Adapt or D.I.Y.


Artwork by Zander Blom


“Undoubtedly, music is a play of mirrors in which every activity is reflected, defined, recorded and distorted. If we look at one mirror, we see only an image of another. But at times a complex mirror game yields a vision that is rich, because unexpected and prophetic. At time it yields nothing but the swirl of the void.”

-Jacques Attali

It is not by coincidence that the most popular of popular music began in America. Here, an unprecedented soup of people boiled together by the mechanisms of global capital created, as a byproduct, the most motley muddied mutt of culture: a world’s-best folk tradition that became Jazz, Honky-Tonk, Rock n' Roll, Hip-Hop, House etc.; the adapting voice of generations.

American music is a story of industrialization, of the creation of the modern world, and of how marginalized, otherwise voiceless people answered back. It is at every stage a story of futurism, of adapting to and away from new machines. Even the oldest variants—mountain music, ragtime, early blues—were not parochial and rural but mutating genes out on the frontiers of burgeoning urban landscapes where smokestacks blotted the sky and class, money and power—intrinsically fixed to the rising, inevitable tide of progress—collided. “Hard times on the killing floor” indeed.

Through mill-towns and factories, workers spread their cultures sharing and appropriating strands as they went. 1 America would give rise to a type of super folk music that music would return again to its sources at crucial moments—post-war Britain, post-colonial Africa, newly independent Jamaica—triggering new evolutions and directions.

Political, social, religious, this music gave voice to disfranchised communities, "CNN for black America," 2 bum-rushing the gates and barriers between race, gender, class and sexuality, even while its genres, trends and most popular (corporate) values became appropriated to re-strengthen the borders and solidify power structures. Folk music would follow the Great Migration of African Americans and the multi-ethnic working class through industrial America, spread on and evolve with almost every major culture defining technological advance of the 20th century, reflecting both the rise of capital, the collapse of urban centers and eventually their rebirth and gentrification.

At various points the very act of listening to it, tuning in to it, would in and of itself be a radical and political act, challenging notions of acceptability, establishing independent networks of mutual support and threatening the cultural hegemony. At times this threat would be aggressively and violently put down, spied on and manipulated. More often it would be co-opted, cleaned and made polite. In the end, as the 20th century drew to a close, folk music would become accepted, universal, ubiquitous, mimicked, looping endlessly back on itself in a state of permanent-presence. 3 Its power to unsettle, to be more than a decorative art, would become diluted just as its individual currency, devalued through hyper-inflation, created new value in ancillary feeds of user data. It is again, not an accident of history that at the same moment American cities began their renewal and gentrification—spear-headed by new theories of the creative class—folk music risked becoming ornamental; the voice for a new cultural-hegemony of flattened, cloud-based mashups.

Adaptation is always the key, an aesthetic survival mechanism that flourished through all these mutations, on all of these fronts and in this great multitude of circumstance and context, reacting both to and against market forces. Each mutation establishes a network, a clandestine means to challenge or usurp institutionalized control even when this challenge is only a subconscious action. The question we ask ourselves is whether this capacity now needs only one final shift 4 toward transhumanism. 5

Does the rise of digital networks, and what we hope will always and forever be open and thereby keep free the nodes of communication, make the need for subterranean networks irrelevant? 6 Technology is, it is said, on the side of accelerated copying 7 and the free-flow of information breaks down the traditional gates between cultural classes. We are repeatedly told of the inevitability, the manifest destiny, of technological progress and that to question any of it is tantamount to being against openess and human potential. But, what do we make of these facts when inequality seems to grow parallel to Moore’s Law? How do we make sense of agendas and rehetoric that so confusingly unites free-culture advocates, progressive scholars, venture capitalists, libertarian entrepreneurs and investors in a great showing of solidarity? This network to end all networks giving us both the tools to subvert corporate culture even as our actions facilitate expanding revenue streams to justify Wall Street’s faith. 8

