The Leveling Effect

Music was transported into the digital realm many years ago, but changes in its distribution have taken considerably longer. When I bought the Talking Heads' More Songs about Buildings and Food album in 1978, I went to a record store; when I bought the CD version of it in the early eighties, I went to the same store again. Now, of course, things are different, and as usual, it's the Internet that's responsible.

The music-consumer's world has changed, but what of the musicians' world? Seems they'd be doing things in much the same way they always have: playing instruments, singing, and writing songs. Musician stuff, in other words. Beyond that, it's all about producers and record companies; you can't make a professional recording without them, right? Well . . . not necessarily, said David Byrne in an interview with Bernard Perusse of the Montreal Gazette.

Before, you had to have a record company just to record a professional-sounding record, pretty much. And now, you don’t.

Now with all this home computer-based recording stuff ... there’s a lot of different ones, and plenty of them are really cheap and they sound ... well, you know, depending on how much care the person takes, they sound just fine, of course.

While I'm sure no one is suggesting that the path to musical fame and fortune is an easy one, isn't this just the sort of change that's causing all the anxiety in the media industry at large right now? Text was digitized a long time ago and video is catching up fast; assuming no disparity in talent and determination, the idea of self-publishing—whether that's words, music, video, or some combination—is becoming more intriguing by the minute.

Naturally, talent and determination don't guarantee success any more than a Web site or blog do . . .

It happens, but it’s pretty rare that something can just be thrown out into the Internet ether – whether it’s in a MySpace page or whatever else – and just succeed because it’s good.

. . . although the Internet does seem to have a natural leveling effect. Just how level remains to be seen, but so far, the signs are encouraging.


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