The Wire

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The Mire: Tangents, threads and opinions from The Wire HQ

Collateral damage

Jennifer Lucy Allan

Kenneth Goldsmith's Epiphany in the May issue of the print zine is the first in a series of essays about digital cultures and their effect on the music industry: what they mean for listeners and creators, the change they bring about in cultural currencies and obsessions, and the moral and monetary issues surrounding freebies and filesharing.

The discussion continues in the current June issue with a response to Goldsmith's piece from ReR label head Chris Cutler. Both essays, and all forthcoming essays, will be published online. Traditionally, this goes against the rules of digital publishing: replicating content online for free devalues the print zine, meaning readers are less likely to shell out for the hard copy. In effect, we're filesharing our own content. So why are we doing it?

No other content from The Wire's printed page – bar our monthly listings – gets uploaded to the site (archive editorial content is drawn from back issues that are sold out). However, the subject matter of the essays by Goldsmith and Cutler demand that we make an exception. What's the point of an essay about the effect of the internet if we hold it back from the online communities that are part of the digital paradigm shift we're discussing?

Writing about the impact of new technologies on the economy of music too often boils down to one of two things: a new tech or digital sales pitch heralded as the saviour of the industry or (as is more often the case) its imminent demise. The reality is not so simple. The digital landscape is inherently fragmentary, meaning we're all looking on this scene from a different angle: what's destroyed one has often brought another success, and so keeping these essays within the confines of the magazine limits any hope of turning snapshots into a coherent picture.

In short, this is not a discussion that belongs on the printed page, but one that should be a part of the digital cultures it examines.

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