Is it even possible, even relevant, to dream of a network not so much off the grid but running parallel to the homogenized global system of corporate value? Or have we come to a peaceful agreement with conglomerate multi-national corporations, 9 trusting them to manage the infrastructure of the network, to say nothing of their capacity to aggregate and organize our tastes? Is adaptation to the needs of the network, to feed the feed, our primary occupation? 10 Were we all along wrong to worry about monopoly, monopsony and corporate control of our cultural legacy? Now that “advertising has saved indie music,” is it safe to abandon gates knowing we’ve made friends 11 with those we always perceived to be philistine hordes? 12 With so much attention paid to gates that preserve institutional hierarchy, are we forgetting the need for gates that protect vulnerable communities from those very institutions? 13

As our streams and connections are rearranged by algorithms designed with obfuscated ideologies, 14 freely manipulated with social-experimentation to alter mood 15 and the likelihood to vote, 16 can we trust our voices are our own? Does any of this really matter when the right to consume un-impeded, without restraint and with the aspirations of “kings and popes” 17 is so utterly and wonderfully fulfilled? 18

In another time, in another place, in the Road Warrior, we saw a vision of the future. Gatekeepers huddled against mutant hordes. The gatekeepers wore white, they all dressed the same, they valued the localized-community, concentrated wealth. They seemed nice. The mutants in black leather bondage gear frothed with rugged individualism, their inventive machines snarled idling on the dry valley floor. We’re there on the hilltop now looking down/back, from a different future, trying to suss out which side we’re supposed to be on.

At times we are overwhelmed by all these questions, all these unstable voices, unsure whether our reactions are retrograde or future positive. We are compelled to feel we have answers, conflicted over whether we are living in a moment of transcendent utopian revelation or an age hopelessly conservative and nostalgic. Fundamentally, it’s this binary rationalization that is so frustrating. And so, its with the music industry disrupted as harbinger of the new economy, we stare back into the mirror and return to music as a locus for listening into the mechanization of our environment.

“Listening to music is listening to all noise, realizing that its appropriation and control is a reflection of power, that it is essentially political.” 19 Music is our oldest language; it’s foundations largely spiritual, a network for allowing the community to resurrect the dreams of ancestors. Ritual music, the church hymnal, Yoruban Gelede etc. are communal appeasements to hold this fragile world together. “In that capacity [music] was an attribute of religious and political power [signifying] order, but also [prefiguring] subversion.” 20 Musical notation adapted this roll so that by the Enlightenment music was almost fully transformed from a means of awaking ghosts—looping into the past—into a method for conjuring the dreams of our future selves—the composer given primacy over divine orchestration.

Recording transformed this relationship further giving folk performance the same claim to both posterity and individual human autonomy. Suddenly freed from a telephone-game of unwritable history, the individual voice, the individual performance, the individual style was graphed and catapulted away from the local into ever expanding spheres of regional and temporal influence. The performance became more than the song, more than the notation. From the record to the jukebox to the radio to the South Bronx, these physical units of human experience claimed self-governance—their meaning both confirming the agency of the individual performer and recontextualizing it to fit the needs of future generations.

The rise of the independents gave auxiliary economic autonomy and tools to resist the pull to crystallize in the pop-center, even as it transformed that center. The expansion of the means for digital distribution and production now establish new forms, new exhibitions of agency, still not yet fully in focus and exasperatingly linked to old ideas of value controlled by consolidating capital-realist interests.

“Fetishised as a commodity, music is illustrative of the evolution of our entire society: deritualize a social form, repress an activity of the body,” the device, the cloud, the stream collapse the body to states of virtual dependence and infinite declarations of i-ness. 21 “Specialize its practice, sell it as spectacle, generalize its consumption, then see to it that it is stockpiled until it loses its meaning.” 22 Music devalued through hyperinflation becomes everywhere and thus decorative. In this, cultural value is transformed from the individual unit of creation to the ancillary product of invisible value: the collection of meta-data to acquire portraits to divine the behavior of individuals.

“Eavesdropping, censorship, recording and surveillance are weapons of power.” 23 This we must remember remains true whether governments, corporations or individuals yield it and that censorship in the adaptation of algorithms to bury information in volume or by obscuring its discoverability, like Borges’ Library of Babel, is as potentially damaging as burning books. Super-evaporation into the cloud yields all culture vulnerable to these manipulations. As we build this system, we must think further into the future imagining how these systems might grow well beyond us and what power individuals not yet born might yield with it. This is the fundamental importance in prizing art objects that do not owe their existence to the network.

