed to capture a single sale.

    Economic theories are just that: theories. It is practice one pays attention to. The transnational circuits are treacherous, Pap. They tend to impoverish.

  71. bernard says:

    Freakman was it.

  72. Chris T says:

    “GDP is just an after-the-fact accounting of spending. We’d be better off as a race if it wasn’t measured at all, just like the “trade balance”.”

    GDP is used because it’s easy to define and quantify. Generally, it correlates extremely well to other hard measures of a nation’s well being. It’s failures are known (although too often glossed over), but it’s one of the most consistent and definable measures we have of wealth. Other methods that attempt to account for GDP’s blind spots have not worked well, because they invariably require subjective valuing on the part of those doing the measuring. Abandoning it would be too extreme as it is useful, but putting less emphasis on it is a good idea.

    Besides, would you really want to take away one of the few measurements that economists actually agree on the definition of?

  73. bernard says:

    No, we measure whith what we have at hand, our past maybe, reality is a constant adaptation. Adapt and survive.

  74. Fentex says:

    The iLike thing just doesn’t happen for me, I assumme the result is changed for my location, possibly due to licensing issues or just Googles presumption my location indicates different intentions.

    One used to be able ti sidestep Google localisation of results by going to a certain url, but no longer. Everything question they answer now relies on localisation.

    the quality of the listening experience has collapsed to the point that listening to music is making people deaf.

    I notice the hideous flattening of sound that wave compression to create fake loudness and attention seeking intrusion causes in pop music.

    And I can’t stand to listen to highly data compressed music either – there’s no subtlety.

    I recently made the mistake of buying a new bass speaker recently and it’s unbalanced my sound system so I’m likely going to have to spend some money. In a week I’m visitng a friend who recently bought some fancy new planar speakers. Quite interested in hearing those.

    So rather than characterising it as a lack of talent is it more that profits in the face of loss of income are being maintained by shaving technical, personnel and production investment?

    Or do I still misunderstand why TB thinks the quality of music production is declining? Is there some cultural retreat from recognition and expectation of quality happening as well?

    Would providing a blanket license improve things? If businesses protect profit by cranking inferior product out is giving them more income that isn’t earned by competition going to help?

    I oft wonder if theres’ a problem caused by the credit trading boom involved here as well. The artificial profits created by credit trading created a route to profit that competed with every productive enterprise.

    Any corporation looking for a return on investment had accountants comparing it to investment in hedge funds. The pressure to return greater profits in competition with the faked results of credit trading likely suppressed willingness to take unpredictable risks and increased efforts to deliver mediocre quality appealing to the undescriminating mean while suppressing wages of the truly productive across the whole of economies.

    If the quality of the music we hear is decreasing and we’d prefer it not to, what problem do we look to fix?

    Surely you just can’t ensure more money is given to people providing the poor quality, we want them encouraged to improve quality. Competition is a reliable pressure to improve.

    If any blanket license, levy or tax is imposed to try and increase investment it needs to work towards increasing competition and not rewarding the entrenched.

    I wonder if simply rigging it to deliver the best returns for modest sales would be the way to do that. If big conglomerates got no advantage from the scale of their production and the thicket of mid-scale success was with the money it might encourage greater competiton.

    Competition to be the single (or one of few) great successes isn’t as productive of innovation as a lot more competition to get ahead in crowded environments.

    Making such decisions to try and influence peoples production however is fraught with worry. It’s not very Laissez-faire and wouldn’t please the libertarian.

    And that busy competition for the modest profit is what is hoped to arise from unfettered promotion and distribution via the Net. It’s the very thing I think will happen – a lot of people finding ways to gather an audience with fewer mega-stars spanning the world, and from that incremental improvements in all things.

    There is an interesting problem with using the Net and scouring the world for an audience though. You’re competing with the worlds best everywhere.

    Trying to keep it local reduces your potential audience and competes with the fractured attention of people who can look out into the world through the Net.

    Quite a quandary.

    My girlfriend used to know when I had had a bad day if in an evening I was listening to the Concert program on my cars radio (concert FM is a free to air publicly funded radio station in NZ that plays classical music without adverts) because good quality orchestrated music soothed rather than hyped me.

  75. bernard says:

    TB what a beautiful description, it is sad and beautiful at the same time. Searchin’we are and we will find..

  76. bernard says:

    When I down I listen to Miles.

  77. bernard says:

    I do think that this new tool we all have, internet, is a pandora box. I do think it should adapt and become a clearing house. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get your electronic check from google every month. Any manager would understand the benefits of acting as regulator, bank by doing the right thing.

  78. bernard says:

    Anyway there is nothing compared to the real presence of music.
    The rest is information.

