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I'm a music fan

Tuesday, July 4, 2000 by Dave Winer.

I don't publish music Permalink to I don't publish music

I don't write music or perform it. I just use it. To me music is not about money, but I pay for it, as I pay for everything else I use that costs money. Almost everything seems to cost money. That's OK, I pay, and focus my attention on the art, on my experience.

As I'm writing this piece, I'm listening to an old favorite, Diamonds and Rust by Joan Baez. I've paid for this song. I bought it on vinyl. I bought it on cassette. I bought it on CD.

I am willing to buy it for play from my hard disk. I've been willing to do that for quite a few years. But the music industry has had its mind on piracy, not on legitimate use of the technology, the use by paying customers to listen to music with the point and click convenience that only the Internet can deliver.

Soon, I hear that Dell, a leading PC manufacturer will come out with a device that's as revolutionary as Napster, a low-power FM radio transmitter that plugs into my PC that will allow me to play the music through any FM receiver in my house. At that point, I can retire my now-obsolete CD players, most of which don't work very well, certainly not nearly as well as the system I have on my desktop.

As a software developer, I'm fascinated by the possibility of tools for writing and sharing nested and linked playlists, sequences of songs that branch. After every song, you could right-click, and choose one of a dozen different directions. Or just let it go, and let another fan build the mood for you, from his or her desktop, connected to your system over the Web. The technology to do this is here, today.

I saw this clearly on Father's Day when I explored the the music written about fathers, performed by their (adult) children. It was a hugely emotional experience, it made me a happier person, because the music expresses something for me in a way that, as a user, I cannot. This is the gap I want to jump, and as a technologist, I know how to do it.

I believe we're at the brink of a new form of listening to music, one which intimately involves fans in the music experience, and creates an environment that could unleash the kind of creative community that only happens when new technology explodes. With that will come new music, and new ways to play it, new ways to explore the emotions it brings up, and new kinds of community, deep ones, far deeper than those we've been able to create on the silent Web. This is one of the most exciting things going on, technologically and artistically, at the turn of the century.

So we've got musical artists, fans and technology, all that's in the way is the music industry. Even if they shut down Napster, so what? They still have to deal with the customers, the music and the technology. The Napster lawsuit is a distraction. A new artform awaits. New ways to use music. We'll pay money for it. But please, it's not about money.

The music industry is inflexible. We've learned about the kinds of deals they cut with the musicians, and as a paying user I'm sad to see that little if any of my money finds its way to the musicians. (If this isn't true, a thoughtful and public rebuttal is called-for from the music industry.)

Further, let's not defend people's supposed right to pirate, but come on music industry, get over it, you can't protect the bits, you depend on the honesty of your users, as the rest of us who create digital software do.

These are many of the same issues we've already dealt with in the software business, and some we have never dealt with. What software has the integrity of music? How many software developers do you know by name? How corporate is software? Can you create software and get broad distribution and recognition for it without being somehow tethered to a huge aggressive corporation fighting for its life? How much has this attitude held back the software industry? How will the revolution in music change the software business?

There will be more to say about this for sure. Through my Web writing I've become part of this discussion. Later this week I will participate in a televised discussion on CBS television. In August I will moderate a panel representing the music and Internet industry.

I'm glad, as a user and a technologist to be able to help this industry find its way. Let's get beyond the sticky problem, let's make sure the creative people have the tools they need, and let's find new ways to tap the creativity of users. I'm sure there will be plenty of money to support the marketing and distribution of the music. Change is good.

Welcome to the Internet, music industry, seriously.

Dave Winer Permalink to Dave Winer

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