"The technology of listening in on, ordering, transmitting, and recording noise is at the heart of this apparatus… these are the dreams of political scientists and the fantasies of men in power: to listen, to memorize—this is the ability to interpret and control history, to manipulate the culture of a people, to channel its violence and hopes." 24

In practice, the dynamics at work shift back and forth from these schizoid positions largely forcing the conversation of new sounds under the scope of larger disconnected interests, most of which see little value in the autonomy of artists, or any need for art to have anything beyond decorative value. Lost in this bluster of industrial dynamics is the music itself, and the question of how to assess and support—financially and critically—new folk mutations, and how to differentiate between affectations of past experimentation and those avant-folk forms that evolve forward.

We need new processes to escape the trap of the zeitgeist to reclaim the future from the rush of immediate and compartmentalized reactions that keep us locked to the gluttonous, trending, now. In this we seek to return folk to a molten state, not a bucolic return, but out into the frontier where analogue, electronic, digital and acoustic mechanisms mutate with unexpected veracity.

Digital production and the home studio yield new forms and textures, time-bent, heaving dynamics opening up spaces previously unimaginable. These vortexes of sound billow with the abstracted articulations of shredded digital realities. Shards of this are heard bubbling in the most forward leaning of avant-pop stylists who coil their voices into terrains that warble and blister. This becomes radically destabilized in the iterations of more esoteric works that demand patience and committed attention. Often these articulations exploit contradictions of commercial plasticity, encrypting subterranean folds into the deeper architecture of the format. At other times they are consciously removed from life in the box and the rigorous grids of digital space re-focusing attention to the primal and performed instrument, the acoustic terrain, the stretching and hypnogogic quality of tape, the architecture of lived environments and the poetics of space.

We are deliberately eschewing explicit examples; specific aesthetics and materials shouldn’t limit our scope. Too easily we devolve again to that binary logic, between sounds that are conservative (analogue, authentic, warm) and those that are new (founded in code, digital, cold). This is an artificial articulation of simulated velocity and sentimentality that misses the greater complexity of avant-folk trajectories that privilege the “idea of the new” or the “idea of the real” over truly forward leaning mutations. They are equally reactionary positions.

In the de-materialization of the sound object we are brought back closer to music’s first iteration. The DAW becomes the parlor piano, the parlor becomes the public space: music the province of localized acts linked to global networks. In this new ephemeral state, music can evolve to become purely transient—the background hum of advertisements and restaurants—or reclaim access to the metaphysical—a return into sacred space demanding presence and prescience.

In this the potential of the physical shouldn’t be forgotten, records are future fossils, they coalesce to preserve a history beyond the control of network and the zeitgeist. Objects that evolve with us etching our interaction, graphing each playing onto the tape or record have a future value, value we can’t predict but that must be thought of beyond units of consumption. We need newer dynamics and modes of thinking that push beyond the limitations of the MP3, the stream, two-channel mixing and the concert stage retand return us to the primacy of the sound object and event. In unlocking the potential of physical music, reconfiguring, formats to move beyond stereo 25 we can re-introduce scarcity in the object and space of music. Venues should become site specific engaging with the new realities of the laptop composer. These are critical mutations a generation of networked voices can seize upon and adapt so we can move away from the exploitive economies of interchangeable and endlessly reproducible content clouds.

More than a decade and a half ago, "adapt or die" was leveled as a charge against the complacency of the music industry.26 In this sense, the adapting principle is one of conforming to realities of commodity exchanges and for artists to become nothing more than conduits for aspirational consumption.

A true folk music must adapt to subvert these tendencies, to always challenge the status quo of the industrial economy, and it must self-organize to establish independent modes of financial support that privilege creation over consumption. This also means reassessing and questioning how we stream, how we consume and how we engage. We must undermine the mechanisms of the entertainment industry even as we pivot to ensure we fund truly independent channels of art production.27 We need more networks that act with love and generosity, creating ways to be self-sustaining and geared to artists uncomfortable in the zeitgeist, the hype-machine or with the need to become "entrepreneurial" hucksters. A network that doesn’t de-value the human contribution, financially or spiritually, that wrests control away from the limitations of corporate hive networks and venture capital backed ideas for digital busking. Adjusting the concept put forth by Jem Cohen and Astra Taylor,28 we propose: those who make vital culture, those who distribute it and those who receive it, must share a relationship of mutual protection and admiration: a triple anchor in which each end guards the other.