  79. JTMcPhee says:

    But len — re those acquisitions of husks: If you get to go to the Really Important Meetings, the Enthusiasm, the Irrational Exuberance, is sectionable with a knife, and the PowerPoint Irrefutable Proofs of Concept are so elegantly cool! Sometimes, I hear, they even have Dancing Girls!

  80. bernard says:

    In google we trust.

  81. bernard says:

    Or we (you tube) are sending you 14.500 $ to your account. The short of your cat eating your parrot got 12.500.000 hits or visits. Pay per view.

  82. T Bone Burnett says:

    Good post, Fentex. We are getting there. Thank you for being patient with me. I appreciate your hanging in.


“I notice the hideous flattening of sound that wave compression to create fake loudness and attention seeking intrusion causes in pop music. And I can’t stand to listen to highly data compressed music either – there’s no subtlety.”

    That is exactly right. As you know, everything we see and hear travels in waves- sound and light. Digital sound is a series of right angles. To make the right angles smaller to approximate a wave, only creates more right angles. I was watching the World Cup in Hi Def the other day, and when I got close to the television, I could see the ball was square. That’s what digital sound is- a Square Ball. A digital recording when played on a high fidelity system comes apart just as a jpeg does when you blow it up. Both pixilate. Everything in nature is analog. Digital technology, while good for speed, good for computations, is the worst development in the history of music. Worse than Garth Brooks (with apologies).

    “I recently made the mistake of buying a new bass speaker recently and it’s unbalanced my sound system so I’m likely going to have to spend some money. In a week I’m visitng a friend who recently bought some fancy new planar speakers. Quite interested in hearing those.”

    Our team is designing a listening system for the 21st Century.

“So rather than characterising it as a lack of talent is it more that profits in the face of loss of income are being maintained by shaving technical, personnel and production investment?”

    The record companies business plan for the last five years has been to fire people. There is practically no production investment.

“Or do I still misunderstand why TB thinks the quality of music production is declining? Is there some cultural retreat from recognition and expectation of quality happening as well?”

    There is. Two generations have listened to recorded music at a degraded quality- the quality of distributed recorded music on the internet has been a meltdown.

“Would providing a blanket license improve things?”

    A Digital Music License would improve things immeasurably. The potential for innovation in the analog world is very exciting. In my view, for music as least, digital is a side track. The internet is best thought of as a broadcast medium. When everything is coming down from a cloud, there is no difference from signals being transmitted from towers.

    From wikipedia:

    Broadcasting is the distribution of audio and/or video signals which transmit programs to an audience.

    “If businesses protect profit by cranking inferior product out is giving them more income that isn’t earned by competition going to help?”

    No. But that is not what is going to happen. Under the Digital Music License, streams will be indexed and the users are anonymized. Collection agencies will distribute the revenue by that data.


“If the quality of the music we hear is decreasing and we’d prefer it not to, what problem do we look to fix?”

    We need to fix the playback equipment. We need to switch to high definition. For several years, movies, television, and video games have distributed music at a much higher quality than the record companies. CDs contain probably 30% of the sinformation of analog transcriptions. MP3s are unlistenable on a good system. (On a bad system also.)

“Surely you just can’t ensure more money is given to people providing the poor quality, we want them encouraged to improve quality. Competition is a reliable pressure to improve.”

    We can insure money is given to people providing good quality.

“If any blanket license, levy or tax is imposed to try and increase investment it needs to work towards increasing competition and not rewarding the entrenched.”

    That is right.

“I wonder if simply rigging it to deliver the best returns for modest sales would be the way to do that. If big conglomerates got no advantage from the scale of their production and the thicket of mid-scale success was with the money it might encourage greater competiton.”

    It does not need to be rigged. It’s not going to work that way. Pricing is going to change dramatically according to the quality of the transmission or transcription.

“And that busy competition for the modest profit is what is hoped to arise from unfettered promotion and distribution via the Net. It’s the very thing I think will happen – a lot of people finding ways to gather an audience with fewer mega-stars spanning the world, and from that incremental improvements in all things”.

    That was the idea. Unfortunately, that (idealistic) theory has been disproven. In reality, promotion and distribution via the Net is metafettered. Like a muthafutha.

  83. Fentex says:

    I’m in Auckland visiting my sister and she wants me to say hello to T Bone and how much she enjoyed your concert in Christchurch with Elvis Costello.

    And because I need to get to bed early (having just gone to see Inception, in a theatre with a horrid sound system as it happens, I thought I could hear ripped speaker cones vibrating messily) becaise oin the morining I’m driving to the Coromandel to dig and sit in a thermal pool on the hot beach (it’s so cool, er, in a warm way) I can’t stay up to formulate some questions I have. The movie was good though.

