Here is an excerpt from Jaron Lanier’s book, You are Not a Gadget, where Jaron describes a new piece of hardware, the songle, that creates artificial scarcity in the music world. It also brings the romance of tangibility back to music collecting and it solves a huge problem in digital economics, the way music is free for everyone but the artists who work so hard to make it . I don’t want to leave anything out so I’ll diligently type Jaron’s explanation straight from his book. In his words:
A songle is a dongle for a song. A dongle is a little piece of hardware that you plug into a computer to run a piece of commercial software. It’s like a physical key you have to buy in order to make the software work. It creates artificial scarcity for the software.
All the tchotchkes of the world- the coffee mugs, the bracelets, the nose rings- would serve double duty as keys to content like music.
There’s a green angle here. All the schemes that presently succeed in getting people to pay for content involve the manufacture of extra hardware that would not otherwise be needed. These include music players such as iPods, cable TV boxes, gaming consoles, and so on. If people paid for content, there would be no need for these devices, since commonplace computer chips and displays would be good enough to perform all these tasks.
Songles would provide a physical approach to creating artificial scarcity. It might be less difficult to make the transition to songles than it would be to implement a more abstract approach to bringing expression back under the tent of capitalism.
You might wear a special necklace songle to a party, and music enabled by the necklace would come on automatically after you arrived, emanating from the entertainment system that is already providing the party with music. The necklace communicates with the entertainment system in order to make this happen. The musical mix at an event might be determined by the sum of the songles worn by everyone who shows up.
Why bring physical objects back into music distribution?
To make the music business more romantic: That’s not just and enhancement; it’s the central issue. Romance in the broadest sense, is the product the music business sells. Contracts and credit card numbers are not romantic.
To lower the cost of promotion: Music production and distribution costs have become low, but promotion costs are limitless. Since a songle is an object instead of a contract, its value is determined by the marketplace and can vary over time, even if traded informally. In order to means that a songle can be an object for speculative investment. A fan who takes the trouble to listen to obscure new bands might benefit from having speculated on some of the bands’ songles when they were unknown. Songles harness the psychology that makes lottery tickets sell to get people to listen to music acts. Even better” once a person buys a songle, she is motivated to join in promoting its music, because she now has a stake in it.
To broaden the channels by which music is sold and share promotion costs with players in those channels: High-end songles can be sold as accessories at fashion stores, while low-end songles might come bundled with a six-pack. Coffee mugs, sneakers, toothbrushes, dog collars, pens, and sunglasses would all make fine songles.
To raise the margin for high-prestige but low-volume (in the business sense!) music: The stupidest thing among many stupid things in the music business is that the product always costs about the same even when a market segment would naturally choose a higher price if it were allowed to do so. For instance, a well-heeled opera fan pays about the same for a CD or a download as does a teenager listening to a teen idol of the moment. Songles for opera of fine jazz would be made by craftsmen from fine materials in much more limited editions. They would be expensive. Low-end songles would be manufactured by the same channel taht provides toys. An increasing number of consumer items that might become songles these days have radio-frequency identification anyway, so there would be no additional manufacturing expense. Expensive limited-edition songles would probably accompany the introduction of new forms of pop music- in parallel with cheap large-volume editions-because there would be a fabulous market for them.
Wow! Songles. I want some.
Here’s some music to draw to. Right now I’m cutting stencils for Keenan. I’ve been exposed to a lot more graffiti since moving west. I want to learn airbrushing soon. God I hope I never die so I can do it all. And the songle, man, crazy…
Right now I’m finishing up my 6th issue of Mainline, the bi-monthly magazine I put together for San Francisco firefighters (I didn’t compose the infamous “No on B” flier by the way. I wish I did. It’s dooooope!). I’m so close to putting this one to bed with only a couple articles left to lay out and some re-arranging/tweaking that can take minutes or hours, never can tell until it’s done. It’s like making a painting when you’re holding about a million details in your mind, leaving them arranged one-by-one on the back burners and somehow when you resurrect them one -by-one, the initial detail has either multiplied or disappeared. You never can tell. Never can tell.
When a piece of art is finished it’s like magic, You can’t see your hand in it at all. It’s like you were never there. When a piece of digital art is finished, not only can I not see my hand at all, it appears as though it was made by a robot.