  1. It is now impossible to think of the banjo without thinking of white-southern music. Likewise the guitar is all but synonymous with African-American blues. That the banjo has it’s origins in Africa and that the guitar comes from Europe is testament to the great fluidity of exchange that has occurred on the frontlines of modernity.

  2. Chuck D’s famous line. “It’s more like rap music is the worldwide religion of people 25 and under, and we have to watch the King James version. We’re in a misinformation age, as well as being in the so-called information age. It comes at us from all angles now—Internet or television, music, the radio—in the disguise of a mirror of itself. People are quick to listen and relate to images that resemble themselves in appearance, sight, and sound—the theory of the vibe. And we pick upon all of it.”
    - Chuck D, Quoted in Bomb, 68 Summer, 1999.

  3. "Today, music heralds—regardless of what the property mode of capital will be—the establishment of a society of repetition in which nothing can happen anymore."
    - Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy Of Music, (Translation Brian Massumi), (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press; 1985).

  4. Capital-realist metaphysics—the invisible hand of the market—adapts to quasi-religious tech-utopianism: “At some point our machines and ideas became so dense in feedback loops and complex interactions that it spawned a bit of independence. It began to exercise autonomy… We created the technium, so we tend to assign ourselves exclusive influence over it. But we have been slow to learn that systems—all systems—generate their own momentum. Because the technium is an outgrowth of the human mind, it is also an outgrowth of the physical and chemical self-organization that first led to life. The technium shares a deep common root not only with the human mind, but with ancient life and other self-organized systems as well. And just as a mind must obey not only the principles governing cognition but also the laws governing life and self-organization, so the technium must obey not only the principles governing life and self-organization—as well as our human minds. Thus out of all the spheres of influence upon the technium, the human mind is only one. And this influence may even be the weakest one…
    The technium has its own wants. It wants to sort itself out, to self-assemble into hierarchical levels, just as most large, deeply interconnected systems do. The technium also wants what all living systems want: to perpetuate itself, to keep itself going. And as it grows, those inherent wants are gaining in complexity and force.”
    - Kevin Kelly, What Technology Wants (New York: Penguin Books, 2010).

  5. “What appears to be different in the return to [the questioning of the future] today is recognizing the scale of disorientation and displacement created by the impact of computerization, the rise of new forms of engineering and new modes of knowledge, the creation of artificial life, etc. However these new realities demand not an impetuous abandonment of a thinking and valuing of the ‘human’ condition, but rather a radical re-examination and revaluation, in which one would show the extent to which this condition has always been a matter of invention and reinvention, that is, always a matter of the transhuman.”
    - Keith Ansel Pearson, Viroid Life: Perspectives on Nietzsche and The Transhuman Condition (London & New York: Routledge, 1997).

  6. “Whatever social transformation any [revolutionary information system] might have effected, in the end, each would take its place to uphold the social structure that has been with us since the Industrial Revolution… History shows a typical progression of information technologies: from somebody’s hobby to somebody’s industry; from jury-rigged contraption to slick production marvel; from freely accessible channel to one strictly controlled by a single corporation or cartel—from open to closed system…
    The pattern is distinctive. Every few decades, a new communications technology appears bright with promise and possibility. It inspires a generation to dream of a better society, new forms of expression, alternative types of journalism. Yet each new technology eventually reveals it’s flaws, kinks, and limitations.”
    - Tim Wu, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall Of Information Empires (New York: Vintage Books, 2011).

