Music Like Water: A TTW Guest Post by Katy Hite

It is not hard to see that technology has been changing the way we access music.  In The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution, David Kusek and Gerd Leonard propose a world where music is delivered wirelessly, based on music preferences, for a fee (similar to paying for electricity, gas, or cable television).  With the growing popularity of the iPod, the prevalence of WiFi, and peer to peer MP3 file sharing of music, access to digital and internet technologies is necessary to stay current with popular music culture.  For those communities and individuals with limited to no access to computers, a significant divide is likely; libraries need to explore digital trends in music and allow access to these services in order to curb the digital music divide.

Libraries have historically offered the chance for self-education and attempt to preserve the whole of the human record while also acting as community center, gathering place, education center, and ‘hangout.’  As digital information has become more prevalent and online presence is part of everyday social interaction and communication, libraries are providing patrons with access to Internet and computer technologies to stay “in the loop.”  By providing computers, connectivity, and user instruction, libraries are (almost by default) charged with bridging the digital divide.  Unfortunately, there is a lack of literacy and provision when it comes to digital music because copyright and digital rights management (DRM) restrictions on music recordings have made library services in digital music difficult.

We seem to be moving in the right direction, as illustrated at the 2010 Public Library Association Conference:  some public libraries are exploring DRM-Free downloadable music using the “Freegal” music service, which offers library patrons access to hundreds of thousands of songs in the Sony library.  It is a good sign that Sony is willing to work with libraries to begin providing accessible, downloadable music, and that libraries are in turn consistently looking to improve services.  By promoting Web 2.0 technologies in the library, offering extended music downloading and streaming capabilities and teaching literacies in these areas, libraries will help patrons stay connected when music is truly “like water.”

Note from Michael: Katy wrote a wonderful paper on the book for LIS768. This post is an edited down version. It amazes how the future model Kusek and Leonard presented in their book has become so real.

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4 thoughts on “Music Like Water: A TTW Guest Post by Katy Hite”

  1. This is a fascinating topic and will certainly become more important for both music fans and libraries in the years to come. I’m curious how the “utility” model in the book works for the artists providing the content. Will the income from licensing to subscription services fully replace the income lost from the old models (selling discrete chunks of content, i.e. singles and albums, to consumers). Anyone have any insight on this?

  2. This is an interesting point. Kusek and Leonard do discuss the existing operations of the recording industry, especially how dated they have become. Bands are making more money through merchandising and touring, and fans are not feeling so guilty about peer to peer sharing of music files. With social networking, musicians are given inexpensive means of self-promotion, so the impact on the recording industry is huge. That is why the Sony/Library Ideas LLC concept of Freegal is a step in the right direction.

  3. Hi Katy, excellent ideas as always. ;) I’ve been thinking about similar issues lately. I think it extends to all mobile/digital information. The world is moving quickly toward info being accessible everywhere. Already, those without mobile devices/data plans/wifi, cannot take advantage of many opportunities (i.e., can’t be the mayor of a location on foursquare, can’t get text-message coupons some businesses give out, etc). Those are just some small examples now, but I can imagine a world in the future where the missed opportunities might be more significant. Can libraries (or should they even try to) play a role in that kind of access, to both hardware and the digital info they display? What are the consequences if a large portion of the population cannot easily access digital information of all kinds? All fascinating questions!

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