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its role in influencing music is very similar to the role corporate America plays in journalism. A lot of the influence is based on controlling the content that is released. The recording industry is primarily concerned with what will make the most money for their business. They do not concern themselves with opening music up to new styles and ideas. Dick Hebdige discusses the intent to convert music into a commodity form, something that will generate revenues for the recording industry. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should be taking part in this control, but the creation of The Future of Music Coalition suggests that the FCC is not fully committing to its responsibilities. The Future of Music Coalition is a direct result of the lack of a creative commons shaped by the recording industry. The echoing press is a theme in journalism, which is under constant interrogation. It is hard to decide if journalism is truly being a watchdog or if they are under influence of those in political and financial power. Skepticism rests on the idea that it is very plausible that journalists keep in good terms with those in power in order to get the biggest and best stories. In order for journalists to make money, they have to be able to talk to influential people. They always have to be in “the know” to get leads on upcoming stories. In addition, corporate America has pushed for the consolidation of journalism. The more media merges, the more opportunity there is for big corporate companies to make money and the less opportunity there is for differences of opinions within the music industry.
David Bollier in his piece, Brand Name Bullies discusses The Crusade to Lock Up Music. “Indeed, one of the ways that a society constitutes itself as a society is by freely sharing its words, music, and art” (Bollier, 13). Sharing is a key function of his discussion. Bollier suggests that without the ability to collaborate, society as a whole is damaged. In total contrast, Bollier also proposes that we are currently facing this dilemma in our society because of the attempt of the recording industry to manage new technological advancements that provide easier distribution of music. “No wonder the recording industry has scrambled to develop new technological locks and broader copyright protections; they strengthen its control of music distribution” (Bollier, 14). It is evident that the recording industry strives to have as much control as possible, but this puts musical creativity at risk. Dick Hebdige discusses different types of music as distinct subcultures in Subculture: The Meaning of Style. “It is through this continual process of recuperation that the fractured order is repaired and the subculture incorporated as diverting spectacle within the dominant mythology from which it in part emanates: as ‘folk devil’, as Other, as Enemy” (Hebdige, 94). He suggests that subcultures are recognized for being outsiders and the press finds a way to incorporate them into society characteristically as the ideological form and the commodity form. The ideological form is “the ‘labeling’ and re-definition of deviant behavior by dominant groups – the police, the media, the judiciary” (Hebdige, 94). The media incorporates these subcultures in the ideological form by developing new ways of thinking about them so they are not threatening. Essentially, this means that the press emphasizes the idea that the public should pretend the subcultures do not exist as they do. The press teaches that differences are not acceptable, but since they do exist, they must only exist in a dominant culture’s satisfactory mind frame.
The commodity form, on the other hand, is concerned primarily with consumption. It is shown clearly in the subculture of punk music. By turning punk music into something that would generate revenues, it became no longer a threat. Hebdige argues that once subcultures become commodities they become “frozen” (Hebdige, 96). The subcultures are taken by media and formed into commodities, regardless of if the meanings of the subculture become distorted or overthrown. This is done in an attempt to make subcultures accepted in the dominant society. “Once removed from their private contacts by small entrepreneurs and big fashion interests who produce them on a mass scale, they become codified, made comprehensible, rendered at once public property and profitable merchandise” (Hebdige, 96). The recording industry invites these subcultures and incorporates creativity at a large cost to the musicians. Furthermore, the recording industry only incorporates these musicians as an attempt to generate a new source of revenue. However, the cost to the musicians is the loss of their subculture. As the recording industry signs a new type of musician and gives them a record deal to get them started, they force their subculture to become part of the dominant culture. They incorporate their subculture into society and generate huge profits from the process. To the dismay of the recording industry, it has been found evident that the public are becoming more attentive to the issues music is facing. In Conclusion: Reclaiming the Cultural Commons, Bollier discusses how the public interest movement is beginning to gain momentum. “Ever since the Napster controversy dramatized the everyday implications of copyright law, ordinary people are more aware that technological and legal battles can directly affect them” (Bollier, 245). This new found public awareness can create problems for the recording industry. Ever since the Internet was created, the public have had more opportunity to assert their opinions.
