“Should music be commoditized?”

I see a light blue Utopian sunrise, out in nature where with one ear to the ground, you can hear the earth’s beating heart.

Art is at the center of any thriving culture, and for thousands of years has been both a way to document and express humanity at its most organic, unadulterated state. The basic right of the artist to demonstrate how they feel or leave fingerprint. It is like marking their own existence, like drawings on cave wall.

Since the advent of commerce, things have changed. Fast forward to modern day society, where capitalism and consumerism drive our impulses like prescription medication filling synapses and we arrive at the “Now”. I am certain we can do better.

Music is an intangible gift to us all. It has a universal quality that can range from helping a couple fall in love, accompanying a religious ceremony, to assuaging a tired workforce. If nothing else, it fills in the air. Without which we would be left to suffer silence amid loneliness.

The unanswered question: Should such an important fabric of human life be commoditized?

This question is difficult to answer, and in many ways presents a facade. The real dilemma revolves around the protection of artists rights and their livelihood. You should not have to commit to sainthood or martyrdom in order to earn a life in art. We should be asking, how can we better protect artists’ rights to own their own creative content, and do with with it as they see fit?

One thing that is clear with regard to the business infrastructure of the music industry as of today, it has become increasingly difficult to make a sustainable living as a working musician without compromising your art. “Look this way” or “ride this wave” are now the common place.

We need to level the playing field and make platforms accessible for a generation of young artists looking to begin careers. Where do we begin?

First, we should start by making all the options transparent, which may or may not run against the grain of music corporations. A young artist can choose to give their music away for free via online music platforms, the trade off being publicity and marketing. The hope here is that an audience would form for live shows. I am not sure if any if this is a sustainable model in terms of a lifestyle, but can often act as a launching point and resource in terms of networking.

Another mode is self production, or the “DIY” model. This has become increasingly popular with advent of successful artists like Jack Johnson the seasoned Dave Grohl, not to mention the rise of virtual music platforms. Even on a smaller scale, you can promote local shows, while owning your own rights without having to take out a second mortgage to finance the production of an album through a record label.

The most viable option I see at least in a community where there are plenty of live venues is to simply put, play live shows. Build an audience, network with other artists and industry people, become friendly with bar and club owners. This seems like a concrete way for a young performer to begin their career. Not to mention, you would be honing your art on the bandstand rather than in an apartment or a practice room.

Not to complicate this issue further, but all parties involved including consumers, artists, and business leaders must decide first what sort of product we are selling before we can codify the nature of commoditizing such an intangible, important part of human life.

Are we selling a message, a brand, an image, a particular experience, a piece of clothing or all of the above? This is a question each artist and consumer has to answer for themselves before we can begin to navigate an ever evolving virtual musical economy.

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