Over the course of history, cutting edge technology usually starts in the hands of a select few, but then becomes democratized. For instance, in the 50s and 60s tape machines were originally extremely expensive and usually owned by large institutions such as universities and radio companies.
But then by the 1980s cheap portable tape players could not only play cassette tapes but could also record. Same with distributing music via CD. Machines that could produce large quantities of CDs were in the hands of record labels and music publishers first. That allowed for the price of CDs to be controlled by a handful of those labels because they had already laid the groundwork for distribution mechanisms with records and cassettes. By the end of the 90s CD burners were cheap enough to be included in laptop computers. The ability to burn lots of CDs was still something that required a substantial investment, and it wasn’t practical for a person to be churning out one CD after another on their home computer.
But at about the same time, The Internet completely changed the possibility for distributing recordings. Now, theoretically, anyone with an Internet connection can distribute their music online without any middleman taking a cut. More importantly, the number of copies (5 or 5 million) didn’t depend on the purchase of materials (well, increased bandwidth to handle online traffic). But with file sharing, the cost of production and distribution has effectively gone down to zero. This is tremendously important for bands wanting total creative control–the ability to make or break their own success without binding contracts is viable. But does that mean musicians can bootstrap their way to fortune and fame without the help of labels or record deals?
Choose at least one of these links below as your ‘read’. Tell me what you think. Respond by 3pm Wednesday, January 23rd.
How to Succeed in the Music Business (By Trying Really Really Hard) (please read all comments on this post too)