The Money Shot

Should Musicians Watch More Porn?

by Joseph Fisher

27 November 2012

The music industry seems to be aggressively reactive, either spurning technology with a kind of evangelical vehemence or taking far too long to figure out how to use technology to the advantage of all involved. Is it possible that the music business could learn something from the porn business?
 

Stereogum recently published an article discussing the difficulties that musicians have in receiving revenue from services like Spotify and Pandora. The piece provides a good overview of the larger problem while also linking to various other blog and Tumblr. posts that have taken up this very same question, so I won’t retrace those arguments here. (However, I will rather cantankerously point out that, once again, there is no real deconstructive work happening in these Deconstructing: [X] thinkpieces.)
  
Instead, I want to ask what is probably a very ignorant question. I listen to, and purchase, a lot of music. As a result, I also read a whole lot of articles about music—which means that I read a lot of articles about how the Internet has made it increasingly difficult for musicians to make a living making music. On the other hand, I do not watch, or purchase, pornography. As a result, I don’t read anything about pornography—except, of course, when Gawker splices articles about porn into its neverending Election 2012 coverage.

So, to sum up, I know a fair amount about the music industry, but I know very little about the porn industry.  Nevertheless, it seems to me that the porn industry has been aggressively proactive in its perpetual hot and heavy embrace of technology, using it, in all of its forms, as a means to increase revenue streams. I mean, haven’t many historians of VCRs and VHS tapes argued that porn virtually created the entire industry that emerged around home videos?

The music industry, on the other hand, seems to be aggressively reactive, either spurning technology with a kind of evangelical vehemence or taking far too long to figure out how to use technology to the advantage of all involved. Is it possible that the music business could learn something from the porn business?

What immediately occurs to me are the contrasting ways in which, um, fetishism works in these industries. While pornography relies on all kinds of consumer fetishes, it doesn’t do so in exactly the same way that the music industry does. Music fans tend to fetishize the physical object on which music is encoded—vinyl, to cite one obvious example. That perpetual fetish consistently emerges in conversations about the future of the industry because that future could be one that eradicates the physical medium. Again, though, it’s striking to me that more people don’t seem to be talking about the intriguing confluences between these industries. Pornography is nothing if not physical; yet “the physical”, as a kind of technical consumerism term, doesn’t seem to resonate in the same way in that realm.

So, I don’t know.  DISQUS below.

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