In 1993, musician, alternative icon, and the producer behind such classic releases as Nirvana‘s In Utero and the Pixies‘ Surfer Rosa, Steve Albini, wrote an essay for The Baffler titled The Problem With Music, a problem he now says has finally been solved by the proliferation of internet access.
Albini’s seminal essay, which has become essential reading for rock bands the world over, famously broke down the reality of the record industry, which strives to generate profits for everyone except the artists themselves, who he famously wrote, end up making a third as much as a 7-11 employee.
Now, twenty years on, Albini has told Quartz, “The single best thing that has happened in my lifetime in music, after punk rock, is being able to share music, globally for free.” His comments come in contrast to fellow music philosophiser David Byrne, who warned musicians of the web in 2013.
“Record labels, which used to have complete control, are essentially irrelevant,” says Albini. “The process of a band exposing itself to the world is extremely democratic and there are no barriers. Music is no longer a commodity, it’s an environment, or atmospheric element. Consumers have much more choice and you see people indulging in the specificity of their tastes dramatically more.”
“They only bother with music they like,” he adds. However, Albini fails to mention how this new system benefits who The Problem With Music was written for in the first place: the artists. Albini also gushes over the fact that musos can now find global audiences “with no corporate participation,” but mentions YouTube, owned by Google, as one of the avenues for that kind of worldwide reach.
“On balance, the things that have happened because of the Internet have been tremendously good for bands and audiences, but really bad for businesses that are not part of that network,” Albini proclaims, “the people who are siphoning money out. I don’t give a fuck about those people.”