The future is what it used to beMay 28, 2009
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
Imagine Elvis never happened. Imagine Elvis Presley recording all his music for a dollar in the little booth where he cut that first 78 for his mother’s birthday. And imagine a music industry which, instead of investing in a single massive star called Elvis, distributed ten thousand stars, all recording for a dollar, in totally different styles, all appealing to small, highly self-conscious cults in a fragmented society. A society in a state of fabulous confusion, exploding into fragments. Our society, now.
Sound familiar? That text is from an essay, titled “Pop Stars? Nein Danke!” by famously eccentric Scottish musician Momus (pictured). And it was written almost two decades ago (in 1991). As that quote demonstrates, it’s an astonishingly prescient essay; in fact, I stumbled on it while I was trying to find the earliest use of the phrase, “In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen people.”
A bit more to whet your appetite:
The feeling I get when I walk into a record shop is not that there is a battle of titans ‘clashing for the number one spot’. That is the model of the old monopoly capitalism. Entering a record shop now, a good one like Tower or the Virgin Megastore, is like standing in C.S. Lewis’s Wood Between the Worlds, where you can pick a pond and enter one of an infinite number of worlds at different stages of their evolution….
…To stay sane, to stay plausible, pop artists must drop their claims to universal stardom. Let’s abandon the nostalgia, let’s drop the rhetoric, let’s restructure the music industry. We now have a democratic technology, a technology which can help us all to produce and consume the new, ‘unpopular’ pop musics, each perfectly customised to our elective cults.
Now go and read the whole essay. And by the way, music industry? Don’t tell us that nobody saw it coming.