...It occurs to me that the sheer amount of people in the world who now have vast and unprecedented music libraries at little or no cost to themselves seems to constitute an important cultural phenomenon.
It might not be legal. It might not be ethical. But it is unarguably an important cultural fact.
And it’s a phenomenon that is growing and spreading, despite efforts to stop it.
So - leaving aside the legal magnitude of that fact for a moment - from a purely cultural perspective, that’s an incredible shift.
Think about it. A great many people have access to most music whenever they want it. A great many. And that number is getting greater by the day.
Not only that, but they also have the tools to remix, remake, mash-up, alter, compile, share, create derivative works - or just reference a fairly significant proportion of all of the recorded work that’s ever been created for their own edification and information.
That changes everything.
I am NOT asking: “Is it right that people should download music for free without permission?”
I am NOT asking: “Is the record industry doomed?”
I am NOT asking: “Should artists get paid for the work they do?”
And nor am I asking whether all musicians will simply stop making music, which is a preposterous notion, and you are not to take seriously anyone who even suggests it. Those people are, as the popular saying metaphorically puts it, "on crack."
Again, substitute "access to free news/journalism content" for "unprecedented music libraries," "newspaper business" for "record industry," and "journalism" for "music," and you have roughly the contours of my thinking on this subject. Which is why I remain cautiously hopeful that our cultural life and discourse will stay interesting, even--perhaps especially--in a rough economy.