  7. "We hear that not only is change accelerating but that the pace of change is accelerating as well. While this is true of computational carrying-capacity at a planetary level, at the same time – and in fact the two are connected – we are also in a moment of cultural de-acceleration. We invest our energy in futuristic information technologies, including our cars, but drive them home to kitsch architecture copied from the 18th century. The future on offer is one in which everything changes, so long as everything stays the same…
    If we really want transformation, we have to slog through the hard stuff (history, economics, philosophy, art, ambiguities, contradictions). Bracketing it off to the side to focus just on technology, or just on innovation, actually prevents transformation. Instead of dumbing-down the future, we need to raise the level of general understanding to the level of complexity of the systems in which we are embedded and which are embedded in us.”
    - Benjamin Bratton, “We Need To Talk About Ted”.

  8. “Eliminating copyright could theoretically equalize opportunity, allowing everyone uniform access to everything ever made but this is not necessarily the case. The commons has also historically been used as a source of raw materials for colonizers and corporations seeking to profit from traditional lands assets, and knowledge, which well-capitalized entities are better positioned to take advantage of than comparatively poor locals. Not everyone benefits equally from openness. The ocean may be common, but a company with a large fleet of trawlers is uniquely situated to exploit its riches. Disney is better able to reach mass audiences with films based on folktales in the public domain; Google holds an almost unassailable advantage when it comes to indexing all the public data posted on the Internet, spending billions annually on infrastructure.
    The commons are accessed asymmetrically, like the massive repositories of genomic data that have been made available online by scientists who hoped the repositories would become a ‘global resource, shared equally,’ but which have been overwhelmingly used by private biotech firms in a handful of wealthy countries. The romance of the commons—the idea that a resource is open to all will be accessed equitably and create a more just outcome, that differences evaporate online, openness ensures fairness, and the goods can be ‘free’ to all without negative consequence—ignores the problem of inequality. In reality, differing circumstances, abilities, assets, and power render some better able to take advantage of a commons than others.”
    - Astra Taylor, The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power And Culture In The Digital Age (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2014).

  9. "Like other participants in the movements taking place around the world, and like participants in earlier ones, artists tend to want to lend themselves and their energy and abilities to social betterment and utopian dreaming, but not necessarily as participants within sanctioned and institutionalized frames. The artistic imagination continues to dream of historical agency. In a protracted economic downturn such as we are experiencing now, while the creative-class thesis is showing its limits in respect to saving cities, it becomes clearer that artists and other members of the art community belong to the pan- or non-national class whose composition is forged across boundaries and whose members are inclined, as the cliché demands, to think globally and act locally…
    If the creative-class thesis can be seen as something of a hymn of perceived harmony between the ‘creatives’ and the financiers, together with city leaders and real-estate interests, guiding the city into the postindustrial condition, perhaps the current grassroots occupations can be seen as the eruption of a new set of issues related to a new set of social relations of production.”
    - Martha Rosler, Culture Class (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2013).

  10. “It’s not about breaking rules, it’s about how Instagram, Facebook and other social media have enabled our addiction to communicating while quietly taking over the copyright… Our generation accepts appropriation and borrowing from all pasts because we accept a future of unity. “The Yes generation” How else could we move forward except through this acceptance and the freedom it gives us?...
    We wave our right to privacy, sometimes without realizing, sometimes voluntarily, so what is our ideal platform? The online space is a new sort of palette for artists to offer new perspectives on voice and freedom. Accept and broaden the platform. Celebrate fellow artists and live against the grain…
    I see our generation and our fight for equality in all things as exactly the opposite of [re-appropriation as marketing]. We should be pushing against all boundaries, whether industry, gender or otherwise. Collaboration and standing on the shoulders of giants, using the way of the world and industry are set up in order to change both, can only be fruitful and a way to find and give freedom.”
    - Cara Stricker, “Open Letter to Richard Prince”.

