Alternative icon, producer extraordinaire and author behind 1993 essay The Problem with Music, Steve Albini delivered a rousing keynote address at Melbourne’s Face the Music conference on Saturday, where he detailed his optimism about the current state of music, thanks to the power of the internet and no thanks to “purple dwarf” Prince.
Albini began his address, which you can watch below as the video has been made available online, by stating he is “both satisfied and optimistic about the state of the music scene” and says he welcomes the social and technological changes that have influenced how it operates today. “In short,” he adds later, “the internet has made it much easier to conduct the day-to-day business of being in a band and has increased the efficiency,” he said.
“In the blink of an eye music went from being rare, expensive and only available through physical media in controlled outlets to being ubiquitous and free worldwide. What a fantastic development.” He also stated that likening the free sharing and distribution of music to theft, as is the current conversation in the industry, is “bullshit”.
Albini also delved, rather colourfully, into the topic of intellectual property and copyright laws for music in the digital realm. “From my part, I believe the very concept of exclusive intellectual property with respect to recorded music has come to a natural end, or something like an end,” he explained.
“It is no longer possible to maintain control over digitised material and I don’t believe the public good is served by trying to.” He goes on to explain the copyright “absurdities” that abound when home footage or student video projects uploaded online technically violates these rights.
“If your little daughter does a kooky dance to a Prince song don’t bother putting it on YouTube for her grandparents to see or a purple dwarf in assless chaps will put an injunction on you. Did I offend the little guy? Fuck it. His music is poison.”
He also joked that if rights holders want their argument for controlling music use and distribution to stand, they should let us “turn the tables on it” and listeners should be paid just as readily as they are.
“Play a Phil Collins song while I’m grocery shopping? Pay me $20. Def Leppard? Make it $100. Miley Cyrus? They don’t print money big enough.” Watch the speech it in entirety below.