Postcard from - Digital Medieval

Jeremy Silver has spent his whole life working in the music industry, and from Digital Medieval , it's clear that he has spent a lot of that time trying to bring the major players into the late twentieth century.

His book is a fascinating and detailed look at the way the music industry viewed the internet and related technologies. A very early MP3 player held together with gaffer tape gets a mention, as do a lot of the file sharing sites and services, most of which have disappeared. The internet went from being dismissed as an irrelevance, to something desparately in need of control, and that control had to come from the recording industry, because no-one else could be trusted. Certainly the consumers couldn't. Silver charts the growth of the view that we are all potential criminals who must be strictly controlled to enforce good behaviour.

What comes over very clearly is the almost abusive relationship between the labels and consumers, the very people who allow them to exist. Things like the huge number of RIAA initiated law suits against anyone daring to use technology in a new way, and the almost contemptuous attitude towards the bands whose music justifies the labels businesses.

Silver doesn't paint a pretty picture. He makes a lot of the walled gardens that the major internet players are creating, suggesting that this will only become more prevalent in the future. He points out the increasing difficulty experienced by new bands wanting to sign a recording contract. A great deal is said everywhere about direct sales to the public, but as Silver points out, to make this work, you need an audience, a group of people who know your work and will advocate for it.

Having said all this, it's a useful book, well written by an industry insider. There's humour amongst the reports of bad behaviour.

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