The cultural vs. commercial value of music

broken guitarDoes music have value? Some would say it used to, but that it has recently be devalued by the internet age and mp3s. Is that true?

Andrew Dubber tackles these questions in a recent blog post, Has music been devalued?

Dubber shares a lesson from history, in which musicians and composers in the early 20th century were worried that recordings would ruin the music business and put them all out of work. After all, if people could listen to recordings for free on the radio, why would anyone hire a band, or buy sheet music? The truth is, the business didn’t die, it just changed.

The industry changed. People learned how to make money, lots of it, from the new recordings. It seems we are facing a similar restructuring of the music business now that the physics of the media have changed, and I’m sure some savvy people will discover ways to profit in the new environment.

Dubber’s conclusion bears repeating.

But more people listen to, engage with and enjoy more music than ever before. It’s not only valued, but prized. Personal identity, association with a sub-genre ‚Äòtribe’, clothing style, use of language, socialisation and a great many other cultural factors are now entirely predicated on music. Far from being devalued, for a lot of us – it’s pretty much the most important thing.

So – to take what might be seen as a provocative stance, I propose the following:

1) Claiming that ‚Äòmusic has been devalued’ is both entirely defeatist and a complete cop-out;

2) Blaming everything and everyone else for the problems you may be facing as the world changes around you makes you come across, like Sousa, as a miserable old sod;

3) Recognising the fact that you haven’t yet found a way to tap into the ways in which people now consume music (but that such a way does exist) might just be the key to solving the problem of extracting commercial value out of the immense cultural value everyone’s getting out of music – more than ever before.

Read it all.