What’s next after free streaming?
I have a good friend who writes about hip-hop for a living and we’re always finding similarities between the rootsy “anything with a fiddle” stuff I focus on and the rappers about whom she writes. I sent her a link to my blog post the other day about free streaming music and she posted it on a hip-hop forum, where extensive discussion apparently ensued. The thrust of their discussion, I’m told, was that maybe now is the time for independent artists to get a leg up on how people will be getting their music next year or the year after that.
The idea that emerged, and I’m going to paraphrase here, was that songs will come embedded with meta tags so that listeners can do their own mash-ups. Keep in mind, this is a conversation in the hip-hop world where it’s all about taking music and making it your own. Producers and DJs make musical collages, so it would only make sense for future tracks to make it easier for fans to make their own beats simply by uploading tracks into iTunes (or whatever we’re using at that point) and pulling out pieces of songs based on those meta tags.
I don’t entirely understand this, but I asked my friend, “So there would be a fiddle tag and, if you were working on a tune, you could call up anything with a fiddle tag and import it?” Yes. Still doesn’t really make sense, but okay.
The consensus in the room when my friend and I were discussing this was that the meta tagging may fly in the hip-hop community, but most music fans listen to music because they don’t make it. They don’t necessarily want to be involved in the making of the song. Particularly in roots music, I found it hard to believe that roots music fans would be at all interested in cutting up tracks and re-ordering them to make something else. Am I wrong there?
Because my next thought was how we all love sitting around at festivals and jamming – whether we’re any good or not. Being involved with the music, finding accessible music we can figure out on our own in a pinch, is a big part of this whole field. I suggested something rootsy folks might be more into is an interactive Guitar Hero sort of situation where we play along with the song and then have the option of hitting a pedal (who doesn’t love guitar pedals?) that switches us from play-along mode to improv mode. Then we add our guitar solo (or, in my ideal Guitar Hero imagination, there are fiddles and banjos, etc.) which gets saved in a giant virtual sound bucket of sorts from which other users can download the new song with our added guitar part. In the future, your favorite song could be a collaboration between Wilco, some dude in Peoria with a Jug Band Hero jaw harp, and yours truly. How cool would that be?
I don’t think there’s any end in sight for the traditional model of making and listening to music. As a songwriter and a fan, I seriously hope that method hangs around forever. It works, it’s stirring and purposeful. If it’s not broke, don’t try to fix it, right? At the same time, though, I appreciate the interactive direction our culture is going – something I think is fueled by the whole Web 2.0 (and 3.0 and 4.0) thing. Interaction within music, through music, because of music makes perfect sense. I think our hip-hop-loving neighbors over at 206proof made some good points with where they took that discussion. What do you folks think? It might be one way to turn music back into a profitable field. We know darn well people will still pay for video games and software.