Greg Kot writes up the Future of Music

In the Chicago Tribune, Greg Kot writes up the recent Future of Music Coalition summit in Montreal. The article’s an astute if not novel analysis of the state of the music business, emphasizing the shift toward lots of bands that sell 100,000 or fewer records over a few bands that sell bazillions. The role of the net, of course, gets a mention, casting online fans as the new tastemakers in place of record labels and MTV:

A new Internet-savvy music hierarchy is being created. Commercial radio, MTV, retails stores and even record companies are losing their tastemaking status, while consumers are becoming de facto music programmers who share information and music via message boards, Web pages, e-zines and MP3 blogs.

In the end, though, Kot returns to the fact that no matter how great this digital revolution may be, ultimately there is nothing that comes close to seeing a band play live:

It’s one thing to hear an MP3 file of a new band like Montreal’s Lovely Feathers, quite another to hear that band perform that same song on stage. The breathtaking intensity of the quintet’s live performance at Pop Montreal made the songs on their latest album sound quaint in comparison.

“It’s hard to quantify how we got noticed,” said the Arcade Fire’s Win Butler. “No doubt Pitchfork had an impact. But who really cares reading an article? It’s the music ultimately. You listen, and you either like it or you don’t. For us, we’ve been so much about playing live and making that connection that I don’t know any other way.”

“Live music,” said former Talking Heads singer David Byrne, “is an experience you can’t digitize.”

I’m reminded of points I made in earlier posts about the Arctic Monkeys and Hawthorne Heights trying to distance themselves from the online components of their success by referencing their touring. These are not either/or propositions — to the contrary, the more fans are digging and distributing a band’s music online, the more people are going to go to the shows and the more merchandise they’re going to buy when they’re there.

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