To enter a new thread in the long-running series of arguments about how illegal P2P filesharing is impacting the music industry--and specifically the future of artists and fans, not so much the record companies--I would like to posit to the Coachella Board that filesharing may be the true reason we've seen this explosive surge in new music festivals the past few years.
This might seem suspect coming from me since I've always been on the side that downloading music without paying for it will not result in ruination for artists or fans (although the record companies are totally fucked), but rather will force musicians to shift their revenue focus from record material to live performance.
My utopian vision of how the future shapes up with things following their current trends says that soon the conglomerates who got rich by overcharging for the creative work of their poorly-treated talent will all die, or at least transform into strictly live performance focused entities. It will be effectively impossible for artists to charge for their albums at all but this won't be as bad as it seems as the quality of concerts will skyrocket (probably ticket prices too), the musicians will end up making more money from this REAL work than the pittance their old album pimps gave them, and this crazy sidetrack our world took off on for a few years where everything is ClearChannel or TRL or similar horseshit will get back to the truth of music:
Are they good live?
Sorry, let me get back on track and to the point already, fuck the recap--I was reading Pitchfork tonight and saw something that reminded me of how many new music festivals (particularly destination fests) we've seen born in just the past few years. Since 2004: Stagecoach, V Festival, Virgin Fest, All Points West, Monolith, Rothbury, Vegoose (RIP), Mile High, Outside Lands, Wakarusa, Lollapalooza (reborn as destination fest), and I'm sure the list could go on. More new destination multi-day festivals started in these four years than there were options prior to 2004--it was pretty much just Coach, Bonnaroo, ACL, Sasquatch, and I suppose a slew of more regional smaller fests I don't feel obliged to include.
My question is to what can we attribute this? An industry like the modern music establishment is frankly with precious few options--they must find new revenue. Attempts to thwart the free exchange of their horseshit copyrighted product starting around 2000 failed pathetically, and their once astronomical income continued to disappear at an alarming rate. 1999 was very probably the most prosperous year for the industry ever, selling an approximate total of 13 BILLION retail copies according to the RIAA. By 2004 it was down 1.5 billion--not totally cripping--but within three short years that number plummets another 4 billion. The industry will see its total sales figures halved in only 9 years of widespread filesharing when 2008 data is released. Sucks to be you, record companies.
FORTUNATELY for those of us who are not record companies, our music is cheaper and attractive concert opportunities have never been more plentiful. Almost everyone has a fest right in their backyard nowadays, and though Capitol may be dying a slow, ugly death doesn't it seem a little more than just coincidence that AEG, Livenation, and other promoters are reaping the rewards of an unprecedented surge of interest in live music?
This is how real trickle-down economic theory should work, dammit: make the sample of the product available to everyone for free, which will result in more fans for any given property thanks to the greater exposure rate, ease, and lack of cost, and then see the demand for more personal engagement with the art push new fans to spend the 15 dollars a CD would have cost on more expensive concert or fest tickets and even more on merchandise.
THE FREE MARKET SAVED MUSIC. This has been yet another rambling dissertation brought to you by RSW, TLGM, the number 3, and thieves.