The Internet is Good for People Who Listen to Music!

One of the crazier things about contemporary life is that you see tons of words spilled on the question of how much the internet is hurting the music industry. This goes on even though I’ve never heard anyone even attempt to argue that a person in 2009 looking for some good music to listen to is in a worse situation than was a person in 1989. Tobi Vail, guest-posting for Carrie Brownstein, isn’t quite focused in on that point, but I think it’s implicit in what she says:

I asked a younger friend of mine if he thought the Internet had eliminated the hierarchy of “cool,” and he said, “Instead of hanging out with annoying record-collector guys, kids today just read that guy’s blog, but the same guys still get to decide what’s considered cool.” I think he’s right regarding hipster culture, where there does seem to be a handful of male-dominated music sites that exert a disproportionate influence over what’s trendy. But women have thrived in the past 10 years, and our history is being documented and preserved like never before.

Today, previously hard-to-find records by ’60s soul queens Irma Thomas, Marva Whitney and Betty Davis are readily available. People know who Betty Harris, Meredith Monk, Karen Dalton and Patty Waters are, and if they don’t, they can easily find out once they hear a name. Listservs such as Typical Girls offer a place to share information about out-of-print recordings by esoteric post-punk groups like Y Pants, Bush Tetras, Fatal Microbes, The Mo-Dettes and Snatch. A new generation of all-female bands such as Erase Errata, Mika Miko, Wet Dog and Finally Punk were informed by this history. “Feminal” all-female punk groups The Raincoats and The Slits reunited, and still play to responsive crowds who know all the words to their old songs; original members of both groups are actively pursuing solo careers. ESG, Pylon and Young Marble Giants are groups everyone has heard of, if not heard. Yoko Ono has a new record out at 76!

Which is just to reiterate once again that to make minimizing violations of intellectual property law the goal of intellectual property policy would be circular and pointless. Making the goal to maximize producer income would be non-pointless but illegitimate. The goal ought to be to ensure as widespread availability of works to consumers as possible. And all indications are that consumers are much better off than they used to be, and increasingly so. When people start reporting some practical difficulty in finding new music recordings, then call me about strengthening enforcement.