  11. “Though licensing a song to an ad is lucrative for an artist, [Gabe McDonough] says that the benefits of this relationship are even more valuable for a client. ‘Eight out of ten of the most-followed people on Twitter are musicians. Nine out of ten of the most-viewed things on YouTube are music videos. What’s the value of having [a musician tweet] about something to 20 million followers? That’s more than a primetime ad buy on NBC you could spend gazillions on. And musicians are finally starting to realize that this is worth more than any song [they] could write. That’s money.’…
    ‘What artists need are resources to make music, go on tour, make videos, grow their networks, and expand their audience,’ explains Adam Shore, who manages Best Coast, who have soundtracked commercials for Windows, Payless, and J.C. Penney (and recorded their debut album at [commercial music house] Black Iris’ studio). While bands need the same things they always have, record labels are at a loss for how to create revenue and provide reach. Larger deals (and larger advances) come at the expense of selling off an artist’s rights to everything — publishing, merchandising, tour revenue. Meanwhile, a commercial sync has more reach, nominal terms, and bigger paydays. If ad execs are the new A&R, then it only serves that brands are the new record labels, yet 'brands can provide these better than labels ever could, at minimal cost and effort to them,' says Shore...
    For all the freedom and choices an infusion of ad money can provide or the signal boost a well-placed spot can provide, it comes at a cost. Success can change things, just as sure as a platinum record once did, and access to lump sums can affect which direction a band is facing as a corporate client becomes the only paying audience they have. While advertising cannot save or replace the music industry, there is one undeniable fact, says McDonough: 'These big companies are the last people paying musicians what they are worth.'
    - Jessica Hopper, “How Selling Out Saved Indie Rock”, (Buzzfeed, Nov. 10, 2013)

  12. “If you want to know what’s really going on in a society or ideology, follow the money. If money is flowing to advertising instead of musicians, journalists, and artists, then a society is more concerned with manipulation than truth or beauty.”
    - Jaron Lanier, You Are Not A Gadget (New York: Vintage Books, 2010).

  13. “At the moment, those people are obsessed with how they read books—whether it’s on a Kindle or an iPad or on printed pages. This conversation, though important, takes place in the shallows and misses the deeper currents that, in the digital age, are pushing American culture under the control of ever fewer and more powerful corporations. Bezos is right: gatekeepers are inherently élitist, and some of them have been weakened, in no small part, because of their complacency and short-term thinking. But gatekeepers are also barriers against the complete commercialization of ideas, allowing new talent the time to develop and learn to tell difficult truths.When the last gatekeeper but one is gone, will Amazon care whether a book is any good?”
    - George Packer, “Cheap Words” The New Yorker, Feb 17, 2014.

  14. “But science, of course, does have a moral code, which would be apparent to anyone who’s ever tried to conduct experiments involving humans. Many such experiments would need to be approved by various human subject panels and institutional research boards. Scientists don’t just spontaneously ‘try things’; they are forced to think through the social and political consequences of their work, often well before entering the lab… What institutional board would be satisfied with the excuse that Sergey Brin produced after the Google Buzz fiasco [which ended up compromising the privacy of many users]: ‘It never occurred to me as a privacy thing.’ Well, yes—that’s why no company, certainly not a company of Google’s size and clout, should ever be ‘trying things’ without first establishing an institution-wide respect for ethical dilemmas…
    We must stop thinking of the new filters and algorithmic practices promoted by the new digital intermediaries… as unproblematic, objective, and naturally superior to the filters and practices that preceded them. These new filters might be faster, cheaper and more efficient, but speed, cost and efficiency are only peripherally related to the civic roll these filters and algorithms will be playing in our lives.”
    - Evegeny Morozov, To Save Everything Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism (New York: Public Affairs, 2013).

  15. "'Facebook cares most about two things: engagement and advertising. If Facebook, say, decides that filtering out negative posts helps keep people happy and clicking, there's little reason to think that they won't do just that. As long as the platform remains such an important gatekeeper – and their algorithms utterly opaque – we should be wary about the amount of power and trust we delegate to it.'"
    - Jacob Silverman quoted in Robert Booth, “Facebook reveals news feed experiment to control emotions” Guardian, June 30, 2014

  16. Christian Sandvig, who studies the hidden logic of algorithms and their effect on users, tells a story of one of the first large scale commercial algorithmic systems, SABRE. “At the time it was built [in the 1960’s] it was the largest computing network, non-governmental, in the world. And its purpose was airline reservations.” That is, a network for travel agents to communicate with airlines making travel faster and more efficient. SABRE became controversial when it was suspected to be privileging American Airlines flights over competition. It was in fact American Airlines who had paid for the development of SABRE.
    Called before congress in a famous anti-trust investigation, then American Airlines CEO Bob Crandall replied aghast, “The preferential display of our flights and the corresponding increase in our market share is the competitive raison d’etre for having created the [SABRE] system in the first place.” In other words, why else would a corporation build such a thing if it wasn’t going to use it to control market share? Sandvig calls this Crandall’s Law of Algorithms, a foundational theory for understanding the logic of corporate engendered algorithms: to privilege corporate value, manipulate markets and achieve monopoly. A profile on Sandvig's work appeared on an episode of: Benjamin Walker's Theory Of Everything.

