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“Music flows around us like water”

FASoS students organise a conference on music


Until recently, most people went to a store to buy CDs. Now they stream, download (illegally), use YouTube or buy music via iTunes. So which distribution model will prevail? This is one of the issues to be discussed at the M3 Event, a conference on the ‘future of music’ organised by students of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS).


It was a thorny situation for the music industry in 2007 when Radiohead bypassed all the middlemen and sold their album ‘In Rainbows’ exclusively through their website. The move generated lots of publicity, not in the least because the band allowed their fans to pay what they felt like, from nothing to a hundred pounds.

“Although half of the downloaders paid nothing, Radiohead made lots of money”, says Mieke Frank. She is one of the five FASoS students who is setting up the conference and at the same time conducting research for a paper. Frank is concentrating on crowdsourcing and fanfunding. “Radiohead’s sales strategy is only lucrative if you have a huge fan base. It’s difficult for small bands. They sometimes experiment with crowdsourcing and ask fans to contribute in advance to the production of the CD.”

Everything has changed, says her fellow student Derek Wahl. “Not only the distribution but also the way we listen to music. It’s everywhere; it flows around us like water. That’s why some people argue that everyone should pay music tax. I’m doing research on copyright, with the Pirate Party in Germany as a case study. It’s been calling for the right to make copies for personal use and to legalise file sharing. People who share files are also the ones who buy the most CDs.”

In some ways, the current concern about the future of music is not unique at all. “In every decade since the seventies the same debate has popped up because new technology threatens the old model”, says Wahl. “The industry is mostly protective, instead of creating new models like Apple did with the iTunes Store, or Spotify with the streaming model. Which business model will survive is unclear. This is a transformation period.”

In the meantime, musicians are making more money out of touring than they used to. Wahl: “Twenty years ago Madonna went on tour to promote a new album; now she makes a new CD to be able to go on tour.” Frank: “Fans are willing to pay for unique experiences and visit concerts and festivals more often. They want to be there, being part of it.”

Few students pay for music, is the impression of both the students. Wahl streams music via Grooveshark, comparable to Spotify. “All the songs I’d been looking for were in their database. Mostly hiphop, drum’n’bass and dubstep. If I listen to an album and discover three really good songs, I’ll buy it.”

Frank: “I stream via Grooveshark as well, mainly triphop. If I had more money, I’d prefer to buy music directly from the musicians. Like the Radiohead approach.”


Maurice Timmermans


The M3 event will take place on 31 May from 10.00 to 17.30, at the Grote Gracht 90–92 (FASoS) and Tongersestraat 53 (SBE)



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