New public awareness is evident in the DMCA stating that “copyright law is impeding artistic creativity and how consumers want to hear alternative kinds of music” (Bollier 246-247). The DMCA is only a small portion of the discussion going around about copyright issues. “Copyright abuses can no longer be swept under the rug, thanks to a number of enterprising Web sites that gather information and publicize stories” (Bollier, 246). He goes on to say, “online resources are exploding” (Bollier, 246). Since the beginning of the internet, the public has had the ability to become more involved with the discussion on copyright abuse. “Copyright law is impeding artistic creativity and […] consumers want to hear alternative kinds of music” (Bollier, 246-247). Consumers with a distinct desire to hear different music types have the ability to express their opinions now, since the internet evolved. This allowed several groups to form in spite of the resisting recording industry. At the forefront of public activism is the Future of Music Coalition. In Radio Is Wrecked —But It Can Be Repaired, John Nichols says, “The Future of Music Coalition (FMC), [is] the alliance of musicians and fans that conducts the nuts-and-bolts research of media consolidation that should be done by the Federal Communications Commission” (Nichols, 1). Bollier discusses that the Future of Music Coalition is musicians “finding their voice” (Bollier, 247), in spite of the recording industry. “For years the recording industry has presumed to speak for artists. Now a growing corps of performers, many with marquee reputations, is insisting upon speaking for themselves” (Bollier, 247). Whether the group is fighting industry contracts or the distribution system, musicians are beginning to stand up to the recording industry through the Future of Music Coalition. In addition to the Future of Music Coalition, new public awareness of issues in the music business has led to several discussions on public education. Many are suggesting that Congress
and state legislatures become involved in these issues by interpreting the issues to the press and thus, the general public. “The very politics of copyright law are starting to change now that so many fresh voices are creating a new policy literature, new public platforms for grassroots opinion, new technical expertise, and better press outreach” (Bollier, 247). The idea is to get copyright issues out in the open whereas before, they were dealt with behind closed doors. Getting these issues out in front of the public would be very beneficial in allowing the audience and the musicians to have a voice in the issues that directly affect them. The way copyright issues are dealt with currently leaves several doors open for discrepancies in the true motive for the legislations. Not letting the public or press in on the issues and holding all responsibility on the Federal Communications Commission to speak for the musicians, suggests that there may be ulterior motives. The Federal Communications Commission has already been shown to fall short of its responsibilities as a mediator between the recording industry and musicians. This was proved with the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The FCC was clearly not looking out for public interest or the interest of musicians when it allowed for extreme consolidation. It seems that having this policy decided behind closed doors comes immediately to attention during discussions of the negative impact of consolidation. Nichols emphasizes the consolidation initiated by the recording industries and those that own the recording industries. Media consolidation leads to a multiplicity of negative results on radio programming. According to Peter DiCola in, False Premises, False Promises: A Quantitative History of Ownership Consolidation, consolidation has lead to homogenized programming. There are fewer radio companies and those that are left, are getting larger. This leads to an increased revenue concentration. “revenue increased from 12 percent market share for the top four companies in 1993 to 50 percent market share for the top four
companies in 2004” (DiCola, 2). In addition to this, fewer formats make up programming on the radio, and only a few select stations offer any niche formats. “Niche musical formats like Classical, Jazz, Americana, Bluegrass, New Rock, and Folk, where they exist, are provided almost exclusively by smaller station groups” (DiCola, 4). This suggests that by consolidating radio and increasing merging of companies in radio programming, a decrease in the amount of creativity readily available on the radio has resulted. The creative commons is an attempt to reconceptualize traditional copyright laws. It is an effort to promote creative collaboration within copyright. “Creative Commons are seeking to promote similar sorts of creative collaboration among authors, musicians, filmmakers, and other artists” (Bollier, 248). The Creative Commons understands that music would not be what it is today without collaboration and sharing of ideas. Under current copyright laws, content-sharing is not permitted in any form. Everything is protected under copyright which, in turn, forces a restriction on creativity. “The traditional language of private property, contracts, and market transactions is a necessary but insufficient discourse for our times. The problem is, it does not adequately take account of the inherently social, collaborative nature of creativity” (Bollier, 249). Although the commons is not trying to replace current copyright laws, it is articulating “a set of values that is being systematically eliminated from copyright law (the ability to share, reuse, and transform)” (Bollier, 251). These abilities are crucial to many musicians as transforming music has been such a popular way to express a new creativity in the music world. “Because copyright law focuses on the individual as the source of all value-creation, it has trouble understanding why social collaborations, or commons can be valuable in economic, social, and creative ways” (Bollier, 251). The commons takes the individual rights into consideration from all angles,
allowing musicians to be freely creative while allowing them to have credit for their own creative ideas. The creative commons is helping by reviewing the copyright laws already in place. It has accepted the fact that allowing one group alone (musicians, the FCC, the recording industry) to make decisions for everyone is not necessarily best for public interest. It has been shown through corporate America’s affect on journalism that big business does not have public interest at the forefront of its mind. This has created many problems for musicians, and the consumers who enjoy listening to niche music. The Future of Music Coalition is joining forces with the public, gaining awareness of the copyright issues that directly affect music. Together, these forces are working on a solution to solve this problem before it gets worse. The creative commons is an excellent resolution to this problem and it needs to be pushed to the limit for the sake of music fans across America.
Works Cited Bollier, David. “The Crusade to Lock Up Music” and “Conclusion: Reclaiming the Cultural Commons.” In Brand Name Bullies: The Quest to Own and Control Culture. pp. 13-37, pp. 245-253. DiCola, Peter. “Executive Summary” and “Conclusion.” From False Premises, False Promises: A Quantitative History of Ownership Consolidation in the Radio Industry. December 2006. Hebdige, Dick. Chapter six. In Subculture: The Meaning of Style. pp. 90-99. Nichols, John. “Radio Is Wrecked—But It Can Be Repaired.” The Nation. December 15, 2006.