I read last week that Last.fm, the online music source that CBS acquired last year, is loosening some restrictions and providing listeners with an extensive music archive that can be accessed for FREE. The tracks, however, are streamed and can only be used for up to THREE times, so nobody's taking them home to do with as they wish. I think, after your THREE allowances have been exhausted, you wind up subscribing to the service for a fee. Otherwise, the site is paid for by the advertisers, in the tradition of typical radio.
From a "benefit" standpoint, Last.fm's been made available for independent artists (no label) to use for promotion. Royalties will be paid to these artists based on the amount of times their respective tracks have attracted enough attention to earn a PLAY. So, it's good that some money is going toward those that are struggling to make it, though there's no way to determine whether or not the advertisers will have any say in regard to the artists use Last.fm for self-promotion.
With music sales waning, and even legal downloads attracting less and less attention, it's going to be interesting to see how music ultimately settles itself in terms of buying and selling. I fear for the loss of tangible formats, the loss of record stores...I fear the computer replacing the stereo in every home and music itself being reduced to "files," falling victim to disposability.
But, and this may be just me being paranoid in the most Orwellian sense, I grow more and more concerned with the influence of advertisers in the music industry. As record labels start falling off with artists seeking outside capital to finance their recordings, a move that seems to already be taking shape in the form of Internet-only releases (Radiohead's latest move), advertisers possibly find themselves in the position to dictate taste levels and become the new authority on the guidelines that already qualify certain bands to earn the PARENTAL ADVISORY designation.
Founded by the Parent Music Resource Center, an organization that had NO problem dumping its own standards of morality on the music industry in order to basically change the Bill of Rights, the PARENTAL ADVISORY sticker stands as evidence that the basis of decency can be influenced by a personal point of view, PROVIDED that that point of view wields the power of "no pussy" over the politicians running the show. Interestingly the PMRC were no more than a group of senators' housewives, so it doesn't take much to be an authority on obscenity in America. That being the case, is it implausible that some anonymous ad exec could exercise a little influence over an artist, based on personal beliefs in regard to what should or shouldn't be written, played, distributed and sold?
With organizations like Clear Channel running most of the show in terms of concert promotion and radio, we're already seeing political influence effecting media output. How long before art completely dies under the weight of "decency" and "preference?"
Letters From A Tapehead
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