Alaska Robotics

I am Emily White… well… not literally.

Thursday, June 21st 2012 by Pat

Kaboom! Big explosions going off in the world of music today. Maybe you read up on it already but I’ll break down some of the key posts..

Emily, an intern at NPR, wrote a frank article about the way her generation listens to music. Mostly, they don’t pay for it. Surprise.

David, of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, wrote a scathing response directed at Emily and her peers.

The thing is, I kind of want to support Emily here. I don’t know. She seems ok.

And maybe it’s because, in a way.. I am Emily.

I was a Computer Science major in college and I had access to things. Everythings. My drives were brimming with music and I was able to train myself in several high-end pieces of software I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.

I rationalized it of course, I wouldn’t have purchased these things and I wouldn’t have stolen them but cloning them was different, it did no harm.

Maybe I was wrong but I was a kid and kids get it wrong.

Emily for example, I never said she was right, I want to support her because I think she’s just being Emily. She’s offered up a frank assessment of how she consumes music and she’s been throttled with the club of morality. The pent up aggression of a thousand starving musicians is now focused on her like a laser… and hey.. did I mention, she’s a kid?

After college I went through a transition. First, as a business owner I made sure that every piece of software I used was legit. Then, I tried to clean up my music. It was a rocky transition, first to quasi-legal Russian Mp3 outlets and then to harvesting Mp3 files from music review blogs. Then, with one blunder, I accidentally wiped out my giant hard drive full of pirated Mp3s and I decided it was the end of an era.

I think the way people support the arts evolves with age. They get out of college, begin to understand real world economics and start to see that some of their favorite artists are insane people who will keep following their passions regardless of if they’ve been fed.

I think I do a lot more to support the arts these days than I did in college and I don’t know what you all were doing to support the arts at Emily’s age but guys, she’s interning at NPR.

Of course, all of this is bigger than music and the arts as Johnathan Coulton points out. It’s about.. Legos!?!

So.. yeah.. people are going to be printing toys and gadgets instead of buying them. Music is just one of the first bees out of the hive. Just you wait, it’s going to get stingy.

Kickstarter might be something to cling to. Maybe it’s a step towards the “Holding Things for Ransom” business model where an artist pitches an idea, gives a little taste of that idea, then tries to rake in cash up front before creating and releasing it to all the free grubbers.

This public review of proposed projects is fascinating. It actually seems similar to the old model of trying to submit your music to a label except now the label is the audience and maybe you stand a chance of finding your niche.

If you don’t, no one is stopping you and you can still pursue your project without up-front funding. At least you’ll be armed with the knowledge that people didn’t think it was worth supporting.. which is ok.. it isn’t about money and besides, they just don’t get it man.

As my personal economics improve and my abilities to support other artists improve, I try to support them more and more.

Evidence and more evidence and even more evidence.

I don’t think it’s a cultural shift for me, I think it’s more about my age and place in the world.

I’m sure Emily will turn out fine, ease up on her a bit.

Update: More reading from Chris Griffy – The Case for Digital Music

6 Responses to “I am Emily White… well… not literally.”

  1. Arlo says:

    I had already read most of those things you’d linked and came to many of the same conclusions you did. When I was reading them, I thought about the Labor Day thing, too. I never thought about it (the True Fan Boost thing) as a morality play, but I guess it was. Growing up, atoning for my Napster sins.

    • Pat says:

      Are we on for Labor Day again? I think you had a great idea with that, maybe it will catch.

      • Arlo says:

        Oh, yeah, I plan to keep doing it. Even if it doesn’t catch on, it’s a good idea *for me.* Though… if you asked me right now, I’d be hard pressed to come up with a list of artists I should support. Been a little self-obsessed these last couple years…

  2. Jim Crider says:

    This is one of those “rough transition” times. We’re seeing a distinct evolution in the business models for a great many things — music and other media (books, periodicals, video) being on the vanguard. Physical objects will get there, but the amount of finishing work needed to get the universal adapter pieces to work after an $1100 MakerBot prints them vs the $90,000 3D printer with +/-.003″ tolerances that I’m trying to get for work makes that still a bit cost- and effort-prohibitive for most folks.

    But that’s going to change. That $90K printer? 10 years ago, you’d spend $500K to get that kind of tolerance and it would require a lot more post-processing to have a usable piece that didn’t turn to dust in your hands. Ten years before that, you’d spend $1M to get the 3D printer and all the support equipment needed to make the pieces, and then you’d have to use the pieces as patterns for an investment casting because the materials then were so brittle they couldn’t take much more than very gentle handling on their own. The place I worked 10 years ago had a machine that worked on the same principles as the MakerBot, with similar tolerances, and they’d paid $100K for it. Now? $1.1K.

    So this is evolving. But… even when the time comes that we can tell the replicator “iPod with my music collection preloaded” and it appears, there’s a need to compensate the creators — the people who came up with the device design, the musicians who wrote and recorded the music we’re listening to. If they can’t afford to eat/sleep/live, they can’t make Stuff.

    The world is changing. The Reynolds Number is above 2300, but less than 4000 right now, and trying to ascertain what the flow is doing is tricky — it changes all the time. But the flow goes on. While the exact relationship between creator and consumer will be in flux during this time, the basic principle that the consumer compensates the creator for their effort should, necessarily, remain immutable.

    Looking at music, there’s a small number of Ginormous Rock Stars with huge audiences from which they gain considerable income. There’s the Mid-Level Acts. They’re doing alright, but instead of the custom bus or the private jet and the suite at the Ritz-Carlton, they’re flying coach or (more often) riding in a leased van and pulling a cargo trailer behind them and staying at the Comfort Inn. There are far more of these than the Ginormous Rock Stars, but still a relatively small number. And there’s a far greater number of Minor Acts, playing very small venues, operating out of their personal cars, sleeping on couches and floors. Some of them are able to make it their full-time job, some still have a day job.

    And these aren’t discrete segments — it’s a spectrum, as one level blurs into the other.

    The traditional marketing machine pushes its efforts behind the bigger acts — the symbiotic relationship becomes self-sustaining as the large audience brings revenue brings more marketing brings larger audience, while the smaller ones are left to small local promoters, or, increasingly, the internet to expand their fan base.

    The good news is: the populist approach the internet has enabled allows artists to get to that self-sustaining audience level sooner. No, it’s not a luxury lifestyle — hell, it’s probably at or below poverty line in many cases — but if the product is good, be that a song, a book, a comic, a device — with just a little promotion in the right places, the word spreads, and soon it’s global. People in Sarthe, France, are not only aware of, but are buying, the music of a singer half a world away in Anchorage, Alaska. And they’re playing it for their friends, who also buy it — because the product is worth the money, and the small-scale artist made it easy for people to access the music and easy to pay for it.

    But the transition is pretty ugly. It’s a bit like sausage making in that respect: you may love the tasty end result, but you really don’t want to see how it went from pig to plate.

  3. News Updates says:

    […] a way…I am Emily,” admits Alaska Robotics. And different person also named Emily White (really!) who works for […]

  4. […] a way…I am Emily,” admits Alaska Robotics. And different person also named Emily White (really!) who works for […]