Today I saw the Queen musical "We Will Rock You" which takes place 300 years in the future. In this future, all original music is banned, and replaced with only music programmed by GlobalSoft, "Where our business is the complete appropriation of your imagination...". It even starts with a timeline that goes through some of the greatest rock milestones sprinkled with corporate manufactured examples such as Milli Vanilli, and "boy bands". At one point in the musical, one of the "bohemians" explains how they were able to track back the exact day that music died, and it was when something called... "American Idol". I am sure my friends are thinking... "Please don't say that this musical has anything to do with web 2.0?"... Well, this does..
I know I've commented on the business model of American Idol which I believe is brilliant (right up there with the way banks charge you for borrowing your money, which they lend to others, and heck let's charge them too). But what about the creativity? What about the art? Does this new collaboration mean art could succumb to corporate desires for quick profits? Unfortunately, to an extent it already has. BUT, it also provides opportunity for more artists to leverage new channels. If this is true, then we should already be starting to see indie musicians (not attached to a record label) gaining popularity, and momentum. Do we?
Crowdsourced music and art can create mass consumption products digestible by many but has no longevity or notable impact on the future of the art. It's creating the simple wine that will sold to many but the exceptional wine which requires the trained palette to appreciate could be pushed aside forever. From Mozart to Hendrix there are several examples in all genres of edgy artists pushing the limits of music who's radical art would require time to enter mainstream acceptance. If we made "America vote" as a pre-requisite for access to music would we have truly listened to the pioneers of hip-hop? As Don McLean questioned in American Pie, "Do you recall what was revealed the day the music died?"
On the other hand, I also read an article recently in the National Post about the band Arcade Fire. The article discussed how the band leveraged social forums to gather mainstream acceptance. This indie band may be an example of finally overcoming the "expert" tyranny of record labels and allowing the artists a better chance for their art to be heard before it's completely re-packaged for mass adoption. Another indie act that appears to be gaining mainstream acceptance (and is one of my favourite new bands) is Silversun Pickups pictured here.
Closer to home, a friend of mine (Dan Gagnon) a local musician has leveraged MySpace as a personal space and a digital home for his music. Only in this web 2.0 space could an individual create a global channel so quickly. He's received some very positive feedback from other more established (famous) artists. Of course simply opening up the music alone doesn't result in mass opportunity for the art to be heard. Can the long-tail be applied to his music as a pre-cursor to mainstream appeal?
The "build it and they will come" philosophy is often false and adoption usually requires active promotion. Of course promotion can also be done through several web 2.0 means as well. The 2.0 world provides coverage over the 4 P's (Price, Promotion, Place/Distribution,Product) providing freedom for the independent artist.
It will be interesting to see the clash between big corporate music and legions of independent artists both of which are leveraging the unique opportunities offered by Web 2.0.
Time will tell...
"I've been waiting for this moment all my life... But it's not quite right"
- Lazy Eye by Silversun Pickups.