    But I’ll be back to that in a couple of days – there are details I want to discuss.

  84. Hugh says:

    Dr. Diamond’s work is stunning, and it’s thrilling to see T Bone working on practical answers. What can the general consumer do to help listeners reach the shoals on the other side of Diamond’s “hiatus” from music?

  85. len says:

    Here is an article on getting to the top of any meritocracy based on entrance exams or any other barrier. It explains why we often see one-trick ponies dominating the charts. It’s called The Superstar Effect:


    It isn’t about being the best overall musician, programmer, actor, writer, whatever. It is about doing one thing better than anyone else competing and it barely matters what the one thing is as long as it is noticeable and noticed.

  86. T Bone Burnett says:


    In the mean time, you can get a turntable and listen to vinyl. We are looking for a green, durable analog storage medium to replace vinyl. You can also look into laser capture for vinyl. The problem with vinyl is friction. Analog is not going away. We are analog. Until machines replace human intelligence.

    More later.


  87. T Bone Burnett says:

    Briefly, the Internet has robbed listeners of the experience of listening, and it has robbed recording artists of compensation for their work.

  88. T Bone Burnett says:


    You can check this out if you want to:


    Check the second search tip. Then check the first search tip. You’ll find the same configuration for their two most searched categories- except the weather does not belong to anybody. No other search categories have this configuration. They are making money from these searches which they are not sharing with the originators of those searches. Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to them that they are doing something unethical and immoral, and really, anti-social. I know they think of themselves as a no harm company, or something like that.

    In this new age, artists should be in control of their work and their likenesses, and all that. The search engines have just presumed to do whatever the hell they want with our work without consulting us. Artists are being treated as if we are inanimate objects. In the Information Age, every artist is a dead artist.

    Please give my best regards to your sister. I love New Zealand. Probably the best and smartest place on Earth to live.

  89. T Bone Burnett says:

    And this from David Byrne:



    Why David Byrne Sued the Governor of Florida

    RS: Would you sue a candidate that you supported if they also used your music without permission?

    DB: Yes. This is not about politics or about Republicans, Democrats or Independents. This lawsuit is about maintaining control over the use of my identity and my music.

    In the post above, I wrote that artists should have control of their work and likenesses. I would like to amend that to must have and will have.

  90. Fentex says:

    It’s becoming increasingly common for artists to raise publicity rights suites in the U.S I notice, especially in California which has it’s own particularly strong implementation of it.

    I’ve long thought that in lieu of copyright, wihch is becoming inenforceble, an attribution law migth find favour and support with the public.

    This is my musing… because attribution, like trademarks, is easily understood and acts in the public interest (it helps you choose and protects your decisions) it is likely to find the public support copyright lacks.

    And that would help artists who work to create a market exploit it. And it wouldn’t have the moral problem copyright has when extended for indefinite periods – no one’s going to object to accurate attribution.

    To give an example:Someone creates a comic that is essentially a Mickey Mouse comic, publishes it anywhere anyhow and tries to sell it. Whether or not it’s at a time Mickey Mouse is covered by copyright disney would like people to buy theirs rather than this third parties.

    If a parent wnats to buy a comic and wants to know what to expect they’d be giving their child they’d likely be happy to buy a Disney comic and more reticent to buy an unknown third parties.

    Laws designed to offer that aid to consumers would find favour with them and so have a chance of being honoured.

    Speaking of trying to reinvent analog technology I had this day dream of a holographic medium that could replace discs and offer exceptional analog fidelity but such a thing wouldn’t unseat digital media I suspect although as competition it might drive bit rates and fidelity in digital media up.

    The idea that generations are enured to poor quality is a distressing thought. I’m sure the digirati would argue that it’s a passing period while bandwidth isn’t what it will be that leaves people using low fidelity.

    Although I have noticed, and don’t understand it myself, how some are happy with less than FM broadcast quality through their headphones.

    I don’t understand how a plan to encourage better fidelity couples with a plan to improve artists returns though – is the concept something like artists who distribute a new improved analog format get to share in a blanket fee while others don’t?

    Seems likely a political hard sell of an idea.

  91. T Bone Burnett says:

    “… is the concept something like artists who distribute a new improved analog format get to share in a blanket fee while others don’t?”


    This is going to be resolved in several steps and with several innovations. Neither digital nor analog media is going away.

    I would like to hear more about the holographic medium you wrote about above.

  92. T Bone Burnett says:

    Will the Professional Musicians Please Stand Up?

    More music is being recorded and released than at any other point in history. Yet music copyright is completely insecure, and piracy rampant in the current climate. So what does that say about pro-copyright and anti-piracy initiatives?

