The past few days have seen an interesting spate of articles appear in global media calling bullshit on Big Tech, with at least one unlikely figure at the helm.
First let's talk Iggy Pop. As is widely reported, Iggy Pop gave a lecture as part of the BBC Music John Peel Lecture. Iggy traded in his blood-soaked skin and stage diving for reading glasses and gave the most erudite speech about the state of the music industry from an actual artist (let alone an icon) that could ever be committed to air or print.
I only ever wanted the money because it was symbolic of love and the best thing I ever did was to make a lifetime commitment to continue playing music no matter what, which is what I resolved to do at the age of 18. If who you are is who you are that is really hard to steal, and it can lead you in all sorts of useful directions when the road ahead of you is blocked and it will get blocked. Now I'm older and I need all the dough I can get. So I too am concerned about losing those lovely royalties, now that they've finally arrived, in the maze of the Internet. But I'm also diversifying my income, because a stream will dry up. I'm not here to complain about that, I'm here to survive it.
Inspiring all the way around. Go, Iggy. The dude is a survivor. But just one thing-- why the hell should he have to merely survive? Because of Big Tech, naturally. Iggy even referenced this himself in the lecture. The old boss is same as the new boss.
But now YouTube is trying to put the squeeze on these people because it's just easier for a power nerd to negotiate with a couple big labels who own the kind of music that people listen to when they're really not that into music, which of course is most people.
I'll stop at this Iggy quote before moving on, because it sums up perfectly the very real and rational mistrust the musician (or writer, or director, or fine artist or photographer) feels about the Big Data vacuum companies who want more more more while paying out less less less:
... things have changed, haven't they? We are now talking about Megaupload, Kim Dot Com, big money, political power, and varying definitions of theft that are legally way over my head. But I know a con man when I see one."
So do we, Iggy. In the meantime, The Trichordist points us to another BBC piece in which Google has once again pledged to, wink wink, fight piracy, wink wink. I lay on the sarcasm thickly because for years the music industry has complained that Google hasn't done much when it comes to downgrading piracy sites in its search listing, although it clearly has the power to do so. But to do so would give up a steady revenue stream of ad-supported piracy.
From the BBC:
The company has long been criticised for enabling people to find sites to download entertainment illegally. The entertainment industry has argued that illegal sites should be "demoted" in search results.
The new measures, mostly welcomed by music trade group the BPI, will instead point users towards legal alternatives such as Spotify and Google Play.
Google will now list these legal services in a box at the top of the search results, as well as in a box on the right-hand side of the page.
Crucially, however, these will be adverts - meaning if legal sites want to appear there, they will need to pay Google for the placement.
So let's review. Google profits off of piracy thanks to Adsense and its other sites. And now it will profit off of legitimacy by charging the same musicians and record companies it's been screwing out of revenue to place ads on its legitimate search. Cute, huh?
The BBC points out that for years, the pirate sites ranked higher in search than legitimate ones, but that Google was "reluctant to tamper with its "organic" results, but leant on by the government, has gradually backed down and implemented some measures, although their effectiveness is often disputed."
It's simple: Just as the robber barons from days of yore had to be reigned in, so must Big Data. The notion that they are policing themselves is not lip service so much as an outright joke.
A few years ago I wrote a series of articles about how the Free Culture movement's collateral damage was destroying advertising. Now in 2014, we're looking at the first year in which there have been zero platinum records.
With the internet's promise of having more music widely available from such far reaching sources, it is impossible to blame the quality of music. And clearly all that "free culture," hasn't moved the needle on sales or inspired people to support the artist another way. On the contrary, it has shrunk the musical economy. From record company to Iggy Pop and back. No one is making money. And if you give your album away like U2, you become the musical equivalent of a leper.
Congratulations Big tech and all the Freehadists. This is a utopia cesspool of your own devising, where economies collapse and monopolies influence foreign governments, while ripping off the culture you greedily consume for free. You only have yourself to blame. Question becomes, how much longer will it last before the best musicians pack it in? How long until new bands form, release one album and break up due to lack of funds? How much longer before the next John Lennon packs it in before they even begin?
Thanks to Big Tech, there's no future in Google's dreaming.