BLOGGER TEMPLATES AND TWITTER BACKGROUNDS
There was an error in this gadget

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Musical Milestones

Two very important events happened in the world of music, this week…both of which have the potential of far-reaching consequences for society as a whole.

First, Apple’s iTunes online store passed three billion songs sold on 31 July; that number is up one billion from January, when the company’s sales passed the two billion mark.

What makes the iTunes sales record so significant is how effectively it silences the dinosaurs in the traditional economy who insist on trivializing the importance of the Internet as a vehicle to promote, distribute and sell products. Most businesses still don’t see the need of having online advertising, or for that matter an online store, and that has allowed sites like Amazon.com, eBay and iTunes to pretty well corner the market, simply by providing easy access and a user-friendly transaction service. The fact is, the middle-aged people who run the sales and marketing departments of most businesses just don’t get how significant the Internet is for anyone under 40.

Likewise, iTunes distributes music from artists that would otherwise not have any point of sale; acts like Stars of Track and Field, for example, make most of their sales from iTunes or the merch table when they’re playing a venue. Big-chain music stores might carry several hundred copies of the latest Top-40 product, but obscure or rare albums are harder to find; often, they must even be special ordered—take for example the fact that I am STILL waiting on Archambault Music here in Montreal to deliver on my order for ‘Centuries Before Love and War’, the Stars of Track and Field’s debut album.

That makes iTunes the Great Equalizer: they don’t care how small or big an artist is, how popular or obscure a music act is; if they have product to sell, iTunes will gladly sell it…again, the traditional record-store chain model fails in that regard.

My only complaint about iTunes is that their music format will only play on an iPod and their digital rights management software makes it well nigh impossible to convert those files to a format that will play on a regular MP3 player, unless you have better-than-average computer skills. While it’s obvious this hasn’t hurt iTunes or iPod sales, the fact is it does shut a significant portion of the market from benefiting from the service.

At first glance, the second musical milestone that happened this week might not seem, at least on the face of it, to be musically related, but in a very real sense, it is:

This week, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to send a peacekeeping force of 26 000 troops and civilian police officers, the largest number of UN peacekeepers to ever be deployed.

What makes this a significant musical milestone is that the United Nations only acted on Darfur after ordinary people around the world put mounting pressure on their governments to do something. And the people who pressured their governments did so only after Darfur was pushed into the public consciousness because of activists who raised awareness about the crisis by hosting benefit concerts for Darfur in their local communities.

It was the efforts of these activists and the often-unknown-outside-their-communities music acts that played that raised awareness about the issue. Small venues in several different cities hosted the concerts. On the local level it was only a handful of individuals who worked diligently, anonymously and often thanklessly to raise awareness in their schools, their neighborhoods and their cities. But that local-level work was multiplied hundreds of times across hundreds of cities around the world. Arguably, the peacekeeping force about to be deployed into Darfur wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for those small, local benefit concerts.

While we have seen UN peacekeeping efforts turn into travesties in the past, notably in the former Yugoslav Republic, I believe that there exists more than just a glimmer of hope that the Darfur Peacekeeping force will succeed. Too many people have worked to make this happen, and too much is at stake for it to fail.

0 comments: