Noise – CMO, CBO

noise portraitIt always seemed so obvious: change is cyclical as well as inevitable.

Back in the mid 80’s, while interning at a major recording studio, I observed the lengths to which the industry was went thorough to eliminate any and all noise from recordings. It killed the “feel” of the tracks – it sucked the life out of them. During all this, I predicted that “someday soon, people will be adding the noise back into recordings”. They thought I was nuts. Sure enough, you can now get Sample CD’s full of “Low-Fi” vinyl crackle and pops as well as noisy recordings of instruments to give life to one’s “computer generated” symphonies.

In 1991, I was further confusing friends and colleagues while exploring “copyright” liberated sample-based music (the audio equivalent of the Dada collage) and creating songs warning of the dangers of unchecked intellectual property ownership — too bad no one could figure out what the hell I was on about. The public seemed equally confused with our introduction of the concept of the “Franchised Rock Act”. What a difference a decade can make.

During that period I fell into my other love, and the one that still keeps me out of the gutter – advertising, design and marketing – just as the graphics industry was thrashing into its own “computer revolution”. Positions disappeared overnight, others were created just as fast. Old skills were useless – and new ones were mandatory. During all this, the music industry went merrily about its business the same way it had for decades.

Then the World Wide Web asteroid hit us all. It was in every news broadcast, every magazine article – it was changing the world. Yet somehow the recording industry managed not to notice. Why is it that Steve Jobs, a CEO of a computer manufacturer, had to be the one to drag the music industry into the next millennium by opening up the purchasing of music on the web? Had the industry learned nothing from its previous opposition to radio? At least in that instance, the music industry realized in time that the best way to sell records is to get people to hear them. Notice a pattern?

The music industry can not seem to accept that its no longer 1976. Simply stated – there is no one they can sue, no law they can enforce to get that world back. It’s like the Atomic bomb – once it’s created, it’s out there forever – for good or ill.. The real tragedy is that if the music industry put half the effort, time and money spent on suing the very people who pay their salaries (such a good way to build good will) – and perhaps (god forbid) actually used some imagination to figure out a way to make use of this new opportunity, they’d already been long past this bump in their road and making a very healthy profit. The music industry is still fighting the war, while everyone else has long forgotten what the quarrel was all about. Such squandered potential. For instance, the ability to easily advertise their product for free on someone else’s medium on someone else’s dime.

All that being said, it looks like it’s up to music creators themselves to take the lead in this next age of reason. The musician as record company, if you will. We’re small and agile. We can swiftly change direction when our environment changes — and it will change again.

Will the music industry look different in a decade? Of course – it’s just now a case of who will evolve with this new world and who will end up in a museum with a sign next to them labeled “Gigantus-Industrius-Musicallis”. You know the ones — kinda big and scary but in the end, not too bright.

contact noise: noise<at>parkdalehookers<dot>ca