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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Wilco & The Future Of Music

(Via Worldchanging) Wilco is the great band of the information age, a band that has integrated societal noise into its finely tuned signals. Its even more interesting - Wilco is worldchanging. Record labels are threatened by technologies that give fans access to music in ways no one ever planned. It is artists who make music, not the industry that markets it or the technologies that take it. But artists independent of the industry have been as rare in this debate as kids who don't file-share music. The band Wilco and its leader, Jeff Tweedy, is something different. After its Warner label, Reprise, decided that the group's fourth album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, was no good, Wilco dumped them and released the tracks on the Internet.The album was extraordinary, and a sold-out 30-city tour followed. This success convinced Nonesuch Records, another Warner label, to buy the rights back - reportedly at three times the original price. The Net thus helped make Wilco the success it has become. Wilco's Net-based experiments continue: the first live MPEG-4 webcast; a documentary about the band in part screened and funded via the Net; bonus songs and live recordings tied to CDs.
Lawrence Lessig interviewed Jeff Tweedy for wired magazine, wherein Jeff speaks about Why Wilco Is the Future Of Music - Music, he explained, "is different" from other intellectual property. Not Karl Marx different - this isn't latent communism. But neither is it just "a piece of plastic or a loaf of bread." The artist controls just part of the music-making process; the audience adds the rest. Fans' imagination makes it real. Their participation makes it live. "We are just troubadours," Tweedy told me. "The audience is our collaborator. We should be encouraging their collaboration, not treating them like thieves."

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