    A sticky debate indeed. One of the major reasons for copyright law is to ensure the continued creation of intellectual property. Yet more musicians are in the game than ever before, and music fans couldn’t be happier with the abundance.

    But is everyone really so happy? Turns out that making money is harder than ever, and majors aren’t the only ones suffering from widespread piracy and the erosion of recordings.

    The RIAA is a classic disinformation machine, so take its wisdom with caution. But the group recently sifted through some data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and noticed that the number of self-identifying professional musicians is dropping substantially. “Selling music is an important motivator to creating music, and the decline in sales has correlated with fewer people making a living in music,” the group asserted in findings shared with Billboard’s Glenn Peoples. Whether that leaves a class of hobbyists remains unclear, though the great riddle for aspiring musicians is figuring out how to play and eat at the same time.

    Paul Resnikoff, Publisher.

    Links, graphs, discussion at

  93. T Bone Burnett says:

    CD Baby Hits $150 Million In Artist Payouts. Is That Good?
    Author Info
    Monday, August 02, 2010

    Here’s another DIY fact, for what it’s worth. According to details shared Monday morning, CD Baby has now paid $150 million to artists since its inception in the late 90s (through July, 2010). The figure includes both CDs and downloads, and CD Baby expects to pay roughly $40 million in payouts this year alone.

    Sounds great, but what’s the per-artist payout? In a conversation with Digital Music News, CD Baby CEO Tony Van Veen was unable to share the cumulative number of artists receiving payments since inception. But he could confirm a current artist population of 230,000. Judging by the expected artist payout of $40 million, each CD Baby artist will make an average of $174 this year.

    That seems to reaffirm a brutal revision of the Long Tail, a part of the distribution curve CD Baby knows well. In fairness, a group of overachievers could be pulling decent payouts, though at present, figures on top earners are not available.

  94. len says:

    Yeah, life is rough.


    AVC: Have you found that working in the movie business has given you an opportunity to make the kind of records you wouldn’t be able to make if you were just in the music business?

    TB: I think so. I mean, I could make them, but nobody would ever hear them. [Laughs.] There’s a tremendous amount of freedom. Y’know, the record business of the 20th century, as we knew it, is essentially over. If there’s going to be a record business at all, it’ll have to be reinvented. These days, you look for things that aren’t just a record. You look for something that’s a record and a tour and a film. Or a TV show. Or a documentary. Something so that there’s more to it than just a simple record. It’s hard to get any attention for just a record these days.

    So besides Angie Dickinson and the Congressional Medal of Honor, what’s left?

  95. T Bone Burnett says:

    Who said Angie Dickenson is left?

  96. len says:

    Good answer when you’re married to one of the most talented and beautiful women in the world.

    That interview is as sane as it gets on this topic: find a context, adapt, and keep moving forward.

  97. Fentex says:

    the holographic medium

    It was just a passing thought that a new format intended to produce analog like behavior might be based on holographs characteristics and their intriguing abilities.

    Holograms are quite odd, if you cut one in half you still have a record of the whole. Make a hologram of a letter and look through the hologram at a newspaper and the same letter, even in different type faces will appear brighter than other text. No matter which way up the paper or hoogram are.

    You can keep cutting holograms smaller and smaller yet they still keep some of the whole.

  98. T Bone Burnett says:

    Fentex- What line of work are you in?

  99. Fentex says:

    Independent I.T contractor, I specialise in not specialising and helping businesses chose and implement projects (does it make sense, will it work, what is needed, what software to do it with) with side projects of my own.

    But what I really want to do is direct :)

  100. Fentex says:

    The Register reports figures on the income for the music industry in the UK last year.

    This article reports overall it rose about 4% and interestingly CD’s sales didn’t drop anymore. The author wonders if CD’s have found a stable price point/market.

  101. len says:

    How to fight and win when the web sets expectations:


    Papola is not an idiot. Of everyone here who has access to media tools and talent, only Pap used his to defend his point of view successfully.

    The irony is that the avatars of the generation so lauded for committing itself to freedom of expression and freedom from the mediocrity of the social elites are doing the most to forge chains for all but their own. As the saying goes, where a man’s treasure is there his heart is also.

  102. Alex Bowles says:

    There are so many layers of unmitigated bullshit wishful thinking in this NYT report on student plagiarism that I really don’t know where to begin. I’ll just refer to a gem near the end from the awesome Sarah Wilensky (a senior at Indiana University) who said that “relaxing plagiarism standards does not foster creativity, it fosters laziness.”

    In the view of Ms. Wilensky, whose writing skills earned her the role of informal editor of other students’ papers in her freshman dorm, plagiarism has nothing to do with trendy academic theories.

