Published in "Editor's Notes", in Computer Music Journal v. 21, #1 Spring 1997. (Written in response to the CMJ Editor's Query for thoughts on "Computer Music: the Next 20 Years".)

A CMJ Editorial Note on Digital Distribution

To your excellent list, which already includes several on my own "wish list", I'd like to add one that is very high priority on my list but which I didn't see on yours.

I'm looking forward to the application of digital technology to achieve better ways of accessing each other's music and of making our own available to others.

Distribution is the bain of many of our existences. We, and all other tiny minorities in terms of musical aesthetics, interests, etc., cannot hope to compete in the commercial marketplace, and we can't want to go on individually running tape copies one by one for some subset of the number individuals who ask us to personally because they want to hear our works.

The distribution of musical works from makers to listeners is one of the last "great frontiers" for technological change to improve.

The major problems to be addressed in the evolution of computer-mediated music distribution are not just the obvious technical ones of bandwidth, quality, multimedium formats, and internet protocols. These are all being worked on already.

The major problems probably stem from the entrenched legal and economic structures, which will fight their own obsolescence and for which no adequate replacement structures have yet been designed. If we can all just post or send our pieces on the internet, what happens to the recording and publishing businesses? What kind of royalties or other compensation, if any, might flow back to the creators of works from the audience to help support further creation? How would it work?

Laurie Spiegel
New York City, 1997


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