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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

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May 12, 2010

For There Will Be Musicians

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

detail from illustration The Atlantic article
...even if the (current) music industry dies the death it seems so richly to deserve. So assures us Marc Weidenbaum , publisher of the online electronic 'zine Disquiet. Normally, Disquiet only has things to say about its musical topics, which are primarily ambient and electronic music.

However, in the May issue of The Atlantic, editor Megan McArdle took to task the current generation of "freeloaders", complaining that "...a generation of file-sharers is ruining the future of entertainment." Are we, now? Responding to the news that last year was yet another dismal year for the recording portion of the Cartel, McArdle recites figures that lament the aging of the music acts that pull in big bucks. She's apparently completely unaware of the club scene, the DJ scene, the remix scene or - frankly - anything that someone under 30 would consider modern, new, interesting music.

It's true that if your concert tickets are $200 each then you're not going to get a lot of young people at your shows. But really is that something wrong with the audience, or with your ticket price? It seems that McArdle is confusing a couple of different concepts here.

Weidenbaum points out another fundamental contradiction in the piece - the conflation of "the music industry" with "musicians." And to point out that contradiction he wrote a response and commissioned something very much like a musical (ambient) score to go along with that response. He asked ambient musicians to riff on the illustration that accompanied the Atlantic piece (which itself might have been technically a copyright violation) and then he goes to town on McArdle.

The result is a mixed media piece called "Despite the Downturn: An Answer Album" that you can read and listen to (for free) on archive.org. Ambient music is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition for me, but I really enjoyed playing the album while reading Weidenbaum's thoughtful response. I encourage you to do the same.

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