Opinion: How Good Is the Internet for Music? [Part 3]

Given the vast expanse of time I now have being on my summer holidays from university, I’ve found myself spending more time than usual in front of a computer screen, and I started to wonder as I browsed the web and listened to album upon album – is the Internet revolution a good or bad thing for the music industry? In the next few Opinion articles I want to talk about the Internet’s effect on the music world, and try to come to some sort of conclusion as to whether we should welcome the change with open arms or if I’m being a cynical bastard. I’d really welcome any opinions readers might have on the whole thing, so leave a comment.

To anyone who has read the past two articles on the Internet (Part One is here, and Part Two is here), you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been more than a little bit pessimistic about what the world wide web is really set to bring to the table. Mentioning things such as the ‘death’ of the album, good original music being lost under a swamp of mediocre copycat bands, and the still horrifying thought of a fan compiled U2 compilation is enough to make me consider switching off that modem for life and sit outside in the sun with a cassette player. But being so negative wasn’t really my intention, as the core reason for writing these features was to try and come to a conclusion as to how good the Internet really is for music.

There are lots of immediate perks to the web. Firstly, as much as I hate to admit it and give in to it, online distribution of music has given artists a new found market to exploit, making it easier and quicker than ever for customers to grab that track they heard on the radio and shove it on their fashionable iPods. It might give support to the idea that the album as we know it is dying (a thought that personally depresses me) but you cannot deny the overwhelming advantages to distribution channels such as iTunes. Cheaper to produce, quicker to spread across the world, massive market to sell to, the list goes on.

There is no denying the practicality and audience that iTunes has.

In today’s day and age, where we barely even pause to take stock of what we have done in our day, the average music listener is not going to have the time and dedication to commit themselves to seventy minute albums, heralding a new age for instant music that satisfies the users need as and when it is needed. It’s a sober thought for those of us who still stare wistfully at our liner notes whilst falling in love with an album, but there’s no doubt that this is the way of the majority.

But, moving away from this idea of the sale of music, I want to briefly talk about what the Internet can do for the creation of music. It’s easy to namecheck Trent Reznor in a lot of these posts, but he is certainly a pioneer for new methods of music manipulation with his Nine Inch Nails remix projects. And when I spoke to duo Black Cobra a few months ago they revealed that email played a vital role in their songwriting, with the two members sending ideas and samples to each other when they couldn’t meet up in a studio.

Ultimateband.com is (currently) completely free to all users.

One other idea that is yet to really take off, but remains an extremely interesting concept is the one pioneered by Eddie Lance, with his website Ultimateband.com. Essentially a notice board where people request parts of songs to be completed by those who have the required talent, the true magic of the idea is that it allows people to find other like-minded musicians to complete their visions.

For me, this type of web site can be amazing.  I don’t have many friends that are musicians.  This way I can get the instruments I need when I need them,” says Lance. “I thought it would be wonderful if I had a place to go to where I could search tons of musicians and also be able to post a project where they could audition for me.

It’s certainly a brave idea and one that currently remains a pet project but there is no denying his optimism. “I think as long as I can get the word out about the web site it will do really well.  From there, who knows what could become of the site.”

This is just the kind of promising young upstart that begins to make you realise that the Internet is set to affect the music industry in many more areas than just distribution. In ten, or maybe even five years time we could be looking at a completely different musical landscape, perhaps one without record labels, without albums, perhaps even one without fully fledged bands. It remains both an exciting and dangerous time, and the gradual upheaval is sure to leave many behind, just in the same way as compact discs still leave my nan flummoxed. But for those who manage to hang on for the ride, then there is more than just negative points to consider as music and Internet slowly combine into one force.

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