Reading Response

Among the interesting elements of Chris Anderson's article, "The Long Tail," is the current electronic mode of music and movie exchange. The internet, while fulfilling the dream of information on demand, has made art equally available. The market has been opened, and vast quantities of both news and music are now accessible from anywhere at anytime. This facile, connected "web" is both the Internet's strength and its downfall for the traditional record labels, television networks, and production companies.

On one hand the companies may now market and sell their product more for less on a larger scale. On the other hand, the web is so open that any appropriately educated college student can also share all his music, movies, and other material on a larger scale and more efficiently. Essentially the Internet provides a mode of transferring any information from one place to any other. Desiring to tame this sea of information, these entertainment companies seek restrictions for this completely unfettered mode of communication, calling the non- authorized sharing of their art "stealing." Yet, there seems to be something inherently wrong, even un-American with limiting the Internet, the flow information. In many ways the web is ultimately democratic; everyone can both provide and collect content, and true free speech is arguably even more possible inside than outside the cyber world.

So if the problem does not necessarily originate in the internet, is it not possible that the "stealing" problem the entertainment industry so combats is of the companies' own doing? In the quest for increased sales the entertainment industry has continually found more and more efficient formats that increase the dissemination of their product. The music business progressed from vinyl records, to eight track tapes, to CD's, and now to MP3 music files; as production advances and becomes more efficient with each format so does bootlegging. Having reached the Internet, music is now ultimately available. Thus the problem of "stealing" has always existed for record labels, the Internet has only magnified the issue with its extreme efficacy.

The root of this "stealing" problem then is either located in man's innate evil, and predates the entertainment industry, or it originates simultaneously with the entertainment industry. I propose the true root of this specific problem of Internet "pirating" is innate in how art is economized by these companies. Live music, theatre, and paintings become recordings, movies, and prints; original art is made into information in order to be marketed, transported, and sold by these companies. Creation and expression are treated as a commodity; art is economized by the ancestors of companies that now decry "their" music being treated like any other information on the Internet. With the web this mistreatment of art is made plainly evident because of the unmatched openness, and availability of information. The web has exacerbated the corporate mode of producing these arts making it even more mass and quantity based, as shown in the Long Tail, "The Long Tail approach, by contrast, is to simply dump huge chunks of the archive onto bare-bones DVDs, without any extras or marketing" (3). In place of questioning an art piece's quality, and taking time to think, define, and assay it the question has become "Why not release all 255 on DVD each year as part of a discount Sundance Series? In a Long Tail economy, it's more expensive to evaluate than to release" (3).

The Long Tail seems great by providing more quantity of choice than ever before available, but it is also a consequence of an unfortunate historical misuse and redefinition of human artistic creation. Hopefully the wide availability the Internet has brought to music will bring an end to this mistreatment of art, and have desirable implications such as more live performances, and concert tours. The entertainment industry may well not outlive its most recent format of operation without changing its current understanding of the economy of art.

I completely agree that the entertainment industry must change. While I don't know if that means more live performances or some type of art that it not reproducible (As to what that is, I don't know. Maybe an artist who burns his or her painting after a few people have seen it?). I feel that at the root of the "problems" with the internet are things that need to change, but Anderson should have said how much more specifically. You brought up the point that the internet is democratic, but I feel that to an extent, it isn't. Just as with radio and television, people find out about a lot of things through advertising, and advertising can get expensive. Also, I don't know of the physical analog of getting hacked. Sure your store could get robbed, but the thieves normally leave some evidence.

I feel that the something that has got to change are the large media giants need to figure out how to give us access to the long tail at a price we all like (I.E. it's cheap but they still can make a profit) or we need to do away with the giants.

As you know from class, I'm interested in the possibilities that a "long tail" orientation in the music industry might shift the financial center of that market to live performance. I'll look forward to seeing how this develops...

I liked your response, but I'm not really sure how you define this "art" as being "mistreated." The creative expression is being spread and shared, but how is that wronging the creation? You imply that it is bad to not question the quality of "art" before it's made available. However, now that art is more accessible, no-one needs to "define and assay" art for us, we can do that for ourselves. Furthermore I question the manner in which companies might evaluate "art" before they release it. The media that they do put out seems fairly formulaic.