The turn of the millenium “information wants to be free”-movement yielded some great innovations in terms of how to think about copyright and file-sharing. People like Lawrence Lessig who pioneered alternative licenses like Creative Commons unlocked new ways for creators and artists to distribute their music freely and legally on the terms they saw fit and even pass those privileges to their audiences. A generation of DIY musicians and audiences could suddenly engage in ways that seemed impossible after nearly a decade of the music industry trying to sue their way out of loosing control of distribution. These new licensing models were necessary and vital to support an emerging remix culture where blogging and bootleg remixes were playing a larger and larger role.
While the discussion around licensing was very productive and produced usable solutions, the issue of remuneration was not adequately addressed. In fact any talk about new economic models were mostly shrugged off with a "deal with it" or met with purely fictitious proposals that were not remotely tethered to reality. It created a split in an else unidirectional push from a new generation of audience and music creators towards a functioning ecosystem for digital-first culture products.
Along came the platforms and their “solutions”. Most were new market speculators eyeing an opportunity for building and controlling new infrastructure for a desperate music business. Few were there to actually help independent actors find and connect with their audience in a world that had decided music should be freely accessible for all.
The solutions were as expected not solutions at all, but merely extractive schemes devised by vampiric outsiders who cared very little for the music scene and very much for their profit margin. And so the whole space of web2 - the protocols, the blogs, the DIY musicians, the remix culture etc. - was co-opted and converted. Music into "content" and community and audience into "users".
What was missing at that crucial moment around 20 years ago was a way to build a livelihood around the work of creating and distributing your music, as well as building an audience, all while remaining autonomous as to how you wanted to do it.
I think that with web3 technology and the ways of organising within it, the missing piece in the puzzle, that is digital culture and economy, has been unearthed. If we place it right we'll discover a path to an open and free culture that is able to sustain itself economically.
With diverse licenses like Creative Commons we can ensure that everyone has general access to media in a way that enables a true open culture. With tokens and verifiable ownership of digital assets, creators can build communities that both help support their work and also engage in the ongoing task of maintaining the cultural products that spring from it.
New models in music are possible, but finding them requires us to shed our client-mindset and free ourselves from platforms that were neither built for us or by us.
Illustration: SolSeedlings 512print.sol #33 - solseedlings.art