  17. “Technology innovation disproportionately helps the poor more than it helps the rich, as the poor spend more of their income on products… It’s a consumer utopia: Everyone enjoys a standard of living that kings and popes could have only dreamed… Human nature expresses itself fully, for the first time in history. Without physical need constraints, we will be whoever we want to be… make no mistake, advocating slowing tech change to preserve jobs = advocating punishing consumers, stalling quality of life improvements.”
    - Tweets by Mark Andreessen quoted in Andrew Leonard, Tech’s Toxic Political Culture: The Stealth Libertarianism of Silicon Valley Bigwigs” Salon, June 6, 2014.

  18. “For [the poorest 50 percent] of the population, the very notions of wealth and capital are relatively abstract. For millions of people, ‘wealth’ amounts to little more than a few weeks’ wages in a checking account or low-interest savings account, a car, and a few pieces of furniture. The inescapable reality is this: wealth is so concentrated that a large segment of society is virtually unaware of it’s existence, so that some people imagine that it belongs to surreal or mysterious entities. This is why it is so essential to study capital and its distribution in a methodical, systematic way.“
    - Thomas Piketty, Capital In The Twenty-First Century (Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014).

  19. Attali supra note 3

  20. Ibid.

  21. What was once the most inherently of communal activities, music since the Walkman inverts the relation making it the most individual of choices a shift reflective of the Libertarian expectations found in the politics of Uber, Amazon et al. “Sound both colonizes the listener and actively recreates and reconfigures the spaces of experience. Through the power of a privatized sound world the world becomes intimate, known and possessed.”
    - Michael Bull, “The Audio-Visual-Ipod”, The Sound Studies Reader, Jonathan Sterne ed., (London, New York: Routledge, 2012).
    From the headphone to the walkman to the iPod to the silent disco:

  22. Attali supra note 3

  23. Ibid.

  24. Ibid.


  26. Let’s throw out the idea of the music industry as a unified whole. We don’t feel aches of remorse for how Sony, Universal or Warner might satisfy Wall Street in the coming years. Music after all was never really the concern of the conglomerate. We assume they’ll end up owned by Google or Facebook anyway who will most likely then decide there’s far more monetary value in free content. We believe there is, such is the value of the network and the pyramid scheme of watching consumers even if emotive pay per gaze advertising never takes off.
    Furthermore, we should re-evaluate the breadth of the music economy to include not only album sales and streams but instead affix additional value to the ancillary aspects of data mining. If we do, the picture of what value is and where it is accumulated changes radically from an industry in steady to decline to one seeing rapid growth. In this way, the decline of the music is not following traditional rules of supply and demand. Muisc is in greater demand than ever but where and how that appears is obscured by disruption to the distribution model. The value then should be placed in the value of the network which demands openness and near-infinite capacity to access product in order to make its business models profitable. What has been transformed then is not only methods of distribution but the idea of the product—a transformation that alters the onus of payment from individual consumers to the network itself.

  27. Nicholas Jarr’s Other People and Drip.FM are two such examples of opt-in cultures of sustaining membership that promote sustainable networks of communal admiration rather than communal consumption.

  28. “ ‘On one side, there’s a receiver for whom, with a few clicks, everything is available, free, and exists to be shared without consideration or consequence. On the other side are interests, usually corporate, envisioning how with more restrictive copyright and insistent branding, everything can become even more commodified than it already is’. Cohen has no interest in protecting the assets of Hollywood, major music labels or other conglomerates, nor does he support reprisals against those who don’t obey their dictates. Yet he thinks we need to be conscientious about the culture we take in as we are about the food we eat’… to this end, Cohen advocates what he calls the ‘realizable dream’ of a ‘new economy of fair trade for artists and audiences.’” Taylor supra note 9