Future Bites

Beck Tries to Steer the Future of Music

G Clef with twisted staff

courtesy Ivan Melenchon

The music industry, as you’ve probably noticed, is in the midst of a cosmic shift.  As with books and movies, the arrival of the digital era has demolished the old ways of doing business.  MP3 sales recently beat CD sales for the first time ever, and it won’t be long ’til all music is digital.  The pros and cons of this shift are well documented, but few have tried to alter its direction.

Until Beck, that is:

Beck’s latest album comes in an almost-forgotten form—twenty songs existing only as individual pieces of sheet music, never before released or recorded.

Basically, there’s no “reference” album; to hear the music, you have to actually play it yourself (or listen to someone else do it).  I’m deeply intrigued by this idea because in one sense, the product is still digital – after all, sheet music is just a string of information.  However, the thing people actually want (the music itself) can’t be digitized, because it doesn’t exist, except as a million interpretations in the minds of a million users.  Will Burns over at Forbes talks about how this idea upends all the normal relationships among consumers, musicians, and music.

What do you think – is this a genius innovation that deserves a place in the future of music?  Or is it just another silly publicity stunt?

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