Tech disruption of music documented in two videos

The music business has been pivoting around new digital realities for about 15 years. All layers of production are affected — composing, performing, recording, manufacturing, distributing, and ownership of copyright.

Streaming music, RAIN’s core focus, is the just the most recent expression of technology disrupting business models in music. Unauthorized files sharing and song-by-song download stores set the stage for streaming’s paradigm of replacing ownership with access. But the surge of streaming services is a radical twist on the digitization of music. As mainstream audiences migrate to listening platforms as a major form of music consumption, musicians are offended by granular royalty payments from those services — sometimes filtered through label contracts created before streaming was on the musician’s radar screen.

Is music being destroyed by the Internet? That alarmist view finds voice through David Byrne (“…the Internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left”) and others. It is safe to say that music is being disrupted, as the creative arts have been many times in the past.

This week a panel event called Virgin Disruptors hit the topic straight on: “Has tech killed the music industry?” (Watch the archive here.) The conversation featured musicians Zoe Keating,, Amanda Palmer, and Imogen Heap, and from the tech side, reps from Spotify, Vevo, and Songkick. The conversation seeks alignment of the artists’ business needs with business models on the tech side.

A more formal exploration of tech/music disruption is in the works: a documentary called Unsound: How Musicians and Creators Survive in the Age of Free. A nine-minute extended trailer is showing on Vimeo. The trailer, movie title, and key quotes tell a preliminary story of gloom, and appear to advocate for plights of musicians: 

  • “UNSOUND reveals the story behind the dramatic collapse of the music business.” 
  • “As the world becomes increasingly digital, creators are now at risk.”
  • “The future of all creators is at stake.”
  • “The digital delivery of IP is our generation’s nuclear power.”

Interviewees featured in the trailer include Jim Griffin (thought leader in the digital media space), David Lowery (activist musician who writes about streaming royalties), Chris Vrenna (Nine Inch Nails), and others.

Brad Hill