    The main reason it occurs, she said, is because students leave high school unprepared for the intellectual rigors of college writing.

    “If you’re taught how to closely read sources and synthesize them into your own original argument in middle and high school, you’re not going to be tempted to plagiarize in college, and you certainly won’t do so unknowingly.”

    So bless her, for noting that much of the ‘new creativity’ is simply play-acting. As a more dull-witted critic quoted elsewhere in the article put it “undergraduates are less interested in cultivating a unique and authentic identity — as their 1960s counterparts were — than in trying on many different personas, which the Web enables with social networking.”

    In reality, the internet had nothing to do with Ms. Wilensky’s informal role. The people coming to her were not strangers online. They were people living in the same dorm – people who knew her well enough to know that she could do something that they were unable to do for themselves (even with the internet at their disposal). Thanks to their personal access to Ms. Wilensky’s skills, they were able to ‘try on’ the persona of a person with intellectual competence, and to maintain that persona long enough to get an actual passing grade (for which credit was surly unshared).

    But graduating from ‘persona’ to ‘person’? Apparently that’s not what they expected to gain with their undergraduate degrees. That’s a deeper tragedy that the internet merely conceals. The causes, I’m afraid to say, predate the digital revolution quite significantly.

    As an aside, I am fully aware of the value that editors have. Being the son of one, I know that a tremendous number of authors would be unfit for print without one. However, none of these people pass themselves off as being solely responsible for the published work (as emphasized by the pages of acknowledgements that are always posted up front). I also know that my mother has flatly refused to work on dissertations. Moreover, she’s done so by stating that the mere request is morally reprehensible. After all, no one is awarded an Ph.D as part-and-parcel of a book contract, and collaborative work in a market for collaborative work should never be confused with individual work in a setting dedicated to individual credentialing.

    Put differently, the problem isn’t with people’s increased ease of collaboration (thanks internet). It’s with personas who bring nothing to the table while demanding a seat at the head.

    My question is whether all the business problems associated with copyright’s demise will sort themselves out when we’ve solved the larger problem of separating signal from noise.

    As Ms. Wilensky’s classmates indicated by coming to her for help, people clearly know the difference – they just don’t know how to deal with it properly (and sadly, may lack the skills to even try).

  103. Interesting point, Alex. My name is probably mud now. I have proofed/edited several papers for my neighbor when asked to do so. I didn’t write the stuff and he didn’t plagarize (as far as I could tell). He just wanted to do the best paper possible and thought having a professional look at it would help. I marked it up and gave it back. We went over the revisions to help him learn to be a better writer. He turned the revised paper into his instructor. I didn’t feel he was being intellectually dishonest by not crediting me. The thoughts weren’t mine and, quite frankly, I can only remember one paper where I had to explain that his thinking/reasoning was weak and we discussed it in a more or less Socratic dialogue until he realized that the writing left a logic gap in the paper and corrected it. In all of these cases I felt more like a tutor than some sort of co-conspirator.

    I have also helped a colleague with his dissertation. He’s an engineer and English is not his first language. He acknowledged the editorial assistance in the acknowledgments of the dissertation and, believe me, all of the hard work was his. I contributed little other than smoothing the structure, fixing grammar and typos, and occasionally recommending places where a little more explanation would improve the document’s ‘flow’. I certainly don’t feel responsible for him getting his PhD, he would’ve gotten it without my help. It’s just that the published work is much more readable. Is what I did (or his asking) really morally reprehensible?

  104. Alex Bowles says:

    Not at all, Amber – especially not for simple proof-reading, and certainly not when a command of English was never assumed, and flagged in a case where it may be.

    There’s a big difference between getting informal help from friends and colleagues (esp. with a subject like engineering, which isn’t culture-specific) and hiring a professional to handle actual heavy lifting in a field where cultural mastery is what’s being certified.

    For what it’s worth, ‘reprehensible’ is also far too strong a word to describe the help that Ms. Wilensky freely provided. The important thing is that people were coming to her because she had something they couldn’t ‘just google’. In other words, all that nonsense about how “we have a whole generation of students who’ve grown up with information that just seems to be hanging out there in cyberspace and doesn’t seem to have an author” misses the larger point that when you need to author anything not already detailed on Wikipedia, there’s more to the task than simple cut-and-paste.

    And while “it’s possible to believe this information is just out there for anyone to take”, high school (not college) should be the place where you learn that accessing the rightsources is simply the preliminary step to reading them closely enough to synthesize them in a form on which you can elaborate independently. And that’s not about living up to some 1960’s (and 1760’s) ideal of “cultivating a unique and authentic identity”. It’s simply about using your brain’s fundamental capacity to handle doubt and make sense of complexity.

