This is the era of the Information Age. I have always taken that for granted. Mass global communication, Internet, cell phones, laptops, these are all things second nature to me. Yet, even though these inventions are second nature to me, new uses for them throw me into amazement and wonder.




Currently, I am fascinated how the music industry has been affected by the Information Age. Just as many had predicted the death of the novel, many predict the music business will die just as well.




A signal of this "death" of music as an industry is the current trend of musicians posting their music independently online. Radiohead was perhaps the first band that fled from the major labels to post their album online. This album is "In Rainbows." One could download the album for free (at a low quality that the general public has grown accustomed to) or choose how much they would like to pay for the album. Skeptics of this method predicted no one would pay. However, in an interview for Wired magazine, Thom Yorke (singer) actually stated the band profited more from this on-line album than all previous Radiohead albums put together.




Part of this success owes to Radiohead previously never receiving compensation for sales of iTunes, Amazon.com, or other Internet download sales. While musicians in the past have stated that Napster and other illegal downloads are killing the music industry, we must remember that all profits from CDs and vinyl sales are heavily filtered through record companies. Very few artists make large profits through album sales.




Yorke's interviewer, David rne, stated he makes most of his money through licensing Talking Head songs for films, television shows and commercials. These are the biggest payoffs for musicians, not albums or live performances.




Yet, experiments following Radiohead have not turned such positive results. Saul Williams' new album produced by Nine Inch Nail's Trent Reznor, "Niggy Tardust," was released similarly via online download. The free download is a lower quality but purchase has a fixed rate of $5.00. While Radiohead's "In Rainbows" was meant to offset premature online leaks, Saul Williams and Trent Reznor's project was their sole means of transference to the consuming market. There is no CD, vinyl record, or DVD package of "Niggy Tardust" coming soon. This album was truly a gamble. After a few months of possible sales, Reznor posted results. The outcome was not favorable.




Reznor's site claims only 18.3 percent paid the $5. However, the overall audience for Saul Williams has more than tripled. Still, in the words of Trent Reznor, "nobody's getting rich off this project." This album utilizes many copyrighted samples, which are becoming increasingly expensive to use, and limit the cost to $5. Reznor was surprised the paying percentage was so small, and I must admit I did not pay for this album. Now I wish I had.




As the Information Age continues to force innovation and evolve certain markets, as we find ourselves primarily listening to iPods, Zunes, and MP3 players, as Internet connections become lightning quick, we must support the independent musicians' online experiments. Otherwise, this market will soon be gobbled up by businessmen and the artist will be shoved out of the business of art.




We are witnessing the infancy of a new species of independent musicianship. We have the chance to support a new art form free from ad-driven commercialism; we have the chance to directly support artists. Let's not miss the opportunity.




is a graduate of Southern Oregon University with a degree in English. He lives in Ashland with his fianc&

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