Music evolved alongside language and culture over millions of years to form a universal method of communicating emotion. For most of our species’ history, music’s primary purpose was to unify communities. Over time, various forces conspired to make music’s primary purpose entertainment. Chief among these was the music industry, which subjugated and exploited cultural evolution and unity for profit.
The original intent of copyright law was to protect content creators’ livelihoods while promoting cultural evolution by preserving the creative environment. Instead, the music industry (itself now a subset of a hyper-consolidated military-industrial media oligopoly) corrupted the law to steal musicians’ profits and stifle creativity. While the industry’s rapid expansion of the market during the 20th century certainly helped spread music for and wide, the cost of this commodification on our culture and creativity was heavy.
Over the previous decade, digital technology has disrupted the balance of power between musicians, listeners and industry. The record business is no longer sustainable in an era of free access to music. Unsurprisingly, the music industry, with its history of ineptitude and entitlement, is once again throwing all the money and lawyers it can at changing the laws in their favor. As musicians and listeners, we stand at a crossroads. Do we take advantage of the opportunities technology has given us and actively redefine music in the 21st century to be a force of unification once again? Or do we continue to allow the industry to subjugate the universal method of communicating as a means for enriching corporations?