Creation in the digital age

All the pundits have been yapping about the ease by which a person can make new works in the digital age. Combined with the ease of digital distribution all of this boils down to some sort of pure idea creation, we in the music biz do not necessarily make any physical product any more. Of course a gig is a gig, one has to haul ass and equipment over to the venue – but the music itself is immaterial when performed – it’s heard in the moment and it exists only in memories afterwards.

But what then is valuable? Experiences? How much of a gig experience is down to music, how much is extraneous like people attending, the surroundings and so forth? Is your basic rock gig primarily an aesthetic experience, or is it a social function, like let’s say a nice excuse for drinking a bit too much?

All the musos have been trying to decipher what post-Napster world means, who gets mindshare and on what grounds? When there is no physical product to be moved, we’ve been recast in to a service industry. What service do we peddle then? Is music an end in itself so that the music you listen to is the product, or are we more like a theater or a circus where the experience is the product? Who gets to decide on the content of the experience – the audience or the musicians? Is the audience wanting a readymade experience or should they be involved in choosing the content of the event?

The big question is: against what services do we compete? If we compete against digital contents in their totality the live music experience is going to have a really tough time. To play against all the good music of the world is a pretty daunting prospect. The web which has infinite storage and retrievability makes it all the more daunting.

I’d like to think that improvisation would be a unique selling point for the gigs, the sense of excitement and spontaneous creation. In a world where almost everybody are having almost every song ever recorded in their fingertips 24×7 makes this realtime creation-improvisation a point where the song doesn’t exist digitally and is thus for the moment it’s created a scarce good (even though if somebody records it and puts in on web it becomes a commodity almost instantly). For a few minutes though you are having a unique thing to sell. This should be good news for all improvising musicians…

Yet we have not seen an explosion in improvising artists who would be having a large following…