July 26, 2004

peter gabriel on digital music

CNN has an interview with Peter Gabriel, talking about the digital transformation of the music business. It's good reading, though I wish it was audio instead of text for the nuanced inflections I suspect were there behind some of his statements.

PG on OD2, the European online distribution service that he started in 2000:

Anderson: What motivated you, a successful, musician and artist in your own right, to get involved in the business of digital distribution of music?

Gabriel: A number of reasons. I thought it was a good opportunity. I think it's very important for artists to get involved in the distribution. A new world is being created -- one is dying -- and if artists don't get involved, they're going to get screwed, like they usually do.

And on direct distribution by artists:

Anderson: The Internet has transformed the way we buy and listen to music; the digital revolution has an opportunity to transform the way that music is physically made, doesn't it? It's always been the big guys running this industry so is this an opportunity for musicians to come to the fore at this point?

Gabriel: Well, I really hope so, and there is an initiative that I began with [musician and producer] Brian Eno, called Mudda, which is a magnificent union of digitally downloading artists, and unlike OD2 -- which was always set out to be a commercial venture -- this is a more idealistic venture, which would be owned by artists for artists. So, there would be no business people or investors you [would] have to satisfy, but we need some initial capital, so we're working on that at the moment. But the theory then is that artists could become their own distributors, almost certainly with their record companies, but they can deliver stuff independently if they want. It's not really trying to set up something in opposition to the record companies, but for instance, on some deals now, an artist on a download of an album, or sorry a track, would see maybe only eight pence a track, which is much less if they would see in a physical sale. What I'm afraid of, personally, is that the business will, every time there is a technological breakthrough, the business thinks: "Ah, here we have another chance to claw a big chunk of the cake back for the business and away from the artist." And I think it's really important that artists act together -- which we are notoriously bad at doing -- and I hope that this union idea may get some blood behind it, and we will be able to become our own retailers in part.

Peter Gabriel is one of the most creative artists on the planet, both musically and politically. Are you old enough to remember Trespass and the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway? How about XPLORA 1? Witness? More recently, if you missed the latest tour for Up, or even if you didn't, the concert DVD is stunningly good. And the official PG website is a nice place to wander around and get happily lost as well. Well, if you're a fan like me anyway.

Posted by Gene at July 26, 2004 05:32 PM | TrackBack
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