Having never posted to a blog before (oh the humanity!) I found myself drawn to one of Alex Ross’s older essays published in the New Yorker, published in their October 22 issue in 2007. This essay, entitled “The Well-Tempered Web” expressed Ross’s reflection of the impact his and other music lover’s blogs have had on the output of public discussion, as well as emerging trends in the distribution of music online. Although it was published last year, I feel that much of the observations are relevant to the music trends we discussed in class. Certainly the accessibility of ideas alone is a great contribution. I feel a surge of hope when I read that “no demographically driven executive could suppress, say, a musicology student’s ruminations on György Ligeti’s Requiem on the ground that it had no appeal for twenty-seven-year-old males, even if the blogger in question—Tim Rutherford-Johnson, of The Rambler —was himself twenty-seven.”
This article held a particular relevance to the Napster and file-sharing discussion we had in class. I continue to struggle with the paradox of music on the Internet, caught between the desire to listen to as much as possible without the limitations of buying expensive recordings, and supporting the majority of musicians who make an alarmingly small fraction of their living in CD sales. Klauss Heymann, the founder of Naxos Records and the forerunner of classical music on the Internet, put his entire catalogue online for free in 1996, though later jumping on the strategy of charging a cheap annual fee ($19,95 for a year subscription is still much better than any offers I’ve seen on the internet even today).
What I think is most encouraging about this article is an emergence of a new strategy in the struggle to change the world of music. Classical labels are making more money now by cheaply posting larger volumes of music and selling them in smaller quantities. Explained in the business book “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson, this “selling less of more gives big music sellers like Amazon and Naxos a chance to make more money on a wider variety of their offered material, even though they may only sell one particular album a few times a month. Anderson says, “about a quarter of Amazon’s book sales come from outside its top 100,000 titles.” This means that people who may be intimidated by the daunting amount of classical literature available can explore at their own pace, buy music exposure without a committed investment, and become a bolder advocate for live performance, as buying tickets on the web is as easy as singing up for netflix. I see music geeks all over the world growing more and more daring in the quest for musical knowledge, and maybe even the Internet community setting the youtube aside for an hour or two to go to a real concert.