An Untaught, Untrained, Unchained Tunescream



The lucky thing is, this isn’t a DRM rant. As XKCD’s Randall Munroe’s pointed out, the fight over digital rights management is pretty much over – and the right people won. The right people being, of course, NOT the bloated and curmudgeonly music industry, but its nominal customers. The problem with DRM, as I seem to recall noting in a previous article, has finally become so blatant and obvious that the big-name distributors, ie: the ones with direct contact and therefore direct culpability to the purchasing masses, have finally relented, and forced their suppliers to cut it with the bullshit.

The war’s just about over. The final battles over ebook and movie DRMs are fought mainly by those who are simply too blind to see the writing on the walls – or much like with the case of the sole Japanese soldier caught in the middle of a Pacific Island wilderness for years after staggering years, too cut off from the mainstream to realize that not only has the war been over, but we’ve been celebrating its anniversary for a while now…

Whups, laying it on them a bit thick there. They’re not that bad off. DRM isn’t that old an issue. It is, however, just old enough for all observers to have gotten a bit bored of it.

So let’s start off on something… new.

There’s something stirring in the cheapest apartments, the cubicles, and the market alleyways of Tokyo. A fast-tempo jazz beat flits by, carrying with it the scent of graveyard incense; the static feedback of a broken, howling megaphone crackles yonder, the hyperkinetic theme song of a self-parodying pink-haired ninja close by – it all ranges from the ridiculous to the bizarre… and often, to the point of jaw-dropping quality. The biyearly Comiket flashes and glints rainbow with the mirrored faces of CDs almost as often as it rustles with the cheap paper of doujinshi – fan comics and graphic novels, written, compiled and printed for this one event, often never again. Off on the digital flipside, converging lines of electron thought streams around a nexus known colloquially as NicoTV, pushing, prodding, shoving and clawing their way up the weekly viewership rankings.

Trois Rouge

Trois Rouge

Elsewhere, across the supercontinent, the pulsating buzz and droning thunder, the slow ticking of clockwork and plucking of springs resonate on cue with the orbits of rusted, industrial phantasms. The heartbeat and dreams of factories and shipyards sing like steel angels – and hiss with the static of old CRT monitors and snakelike cables. Every few weeks, men and women in what can only be called Geek Apparel, crossed with bulky headphones and a fluorescent “tan” gather for strange, esoteric, and oddly fascinating purposes, a digital chorus seeping out slowly, then quickly, with seemingly no transition, out into the aether.

Anybody that dare make the claim that modern music is a dead and rotting scene, made but a mocking mannequin by the puppet masters of the RIAA… are pretty fucking wrong, all considered. What they fail to understand is that the RIAA’s plastic surgery and photoshop enhanced puppets aren’t representative of the totality of the music scene – yes, they representing 99% of its monetary value, but please avoid confusing money with talent here. The RIAA’s sole and defining ambition is to make as much money from songwriters, three-chord strummers and motormouth rappers as possible- what they seek isn’t groundbreaking art, but something profitably familiar. Or, at least, profitably controversial. You don’t need talent for that – you just need an in-house writer and some baseline consistency.

So where do you find talent?

Trois Noir

Trois Noir

Elsewhere. Everywhere elsewhere. People driven not by the cold and heartless machinations of the money machines, but by honest-to-gods, true and heartfelt love. Love of art. Love of creation. Even love of artificial idols, sometimes – or, rather love of the growing concept behind their feminine appearances, like the uniform-clad green-gray-and-black equivalent of a Greek muse. Money? Money’s good – money means you can make more music, or afford to focus on music. Money means you can afford to publish more CDs, pay off your collaborators, update your computers and software. What armchair proponents of capitalism get wrong is that money isn’t a means to an end for anybody but the 1% outlier of the rich, greedy and debauched, of which can’t be counted on for art at all.

Money is merely the process. Joy, orgiastic and visceral; joy of creation and joy of destruction and joy of chaos and life is a far more terminal end than a piece of paper whose value isn’t something tangible, but agreed upon.

Go hunt them down. In the poetry slams, amongst the esoteric chambers of Demoscene, up and down the lightspeed grapevines of the digital realms. Hunt down these gems in the deep, inky dark rough, these brilliant sparks of unadulterated, untrained, untaught, uninhibited talents. Hoard them, and hold on tight – no archives, no collectible CDs, no televised performances; blink and you might never see them again.

Trois Bleu

Trois Bleu


~ by Gonzo Mehum on March 3, 2009.

2 Responses to “An Untaught, Untrained, Unchained Tunescream”

  1. I wouldn’t begin to write off DRM now, not by a long way.

    The games industry was one of the First Great Bastions of DRM (ab)use, and they are still going strong. There are occasional noises from the more enlightened (see, for example, Gabe Newell’s comments on the lack of efficacy, and demonstrably negative consequences of DRM), but the majority of the publishers in the industry are hooked on the snake oil like a desperate crack addict whose dealer is going on holiday for a week.

    The problem here is that the music and film industries have tried to emulate some of the ridiculous stuff that the game industry has done for a long time. The general populace seems to have a somewhat lower tolerance for this crap, and it’s harder to pull off many of the game industry tricks with music and video, but they have tried. As long as the games industry hangs off the puss-oozing teat of the DRM creators, the other media industries are going to continue looking at it – and the occasional attempts at delusion the game industry makes when claiming that DRM is doing anything positive – and they are going to keep asking “why can’t we do what they are doing?”

    There might be some vague miracle in which EA, Ubisoft, and the other stalwarts of invasive DRM realise what Gabe Newell has put into words (and may observers of the industry have known for a long time) – that DRM makes your product inferior to a cracked version of the same thing. But I doubt it. These people have clung to their concept of how things should work for over two decades, and I honestly wonder whether many of the people involved are capable of comprehending that there might be another way. It will take serious, long-term change to shake the industry free of such willful self-deception, ignorance, and lies.

    Until that happens, the games industry is going to remain as a tempting example for the media industry as a whole. Executives have often demonstrated that they appear to have the attention span and memory of a mentally deficient goldfish, so you can be certain that as long as some demonstration, no matter how poor, of ongoing attempts to force controls onto customers exists, they will keep failing to learn the lessons of history.

  2. One might suggest, TW, that Valve continuing to blow everyone else’s attempts at online stores out of the water with Steam, might be exactly the impetus that EA, etc, need to change their thinking.
    Nothing makes a point to an executive like a competitor effortlessly outcompeting them.

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