The Times They Have AíChanged
by Thomas Luongo: A
Libertarian Look at Philip K. Dick
Six years ago
Lew published my first article. You can read it here.
It was my inaugural attempt at writing argumentatively using economics.
The argument concerned the changes in poetry but was broadened to
include all of the other arts where the Web had destroyed the cost
of production, reducing it to the time and talent of the individual
creating it. If you want to be a writer, get a free blog. A musician?
Upload them to Soundcloud.
Iím sure there are dozens of similar services that I havenít found
Since the writing
of that article the explosion of social media has taken place. I
didnít anticipate that. In 2005, RSS was in its infancy and there
was zero integration between websites. Building an audience required
a lot of work.
taken for granted that one would leverage Facebook or Twitter to
reach out to and stay connected with your intended audience. There
are automated services to get you Twitter followers by the hundreds,
if thatís your gig. Even for an internet oldster like me, it is
staggering how quickly the landscape changes and morphs into something
new. Keeping up is a job unto itself. Moreover, we can now take
the entire world with us on our smartphone of choice.
None of this
should be construed as a complaint.
Quite the contrary,
I think itís utterly fantastic. I got into writing on the internet
in 2003 because I had something to say and the cost of production
and dissemination fit my budget, ie. free. I like writing. Sometimes
I can even convince myself that I love it and that Iím good at it.
But, deep down I know that I donít love it. If I did, I would have
not walked away from it so easily or the paycheck and the audience
I had built up so carefully.
What I love
is music. And it took a good friend, one who told me multiple times
how much that first LRC article affected him, and his music to remind
me of what Iíd forgotten.
I loved being
a musician as a young man. Back then I was a bass player. My well-worn
1985 Rickenbacker 4003 ("The Rick") has seen hundreds,
if not thousands of hours of use. Today, I think of myself more
of a drummer, well, not drummer per se, more like Ďone who earnestly
and bravely flails behind the kit.í I have the heart of a drummer
if not the hands and feet.
happened in these last six years. The cost of home recording has
dropped along with the cost of publishing. Access to high quality
digital tools is everywhere. Thank you Mooreís Law. I envy anyone
who owns a Mac. Garage Band is frigginí awesome. If I had any money
to spare I would buy a Mac just for it and Logic. What once cost
millions now cost hundreds. I stopped playing because I had no outlet
that would satisfy me given my lifestyle. The tools and the infrastructure
werenít there for me to pursue things my way. Even if they were
there (and I just wasnít paying attention), there was no real outlet
for the music anyway. I wasnít going to be picked up by a label.
So, what was the point? Iíd taken my playing as far as I could go
without other people and finding people with my tastes was difficult.
So, over time The Rick spent more time in the case.
I bought myself
an electronic drum kit at the tender age of 35 to scratch the itch
that had been gnawing at me since I was 15. Iíd been studying drumming
technically for years. I knew what to do, what to practice, how
to hold the sticks (for the most part), I never had anything to
practice on, except myself. My wife and friends can go on for hours
about how crazy I drive/have driven them tapping on the steering
wheel, the door frame, my desk, my knees, them etc. They eventually
chipped in to buy me a Djembe for a past birthday to at least have
the noise be something musical. Any spare minute can be used to
work on my Swiss triplets or paradiddles. The drumkit, to me, is
the closest thing to an altar in my cosmology. There something magical
happens. I watch great drummers with nothing near envy, itís pure
joy and awe at what they do. I know Iíll never be one. And thatís
So, after a
few years of practicing I felt competent enough to offer my services
to my friend. He had been creating music, not of the highest quality
to be sure, for a few years. Honestly, he knew it wasnít good, but
it didnít matter. That wasnít the point. Heíd wanted to do this
for most of his life and he could do so now. Bravely, more bravely
than me, certainly, he put his apprenticeship out there for all
the world to ignore, ridicule or exhort. I was just plain proud
of him. Heíd become that guy I mentioned at the end of my article,
someone putting up his work saying, "I hope you like what Iíve
to his latest set of songs one night last November and realized
that heíd become a pretty good songwriter. The songs were honest.
A couple of them were wonderful. And maybe I could help him (and
myself) improve the presentation. I offered and he happily agreed.
We trusted each otherís judgment, though our tastes are almost diametrically
opposed. The work could get done from home, 80 miles away from each
other, when it was convenient for us. And the best part was that
we were in constant contact for the first time in years because
of the music, not letting months go by without a word. All of these
songs could suck and they would still hold immense value to me because
of this re-connection.
what music is supposed to be about?
This is taken
for granted now, but even 5 years ago this arrangement wasnít really
feasible. The bandwidth cost was too high and availability was too
low. I solved how to record my drumkit by spending all of $418 at
Amazon on a 16 track digital recorder that
is everything a home recording artist could need. When I first
picked up a bass guitar that box would have been a roomful of equipment
costing $10,000 or more, given all that it could do. A good condenser
mic for recording vocals can be had for less than $100 now. That
was unheard of even 4 years ago.
5 tracks for him so far, heís published 2 of them. My favorite is
here. I play drums and bass on his tracks, he plays guitar on
I had ideas for my own work spinning out of my head. It was cool.
I knew I had ideas worth exploring and for the first time I could
see a path to making them worth spending the time to develop.
This is why
the changes brought about by the Web are so astounding. The number
of free or nearly free resources for full-scale production of music
is overwhelming. I felt like I had just discovered the internet
for the first time. I still donít think Iíve scratched the surface.
I now have
album planned out, and a band name thatís better than "Fistful
of Prozac." Two songs are finished, two instrumentals are in
production and the others are mostly written. Since I started work
on these songs and their videos Iíve spent a total of $23.57 on
some strings and a cable. Everything else is fully depreciated.
Iím using Reaper
to do the mixing and recording of any MIDI instruments, Bandcamp.com
to publish the album, YouTube
to publish tie-in videos, DropBox
and Soundcloud to move files between people and my Twitter
and Facebook feeds
to help promote the work. Even the video production software was
free. Xtranormal, the text
to animation service, just published their stand-alone application,
State, which I used to create this
video. The app is free and I used the given points to purchase
the assets I used in the video, 1 set. 2 actors. Zero dollars.
With all of
the changes to the economics of music production, nothing substitutes
for quality. I donít know at this point whether what Iíve produced
is quality work. Itís not for me to judge. I know I had a blast
working on it and canít wait to finish the other songs. I hope that
these snippets of my insanity and the story thereof move you to
do something: laugh, cry, cringe, tap your foot or create your own
In other words,
"I hope you like what Iíve done here."
Luongo [send him email]
is an out-of-work chemist, amateur economist and obstreperous recovering
Yankee/Goat-herder living in North Florida. Follow him on Twitter
and Facebook. Check
out his band, The
© 2011 Thomas Luongo
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