Oh my Jesus and after 10 hours of magazine layout is this little robot really gonna blog. Yes, by god I am.
I drank red wine last night, I completed exactly one month of sobriety (excluding the one bourbon binge of course). I’m glad I did it- the sober thing. I felt the shift. I was bored at a lot of parties, socially awkward at others but in the end I realized, shit, I should just be going to cooler events + plus, I don’t have to drink every time it’s socially acceptable. I’m allowed to pick and choose. Most importantly I learned I only have about a month’s worth of will-power when it comes to my vices. Progress? I think so.
I’ve been Groovesharking some fun music lately. Namely Casiokids, Raphael Saadiq and an old Department of Eagles album called “The Cold Nose”. Here are some sample tracks:
Department of Eagles
God, what will we do when music isn’t free anymore?
I’ve started blogging again. You might have noticed because my WordPress is linked to my Facebook. Whenever I post a new entry, a link to my blog will hover on your home page for the few seconds it takes me to sign in and remove it. I have a lot to say but I’m reticent about putting it all out there. It’s been awhile since Adele Street. I’m not as brave as I used to be.
I am inspired to blog again because I’m hungry for what Facebook lacks, depth. I think it is important to share and be connected with others via the interwebs. I do think Facebook has benefit. Networking is great! But I don’t want to trivialize my personal growth by stating it in no more than 420 character increments. If I say my religion is love, I want to have a platform to explain why. I also “like” things less hipster-savy than what I feel comfortable clicking on my Facebox. I don’t know why. But I’m happy for a blog that lets me say so. I also don’t like the idea of some start-up finally figuring out how to use my delicate friendships and preferences to to advertise to me on the sneak. The cloud-consciousness is thick and gray.
I know some of you feel me. My Facebook “friend” count yo-yo’s every weekend as people fall in and out of Facebook Pergatory. I too have felt the bliss of deactivating my Facebook account only to find my Blackberry has been keeping me secretly locked in. It happens to the best of us. At this point, I’ve given up on the prospect of Facebook suicide. I will still lend a portion of my ego to its devious design. The rest, the heart and soul of my online identity will exist here, on Adelestyle, for now. Here’s a baddass jam for you to check out. Welcome to my world, sweet friend.
Right now I’m reading, You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier. I picked it up because the beginning pages mention web 2.0 and singularity, a belief in a technological rapture that has intrigued me since last year’s Burning Man. Subheadings like, “Fragments Are Not People”, “Moral Imperative to Create the Blandest Possible Bible” and “What do you do when the Techies are Crazier than the Luddites” take you into the past, present and future of the internet with all its aggregates, locked-in design and potential humanitarian benefits. It’s an exciting read. Here is an excerpt about social media sites such as Facebook that I find especially compelling.
“It Is Still Possible to Get Rid of Crowd Ideology in Online Design”
From and engineering point of view, the difference between a social networking site and the web as it existed before such sites were introduced is a matter of small detail. You could always create a list of links to your friends on your website, and you could always send emails to a circle of friends announcing whatever you cared to. All that the social networking services offer is a prod to use the web in a particular way, according to a particular philosophy.
If anyone wanted to reconsider social network designs, it would be easy enough to take a standoffish approach to describing what goes on between people. It could be left to people to communicate what they want to say about their relationships in their own way.
If someone wants to use words like “single” or “looking” in a self-description, no one is going to prevent that. Search engines will easily find instances of those words. There’s no need for an imposed, official category.
If you read something written by someone who used the term “single” in a custom-composed, unique sentence, you will inevitably get a whiff of the subtle experience of the author, something you would not get from a multiple-choice database. Yes, it would be a tiny bit more work for everyone, but the benefits of semi-automated self-presentation are illusory. If you start out by being fake, you’ll eventually have to put in twice the effort to undo the illusion if anything good is to come of it.
Jaron also offers a code of ethics in the section, “Why It Matters” where he asks us to do things like, “Don’t post anonymously unless you really might be in danger” and “Post a video once in a while that took you one hundred times more time to create than it takes to view”. Why? Read his book, You Are Not a Gadget, to find out!