Thoughts on “Noise” by Jaques Attelli

Jaques Attelli writes about music turning into a no cost commodity. Indeed he wrote the book in the 1970’s, long before the advent of MP3 of MP4 or downloading or filesharing. he predicted, correctly that music would be free, that we would be swamped with music to such an extent that the demand would be lost. He argued that this would apply to many sectorsq of the economy, that music was a way of seeing the economic and cultural future, that things turned up in music before they turned up in the mainstream. Music changes culture and socio economic norms.

To an extent we could argue that he is correct. Music has become a low cost commodity for bands yet to break through. Bands from the 1970’s such as Gong or Captain Beefheart or even Gentle Giant, or maybe even Yes would never had had the success they enjoyed  if they  launched today. Indeed, struggling artists are common place, and even popular artists struggle to buy a flat, whereas similar sales figures in the 60’s and 70’s would have ensured financial comfort.

We see similar evidence of a crisis of prolifereation in many industry. take publishing, where 3000 books were published in September 2015in the UK alone. Thats an astonishing number, and how do we know what to read in such a sea? I imagine its much like music, so many songs and so little time to discover new talent.

One could argue that talent always rises to the top, and that writers or musicians will alwoays flower if they are good enough, but I also think that marketing and publicity and advertising play a role.

Attelli argues that we could see the same happen to objects in a BBC interview  here, where he argues with the growth of 3D printers the factory could go the same way, and exposes more in this fascinating interview on the bbc website and indeed in the associated radio programme Here he argues we could even end up swapping items with each other and not paying for them in an ultimate future scenario. Time is the only thing that is rare, even unique.

However, as time is the only thing that is rare, craftsmen who create quality bespoke objects using expensive raw materials should still be in demand, as should live concerts or even live readings.

In his book, “The hitchhikers guide to the galaxy” Douglas Adams describes “the shoe event horizon”

from http://hitchhikers.wikia.com/wiki/Shoe_Event_Horizon

“The Shoe Event Horizon is an economic theory that draws a correlation between the level of economic (and emotional) depression of a society and the number of shoe shops the society has.

The theory is summarized as such: as a society sinks into depression, the people of the society need to cheer themselves up by buying themselves gifts. This is usually done through the purchase of shoes (or music or books!). As more money is spent on shoes, more shoe shops are built, and the quality of the shoes begins to diminish as the demand for different types of shoes increases. This makes people buy more shoes.

The above turns into a vicious cycle, causing other industries to decline.

Eventually the titular Shoe Event Horizon is reached, where the only type of store economically viable to build is a shoe shop. At this point, society ceases to function, and the economy collapses, sending a world into ruin. In the case of Brontitor and Frogstar World B, the population forsook shoes and evolved into birds.”

Perhaps we are seeing a “music event horizon” or “book event horizon”, where so many books or records are published/available on the market that people look for different types of books, searching esoteric titles and bespoke books/music, or even one off events such as concerts. So much is published that choice becomes increasingly difficult and the consumer retreats into what they know without looking for new ideas, or they listen to what is popular or what is played on the radio, or what is bought in the best seller lists.(or The top 20).

On the BBC website it is argued “When musicians in the 18th Century – like the composer Handel – started selling tickets for concerts, rather than seeking royal patronage, they were breaking new economic ground, Attali wrote. They were signalling the end of feudalism and the beginning of a new order of capitalism.”

So perhaps we can say that when music in the late 20th and early 21st century became free with streaming, new economic and cultural ground was broken. Indeed the MP3 herelded the end of the music box(cd player or record player) idea.

People will pay Deezer or Spotify to listen to music via subscriptions, but don’t want to own objects. People will look for free music via sharing instead of buying cd’s or mp3.

Perhaps we will see this , and indeed are already seeing this for the written word.

Instead of buying books, people will subscribe to blogs, or even perhaps “Reader’s Digest” type ideas. people will read blogs, where content is free. Ideas that are freely available means a great movement and swash in culture.

Ideas can be copied or even plagerised and passed off as anothers. This is where we will go. Music becomes free, except streaming services, books will become free except digital or subscriber content, objects will be free, easily made and easily copied thanks to 3D printers, and medical advances could be made as it will be “easy” to make organs eventually.

Bronowski said “Our culture is not a culture of contemplation, but of action.It’s by doing that we advance. If our tastes are ruled by one man, we make no invention and remmain static. The hand is the cutting edge of the brain”

Perhaps Demming had it wrong. perhaps its not “plan , do check act”, but rather, “Do, check,act, plan.” Perhaps real learning comes from observing our errors.

Ultimately, perhaps Attelli predicts a move away from industry towards the individual economy, where individuals can produce what they want or even produce what others want , providing a service. Writers will become story tellers, with performances of reading in audiences, hoping that people will buy the book after, or bloggers with a paywall. Society risks becoming less social and having less solidarity , when people see only individual gains they forget the bigger world.

Perhaps a lot of these things have already happened, as people become emotionally disengaged and see too much bad news and too many disasters on TV and in the media that they brush it off as crumbs, only reacting when it affects them directly, and even then, forgetting quickly. “It only happens to others”.

Dictators risk rising up, with a scapegoat mentality, seeing the problems and issues within our society as being casued by factors without. Societies change, and its a very quick process. Homosexual marriage would have been unthinkable for my parent’s generation and completely taboo for my grandparent’s generation. Today it’s mainstream. Perhaps the social structures built up in the post war world will be dismantlet as society changes. The end of  free healthcare, or education and of old age pensions

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