    Not incidentally, this ability may lead you to some distinct conclusions, the uniqueness of which you can happily check online.

    Separately, I’m all for remix culture. It offers well-deserved elevation to the crafts of curating and editing. But only in the rarest of cases can these efforts match works in which all the sources (and there are always sources) remain well-hidden.

    Where the editorial and curatorial arts are focused on revealing hidden connections, authoring is about concealing them. It’s far harder to do, and especially hard to do well. And yet, we tend to appreciate these efforts, if not more, then certainly quite differently. There’s a reason we look sideways at simple derivations that insists on parity with their origins.

    Perhaps it’s because we know that all this nonsense about the post-individual, post-Enlightenment era is exactly that – nonsense. As long as people continue to die alone and unsure of what’s next, there will always be something that individuals see as uniquely theirs to contend with, and thus, some value to having one’s own sense of individual value.

    The thing provided by voices that sound unique is a reminder of the possibility of being distinct. Separate from the ‘content’ of a work, this character supplies its own form of human validation, in that it takes a defined sense of self to recognize it in the first place. Here, we want the influences to be sublimated.

    Put differently, curatorial context is essential, to a point. Art wouldn’t thrive without it. But there’s a point where the people who provide it need to step back and take their hats off to the few who can actually precipitate a measure of transcendence.

    That, in turn, is available only to self-possessed persons. Personas still have work to do before they can share this – just like we all have work to do right up to the moment we die.

  105. “Separately, I’m all for remix culture. It offers well-deserved elevation to the crafts of curating and editing. But only in the rarest of cases can these efforts match works in which all the sources (and there are always sources) remain well-hidden.

    Where the editorial and curatorial arts are focused on revealing hidden connections, authoring is about concealing them. It’s far harder to do, and especially hard to do well. And yet, we tend to appreciate these efforts, if not more, then certainly quite differently. There’s a reason we look sideways at simple derivations that insists on parity with their origins.”

    And a lightbulb goes on concerning my two roles (author and editor); my process; and my love of hypertext. I need to think about this some more and maybe write a blog post. Thanks, Alex!

  106. Alex Bowles says:

    Maureen Dowd and her new friend Sam seem to be on the same page today. And the op-ed ends with drinking.

  107. Alex Bowles says:

    Oh look, David Brooks is also in the neighborhood, though something tells me he’ll be safely home by eight.

  108. Alex Bowles says:


    Didn’t see your post until after mine had gone up. They were a post script to my post, not a cryptic reply to your (very kind) note. I was touched. Really glad to have helped in some way.

  109. T Bone Burnett says:

    Live Nation posts 2Q loss on weak concert season


    updated 8/5/2010 8:09:29 PM ET

    LOS ANGELES — Concert promoter and ticket-seller Live Nation Entertainment Inc. said Thursday that its second-quarter loss worsened after a weak summer concert season hurt results.

    The company kept its forecast for a decline in adjusted operating profit for the year, and CEO Michael Rapino said there were no big acts that would help lift the company out of the current slump.

    “We don’t have a sizable big lineup this (third or fourth quarter) of A-artists and arenas,” he said.

    The company is grappling with the postponement of major acts such as U2, which delayed its North American tour until next year after lead singer Bono’s back surgery in May. Other acts, such as Rihanna, The Eagles, Simon and Garfunkel, The Jonas Brothers and Limp Bizkit have canceled or postponed tour dates amid poor ticket sales.

    Live Nation’s net loss in the three months to June 30 grew to $34.6 million, or 20 cents per share, from $27.2 million, or 33 cents per share, a year earlier.

    Revenue fell 10 percent to $1.27 billion when including Ticketmaster’s results prior to its merger with Live Nation in January.

    Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a loss of 2 cents per share on $1.38 billion in revenue.


  110. len says:

    And the average ticket prices for LiveNation acts are?

    The irony is that as the business is cratering, there seems to be no end of new faces trying to make a go of it.
    Timberlake signed an act off of YouTube. Ellen deGeneres signed the kid banging out Lady Gaga in his high school gym on YouTube.

    Are those hobby labels? It will be interesting to see if they recoup any of it.

    There is a long list of “expert how to get a label deal” videos on YouTube.


    Do all the leg work and production work and sell a lot of indie produced CDs or show massive downloads and the labels will beat a path to your door according to the ‘expert’. Of course it’s up to the act to prove they can sell and without inexpensive production, they can’t even get started; so, again, Gresham’s Law at work. My sense of it is the pool is very broad, very shallow and the fame lasts a bit less than 15 minutes.

