Fear of Music

Can a local CD store with no CDs save record companies from free music?

Perhaps the problem here is that neither new businesses nor new technology automatically improve a boring culture. Such developments sure don't automatically help non-major-label artists get noticed and circulated among the thousands currently available online. So Courtney Love's envisioned "total connectivity" may have no effect at all on the entrenched music giants. They'll shed some pounds, get out of the album business, and simply turn entirely to PR for their trade: Flooding publications and radio with promotional money, booking appearances at malls, ordering up their artists' tunes on the Box. (Sheesh, even His Royal Purple Indie-ness decided he needed a major to be properly heard.)

Perhaps what's needed is a little organizing. Or so says Brooke Aldridge, who, besides Prince himself, is the most vocal Twin Cities musician to pick up the gauntlet thrown down by Courtney Love. One of the MP3.com acts to be loaded into the Outernet, Aldridge is a new-wave-coiffed singer in the local electronic pop combo Station9, which has helped record a protest electro jingle against corporate radio called, simply enough, "RADIO-FREE." She wants Napster addicts to see the big-label legal maneuvers against online music companies in context--and from an artist's perspective. "We already should have more rights over our music---and the right to be fairly distributed," she adds. "Now record companies are deciding what rights we'll have in this new medium."

For example, she points out how major labels routinely assume control over band Web sites, a practice Aldridge's organization, Artists Equal Rights Organization, wants to reverse by petitioning Congress. The group's all-purpose "Petition for Equal Rights" (http://a_ero.tripod.com/aero) also calls on legislators to reverse the "works for hire" clause that altered copyright law last year to give record companies open-ended rights to musicians' songs. (Before the Recording Industry Association of America helped push through the modification, artists could reclaim their work after 35 years.)

Crossing a jukebox with a slot machine: Outernet wagers that on-demand music can be profitable in a retail setting
Dan Monick
Crossing a jukebox with a slot machine: Outernet wagers that on-demand music can be profitable in a retail setting

Something more than petitions, of course, will be required to counter the lobbying of big music, which has a vested interest in maintaining things exactly as they are, only more so. Regardless, destiny's children can be trusted to log on, listen, and do that thing they do better than any artist, business, or journalist: adapt.

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