Cory Doctorow. He’s from the EFF and he’s here to help. Agree? Y/N
Image via Wikimedia Commons under a CC Licence
Yesterday, I sort of took Jupiter Research analyst Mark Mulligan to task about some fairly sloppy thinking. I did it on a blog of mine that almost nobody reads (sort of a scrapbook of things I note as interesting in passing), rather than in a major public forum like Music Think Tank, or on my own New Music Strategies site - because actually, it didn’t seem that important.
I wasn’t out to start anything - just kinda making notes.
Mulligan himself has painted the feedback he got as something of a firestorm, and has offered to host the raging debate he expects to ensue online at his personal blog. That’s fine. I recommend that strategy to you. Pick a fight, and then make sure you’re the destination where that dispute takes place.
I’ll freely admit that’s what I did when I debated Gerd Leonhard on his Music Like Water thing. Gerd gets far more readers than I do. Perhaps rightly so. If there’s going to be a discussion, then I was quite keen for that discussion to take place on my site rather than his. Not that any of my points or opinions were manufactured or orchestrated in a brazen bid to generate traffic - but if your goal is to attract some attention for something creative (eg: writing, recording) - then you want to be where the conversation is taking place online.
But this Mulligan thing got me thinking. I often lose track as to who I agree with and who I disagree with. I was surprised by Mulligan’s outburst - not because it was out of character for him, but because in my brain, I always had him pegged as someone who is likely to think the same sorts of things I think.
In this instance, not only did I think he came to the conclusions poorly - I think he also came to the wrong conclusions. In a follow-up post, he makes a briefly entertaining argument in favour of gun control, but very little else.
So I wondered if I had always disagreed with him about music online, or whether it was just recently, and only about “piracy” - a term he uses liberally, without considering his own clarification that unauthorised file sharing is NOT theft.
Which led me to consider - who do I actually think is right about all this stuff, generally speaking?
Who do I agree with again?
Now, I’m a strong advocate of taking every person’s arguments one at a time, and not filtering them through a preconception based on previous opinions held on other areas. Every idea should be weighed up on its own merits and debated accordingly. And you should always be prepared to change your mind about something, if a convincing case has been put, and has been argued rigorously.
But by the same token, we human beings like a bit of certainty and like to be able to compartmentalise knowledge. Nothing wrong with that, and it serves as a helpful guideline and shortcut. Wouldn’t it be helpful to just know ‘Oh, this is person X, who I think is right about A, but wrong about B’.
In other words - I want to know at any moment whose opinions I respect but disagree with, whose I think are right on the money, and whose opinions I have difficulty even keeping up with. And I want to be able to approach their writings with that in mind.
I mean - I know what I think (though I often wonder whether other people do - I’m so often misrepresented), and I guess I could characterise it in a manifesto (must get around to writing one of those), but I can’t help thinking how useful it would be to have a sort of baseball card style easy reference guide as to the main points, beliefs and hobby horses of the main online music (and related field) analysts and thinkers.
Superstars of online music industry analysis
It would have to include people like Gerd Leonhard, Cory Doctorow, Michael Masnick, Kevin Kelly, Michael Arrington, Bruce Houghton, Chris Anderson, Lawrence Lessig, all of my fellow Think Tankers…
Indications of where these thinkers stand on major issues like copyright reform, ad-supported music, major record label business practice, strategy picks for success, what their particular ‘schtick’ is - whether it’s advocating a particular model, predicting the future, getting angry at lawsuits, reporting breaking news, etc. - and perhaps even some way of tracking the way in which their ideas have developed over time.
I’d find it really useful - because I read an awful lot of this stuff. It’d be helpful to have a really easy overview of the whole terrain, figure out where people stand, and then artists and music businesses will be able to say “Oh, I’m a fairly radical Arringtonist when it comes to the major labels - but when it comes to music discovery, I’m a Warila-ite.”
I reckon a survey with 20-30 questions ought to do it. Answers can range from strongly disagree to strongly agree on things like:
- I think the major record labels should perish
- I believe we will emerge from a state of chaos and the industry will resolve into a new working model
- The term of copyright should be extended
- I think it is possible to build a music economy on the basis of free downloads
I’d love to see the results of that. Hell, I’d even buy the baseball cards, if someone made them. That Cory Doctorow’s a handsome man.
Of course, the final step would be to make a web app with a sliding scale on it so you could rate your own opinions about all of these things, and then press a button to find out whose blogs you should read so that your own ideas are always echoed back to you and reinforced - and you would never be confronted with a challenging idea ever again.
Oh, no wait…