    YouTube is AM radio and 6AM TV for 20 somethings. Facebook has five hundred million users and there are probably 20 music vids a day posted to my page from friends most of which I never listen to because I’ve heard them too many times, yet the new hot ones are autotuned creations of silly stuff like the Double Rainbow or our own local guy talking about a rapist in the neighborhood. Spike Jones for the digital age….

    What are the pros up to? There is an episode of Gene Simmons’ reality show where he goes to Nashville to produce a new country act for his friend ‘Doc’. Painful.

    Maybe there is no real demand for LiveNation. The music business is clownish. Country is pop. Rock is a circus act. Bluegrass is still bluegrass and Krause set the template for ‘must have pretty face with voice kinda like Dolly but different’ so it’s fallen into the cookie cutter kitchen. My 16 year old daughter says young indie-folk is the thing but I can’t figure out what that is and that’s probably the point.

    Me? I’m listening to Badfinger and practicing a Pepper Choplin piece. No money but great thrills and good music.

  111. T Bone Burnett says:

    The law — and ASCAP — were given new force when Victor Herbert, then a celebrity composer for Broadway, sued a New York restaurant called Shanley’s after hearing one of his compositions performed there. The case took a couple of years to wind through the courts, but in the end, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes decided for Herbert.

    “If music did not pay, it would be given up,” Holmes wrote. “Whether it pays or not, the purpose of employing it is profit and that is enough.

  112. len says:

    In 2008, 40 billion songs were downloaded illegally. It is estimated that 95 percent of music tracks are downloaded without payment to the artist or the music company that produced them. Peer-to-peer (P2P) file swapping of movies and music currently accounts for up to 80 percent of Internet traffic. Music sales among American record labels in 2010 are about 42 percent of what they were a decade ago

    As the article goes on to say, recording revenues are about 40% of what they were but BMI and ASCAP collections are up as a result of the digital sampling systems they use that replaced the radio playsheets giving them near real-time information per track.

    Digital giveth; digital taketh away.

  113. T Bone Burnett says:

    Recording revenues down 58%.

    How much are PRO collections up? If we are balancing.

    And how about this sentence:

    Peer-to-peer (P2P) file swapping of movies and music currently accounts for up to 80 percent of Internet traffic.

    What about that? A lot of businesses are being built on the back of the creative community with no consideration for the creators- and not just from their creations, but also from their names, images, and likenesses.


  114. T Bone Burnett says:

    “It is estimated that 95 percent of music tracks are downloaded without payment to the artist or the music company that produced them.”

  115. T Bone Burnett says:

    “We have a hard time paying for music, says O’Neill, because most of us grew up listening to it on the radio. It was free then. Shouldn’t it be free now? Of course, music on the radio was, in fact, not free. Radio stations paid licensing fees to BMI and ASCAP and paid for those fees by airing commercials, which took up some 20 percent of airtime.”

    Music on the internet is, of course, not free either, although that is often said and written. People pay to get on the internet and websites run advertising. None of that revenue is shared with the people driving the traffic to the internet and the websites.

  116. len says:

    How much are PRO collections up? If we are balancing

    Dunno. How much?

    If the BMI tracking systems are as good as the article claims, they should have no trouble saying precisely who, which, when and how often. Now that would be Big Brother at a scale that even the NSA doesn’t have else they wouldn’t have a 100 million dollar contract with Raytheon to build Perfect Citizen and some other little side bets.

    I’m suspicious of some of the figures and claims made in that article even as I am sympathetic with the goal. BMI may take a while but they do pay the songwriters. The article portrays them as relentless if sweet. A bit over the top, but they seldom give back. All take, no deal. As long as they are willing to crush the small rooms, the Mom and Pop coffee bars with a kid singing in the corner, they won’t get a helluva lot of sympathy from the web generation that gave them all that tracking power even as they keep their books tightly closed.

    If the A-list can get more money out of Apple and Google, more power to them. On the other hand, the mobile market is exploding and one might want to look at Verizon and ATT.

    As said in the various incarnations of this thread, it’s a licensing issue yes, but without legal teeth and transnational structures with perfect transparency and trust in the organizations that administer them, the industry has as much chance of stopping the downloading as the Pentagon has of closing down WikiLeaks.

    LiveNation? What is the average age of those big acts? Who is expected to come to those concerts? If the A-list spent as much time developing, tutoring and shaping young acts as it spends collecting royalties and license feeds, we might see a renaissance of the industry. If the omerta rituals are perpetual, I would expect to see some of those hobby labels kicking ass just like the hip-hop/rap nations have bled away the radio play.

