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I'm just reading today that Apple is going to be closing down iTunes. The services provided by iTunes will be split onto different digital services, with music being available through their music app and their streaming service.

It was originally launched in 2001 providing one of those early options for legally downloading music. I don't know the exact figures, but I suspect that far more music is streamed than purchased today. Further suggestion that Jeremy Rifkin was on to something when he argued that we are moving from an age of ownership to an age of access.

When I started my PhD on the digitalisation of music cultures in 2002 iTunes was new. I was trying to work out the implications of the shifts it was part of. It was a moving picture. I was trying to work out what was happening, but taking a snapshot was difficult. I finished in the summer of 2006 when things were still in the air. Things are only just settling after the initial disruptions I tried to track back then, but music revenues are still nowhere near the levels they achieved in the 1990s. It was iTunes and some others that tried to calm the waters, but immaterial culture (if you can think of it as immaterial) is much less conducive to exchange value. That's why merchandise and live gigs are the focus for lots of acts - they can still provide some revenue.

I can't help thinking there are more changes to come. I wonder of musicians will continue to accept the relatively slim pickings that come from streaming. Audiences might be accessed through streaming setvices, but only those with huge audiences get any decent returns. I wonder if some rebellion might follow. Rebel rebel? Accessing an audience of streamers might turn into gig crowds, but there could be a moment when musicians decide that is not enough. What might happen then? Will there be more disruptions to come? Imagine a startup that offers to do print-on-demand flexidisks or CDs. Bands and singers could sign up and log their music, when someone purchases a track they get a flexidisk in an envelope. It won't happen, of course. Yet it doesn't feel like we've landed on something that quite works. The last disruption was driven by the consumers, which the industry found a way to just about manage. The next disruption might come from the artists themselves.

It's a bittersweet symphony this music business…

While we are on the topic of music, I see that the Rolling Stones have returned the writing credit for Bittersweet Symphony to Richard Ashcroft (no mention of the 22 years of royalties though). The story of the song is covered in the article, its a famous case of a sample being contested. It seems questions of ownership still have some relevance in music.

Facebook is in the money…

You might have seen that Facebook are aiming to launch their own currency in the next couple of years. I wrote a piece about it for the OurEconomy section of OpenDemocracy. I looked at how this development might be a precursor to expanding social commerce and to expanding Facebook's reach.

I got the power…

Carl Miller has a short post for Waterstones on five people who have power in the digital revolution. It's interesting to reflect on where power goes with different types of tech taking hold. I agree with Carl that we need to think carefully about how power works when social structures change and who then comes to wield it.

Read all about it…

There is an article about the decline of local papers and its consequences by Jim Waterson in the Guardian. It is a shame to see local papers crumbling. I once worked in advertising at a local paper. I enjoyed the rare visits to the editorial floor. It was pretty lively, especially the sports desk. There must have been about 40 journalists, reporters and photographers working to put out the paper. I also liked seeing the cavernous printing press building at the back. It had those conveyor belts carrying papers around the room and dropping down for distribution around the city. It had its faults, but there was something happening in that building. It has since been demolished to be replaced by a luxury student accommodation. Just a small part of the building survives - which now hosts what is left of the staff. The printed paper itself is a bit like that remaining bit of the building, hanging in there but only a small fraction of what it was.

If you believe that dreams come true, then sleep is all you'll ever do…

(If you know where the above lyric is from then Tweet me the answer - can you get it without searching for it?)

Hettie O'Brien has an interesting piece about sleeptracking. The article explores how it's another step in making us ever more productive.

AI behaviour…

Here is a piece by Tabitha Gauldstaub on the responsible use of AI.

Dinner dinner dinner dinner…

In my last newsletter I mentioned Mark D. White's new book on Batman and Ethics. He discusses the book in this New Books Network podcast.

Mirror mirror mirror mirror…

A piece by Elini Versini in Berfrois on ‘the shared self’. Versini reflects:

‘At that point I realised that if I wished to regain some personal integrity, there was only one thing to do. Quit the social media.’

That seems like a good place to end.

Dave Beer

davidbeer.net