What’s the point of free?
When I’m not busy burning money in front of the local peasantry and patrolling the borders of my estate on the watch for trespassers I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time sitting around and writing/thinking/promoting free music. Much of it’s down to ingrained habit by now, only half of my drive to keep doing this stuff is built on musical obsession and the other by hobbyist fixation, which means that I’ve basically sunk myself so far into the concept/movement that it’s become a passive activity for the most part, one which I don’t seek to re-analyse constantly to try and work out my opinion on it. Natural, I reckon, but still something I sporadically feel inclined to drag my lethargic form away from the more immediate thrills of life to review, avoiding such mistakes as I made during my blindly devoted phases of early obsession with what, in hindsight, was fairly god awful music, where an assumption that something must have had value to get me listening to it in the first place, left me never feeling obliged to decide why.
So now I find myself sitting here in the small wee hours of the morning, having bored of shite TV and shite talking, turning my mind to free music and the open culture which it’s part of. What, really, is the point of open culture? Well, obviously, it’s free and as long as that’s the case there’s not much more you can want from a thing, no more explanation needed really. But then that’d make for a very stunted end to an already oddly formed article. So what else can be said of open culture? Why, assuming that the commercial system could be made valid, would it be more desirable than the alternative? Assuming that all things were rendered irrevocably fair, with prices set for the delight of all, musicians getting the full benefit of their efforts and spurning the excesses of wealth – and a vast and loved collection in every house; what benefit would then be offered by open culture? No doubt everyone has their own answers, after all it’s not a hard one to reply to, but to set fourth my own little soap-box rant I’d say to those presumably extant few who pledge allegiance to an evolved and reformed commercial model that open culture offers more than just freebies. Open culture is a whole new and revelatory hint of what could be possible in the cultural world of the internet.
It’s almost the drive of a Utopian ideal given that to free culture and to democratize access to it is to hand the most active defining traits of any society over to those who inhabit that society, as opposed to those who either seek to control it or profit from it. Not, of course, that the relevance of this sort of thing is to be overstated, I’m far from agreeing with that small sect of semi-activists who hold up the merits of broadband and access to the internet as fundamental human requirements when the realities of the world place greater precedence of far more mundane aspects of life. But once a society becomes corporatised and beholden to the edicts of a consumerist mentality then culture becomes the key oppressing force. Certain cultural images will always be cheaper and more easily distributed, they’ll affirm more and demand less which perpetuates an isolated, aspirational mentality in those people being bombarded by media imagery which can’t even be countenanced to practical reality let alone reacted against and altered. Open culture is the latest and greatest manifestation of the counter-cultural ideology which has always existed as both alternative to and resistance against hierarchical structures.
And the quality and intent of the content is a mere side-note in what I think matters, the music can be made up of as much shit as its corporate antithesis is but as long as every listener and individual feels level with the creators and managers of that effort, confident in dismissing and bastardising it, of exploring beyond it perhaps most importantly, then nothing else is relevant. To negate the structures of popular opinion without turning the art itself into a single minded message which reeks of polemic is to open up the infinite potential which is hidden amongst the bulk of humanity who are detached from their own cultures, fuelling its growth but never breaking away from its form.
Of course all that’s just my own, personal kick and it’s not all that original at that.