For those of you unaware of Ani DiFranco, she’s the authentic version of Alanis Morissette or, shoot, my musical knowledge fell to pieces during the Y2K disaster and I can’t even make a hip Joan Jett reference because she’s coming back into the limelight and, frankly, once I’ve exhausted Ani, Joan and Alanis, I’m stuck. Anyway, I was bouncing around through the horrendous music available on YouTube (Is there some kind of requirement that all music videos on YouTube not officially sanctioned and promoted by McDonalds should consist of crumby live shows with too much crowd noise? Can’t a guy listen to the Five Stairsteps without being subjected to 70s-era variety shows?) and I came upon Ani giving a well-thought out and reasoned reply to the question of intellectual property rights infringement:
If you’re not familiar with the artist, you’ll probably expect some Metallica-style anger/anguish (Angeruish? We’ve already so butchered this language, why not take it to another level?) and you’ll be disappointed, because she acknowledges that the revenue streams, especially in her own career, are malleable and often take into account the free distribution of music to attract an audience to a live show. It seems like there’s a glut of content creators and a contraction of paying audience throughout every creative sector and while that’s not exactly news, it’s less and less clear who the artists are and who the audience is. Whether you’re a quasi-amateur YouTube star or selling giclee prints on-demand (Or novels, for that matter) it seems, at least unofficially, that America is experiencing a massive explosion in the arts.
Sure, you have to wade into the question of whether digital photography and Scrubs episodes set to emo music are art, but even if you disregard the mashups and the countless pictures of cute kittens, you can still wander around DeviantArt and Etsy and YouTube (and even 4Chan) and see an enormous amount of artists out there. They’re not all American, but the majority are, and I don’t think the explosion of artistic impulse was ever part of the projected trajectory of the Internet, which is a good sign (I haven’t bemoaned the Semantic Web recently, so I’ll take this moment to look around and… nope, still not here). If that’s the case, then the growing sector of Struggling Artists would do well to look up Ani and her history and her business model. Maybe Righteous Babe Records is Web 3.0… I’ll have to ask the 4th graders.