Evan Rowe is a local songwriter and performer best
known as Catalonia, a professor of political science and history at
College, and a small-d democratic strategist with no party affiliation.
week, we surrender our space for his thoughts on the music industry and
they relate to our region. This week, questioning corporate control of
radio, round two.
In my last piece I laid out a general framework and case for
democratizing the airwaves. In short,
there is an oversupply of content, and too narrow an outlet to
and new online communications technologies that will allow democratic
to grow and flourish in a participatory way.
Since it is impossible for the music listening audience to hear
music that is produced in one year -- let alone the built up congestion of
content created over decades since the invention of recorded music, it
sense to use the polity to limit the audience's exposure in a way that
sensible for the most important living stake holders in the music
economy: The artists and the audience. All programmatic incentives and benefits
should revolve around these two groups.
The middlemen, be they coordinators, DJs, programmers, and
elected system, etc. should be third place.
They will be there, they will be needed, but they are not to be
center of the new system.
I should say in advance warning, that there will be opposition
to this plan and it will come from the traditional sources in our
society: The right wing, anti-democratic business
institutions which privately own and control the vast majority of
economic space in our country, along with their pro business factional
cultural allies and grass roots activists.
From the food supply, to media, from clothing to investment
the drug trade to banks, from hedge funds to hedge clippers, the vast
of the economic space in which we lead our lives is not even close to
controlled by big government, it is controlled by institutions that are
completely unbeholden to the general population and managed by the types
people that Franklin Roosevelt referred to as "economic royalists".
This tiny elite (in percentage terms -- in real
terms the number is three million people) and their foot soldiers will fight
of the airwaves simply because of their opposition to democratic
in general. If you trust your peers,
and we have the online capacity to accomplish the transition -- then what
possible reasons can there be to oppose the plan?
But the question of incentives is important and should be
addressed. So is the question of how to
develop a system that pushes the quality content up to the top of each
(local, regional, national, and international). And by quality we are talking about popular consumer
preferences -- not "scene"
preferences, though I do believe there needs to be a smaller working
the musical craft that may not be currently in style -- but may become so
in the future.
The basic framework I am proposing (and since this is an
early sketch -- principles are more important than details here) is to have two
sections of the elected spectrum. The
first section is the direct election of program directors for single
terms. The program director will assemble
a small staff, bring on DJs, and take their own approach to what type of
content should be played. The second
section of the spectrum will be more direct involvement in content by
consumer and this can be the direct election of DJs for 3 hour slots
monthly in online voting. The
organization of which DJ goes to which part of the spectrum for which
are details we don't need to cover.
core idea is that part of the spectrum will be the faster, more
of the system where the audience is directly closer to the content they
pushing to the top, and that the other part of the spectrum, the program
director slot can afford to be more patient, having a full year to win
audience with content that may initially be too cutting edge for
Within this initial two-prong framework, we have the local,
regional, national, and international mandate.
Assuming my initial percentages, 25 percent of what is being played by any part
of the spectrum must be local. This
means that there is a chance that there will be uncertainty and audience
confusion in the early part of the experiment, but once things get
the money to reinvest in recording production rolls into the local acts,
the quality will become better -- and better organized, and provide a real
(bottom up) economic stimulus to boot. In
part three of the series, I will discuss why digital economy does not mesh
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markets, what it means to the music scene, and what can be done to
-- Evan Rowe