  117. T Bone Burnett says:


    You know we are in agreement about all of this, right? I can’t tell if you do. (All this Spy vs Spy.) The music industry is and always has been clown time. But there was John Hammond. And Tom Dowd. And Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington and Hank Williams and Ray Charles and on and on. The record industry of the Twentieth Century, probably in spite of itself, put together an extraordinary treasury for our culture. The current disruption in distribution creates a moment to put together a far fairer way of having a life in music for our children. I’m spending about half my time on that now.

    The shape of the thing is going to change entirely. Look at Taschen Books. That guy sells books for $75,000 as quick as he can put them together. The internet creates scarcity. And the internet will be a pretty damn good radio station. With the exception of 24/96 (which will frequently be packaged with analogue transcriptions, in analogue packages, by the way), digital copies of music are a thing of the past. One will need a damn good reason to carry around something that he can get from a cloud at any moment. Compressed audio is unlistenable. In the near future, people will be amazed that anyone ever listened to it.

    Once so called new media begins to share with so called old media, there will be a tremendous amount of investment and innovation in music and film. Analogue is not going away. It still sounds better and looks better than digital, and it always will. Digital sound and image have hit a wall. (By the way, no artist I know spends any time collecting royalties. They just show up in the mail box. And, have you ever tried to tutor a young act? That is one dirty, thankless task. Not that I don’t do just that from time to time.)

    And you are right, transparency is key. Participant Films is the first Twenty First Century media company. They are, among other things, transparent. Jeff Skoll, who drew up the business plan and was the first CEO of eBay started it. Every film has a social action component. Check out Waiting for Superman by Davis Guggenheim. This Fall, we are partnering with them to put out a music revue to accompany, so to speak, the film.

    Now, I have to go back to work. It’s been a groove. I’m going back offline. I prefer the freedom of movement that comes from being a privateer. All this connectivity makes my skin crawl, as you outlined above. I’m sure this is (italicized) Big Brother. It was never going to be anything else. I don’t have the luxury of living my life in public. Until we meet again, check out The Secret Sisters. Their record comes out in a few weeks. Jack White did a single that is coming out any minute. Muscle Shoals. Music.

    All good wishes

    T Bone

  118. Fentex says:

    In the spirit of research I just watched the Nz Top 40 on TV, or I should say suffered through it.

    I nearly wrote an extended rant about how horrid the repetitive derivative noise was to me (phrases like “tin eared drilling of rasping mid-pitched bland rattling with a deadly dull hammer of drum machines” were contemplated) but really, does the world care that I don’t the kids music today?

    But lord it was bad, and something about the unending whine seemed a peculiarly digitally inspired diffusion of the once interesting wall of sound.

    Of the whole 40 perhaps three didn’t actively annoy me and none would tempt me to seek them out. And what the hell are they doing sharing not only he same drum machine but synthesizer? You’d think they could adjust some tracks gates, gain or reverb a bit more between songs.

    Oops, can’t hold the rant in, it’s slipping out the generation gap yawning under me.

    Argh! I can’t stop it! All these cloned jerks demanding they be treated as cool while being not the slightest bit approaching cool!

    I want to thrash them with my walking stick.

    It’s a scary thought that these are who live where the likes of Talking Heads and Tom Petty once roamed.

  119. len says:

    @T-Bone: We agree but debate is healthy. It outs all the issues and people who keep an open mind get that panoramic understanding.

    I brought my son’s band in to produce a demo for local radio so they’d have the best one that they could make. The key it seems is to show them the buttons, give a bit of advice and then sit back because they know their music better than I do and their sound. They thought they could do it in a month but it took a year and that is the cost of learning. They did a respectable job. It’s not my sound or taste but it’s not supposed to be. That’s what generations are about.

    The 20th century did create incredible music but it also bled those artists. On the other hand, look at the YouTube of Ray playing with Willie one last time. Look at the tears streaming down Willie’s face. For all the glitter, it produced incredible friendships, collaborations, soul. A machine can make them dance but only a human voice and a human hand on the string can make them cry.

    As for going private, yes, T-Bone Burnett can’t live in the public. That’s the price of being elite, sought after, wanted for what and who you know: scarcity of access preseves value. And yes, the web grinds. The day in and out of trying to make a difference one post at a time grinds. It surely does.

    But Joseph Henry Burnett, the guy who built his own studio while still a kid, who played with Dylan, who walked away from Nashville when it didn’t want to make the best sound, who went back and reintroduced them to real country music played by real country musicians, who made traditional American music hits again, who gave the little bands with wooden instruments and human harmonies blended with smooth electric licks a chance to be heard again, who saved a piece of the American soul for all of us, well, he can do any damm thing he wants. Always has. Always will.

    It’s the second raters who need to fade. Gresham’s Law.

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