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Weeknotes #481-482

Looking back over the last two weeks, I find two prevailing themes: reviewing the past, and predicting the future.

The past I’ve already alluded to in my first Blogfodder link dump. Some of those links are nearly eight years old, which is forever in internet time. It’s incredible that so many of them are still accessible. (Yet maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised, as there’s many a site from even further back that hasn’t yet shuffled off this digital coil.)

As for the future? Last night I watched Bob Roberts again for the first time in years, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t prophetic: its parallels to the current social and political climate in America are franky scary.

The week before, I finished The Creation Records Story, the final chapters of which recount Alan McGee’s forward-thinking where it came to the internet and its effect on the record industry. In the summer of 1998 he outlined his vision of the future in a letter to the NME (p728-9):

“There’s a crisis in the industry and it’s so huge that nobody knows it’s happening,” he wrote. “There’s a revolution happening and nobody’s recognising it. Technology is overriding the development of music and we should be asking ourselves: are there actually going to be any record companies in ten years’ time? I don’t think so.”

[…]

“It’ll be sexier for bands to download their music on the internet: cut out the middle man, the record company, and deliver straight to the fans for a cheaper price.”

Of course the record companies didn’t heed his words; indeed, for making such bold statements McGee was “made a pariah by the industry” (p730). Maybe at the time his ideas seemed a bit far-fetched, but within a year or two you had Napster beginning to gnaw at the legs of the music business, and just a few years after that the broadband revolution came along and suddenly filesharing went mainstream.

Little more than a decade after McGee’s letter and we live on a topsy-turvy world where Apple – a computer company! – is one of the biggest music retailers, and where people think nothing of abandoning physical products like the CDs they once bought in shops for free (or cheap) streaming services.

Maybe the only thing McGee said that didn’t come true is that there are still record companies. But only just.