The Fallacy of Music Like Water

From Music Tech Policy:

In 2002 David Bowie said, “Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity.” In early 2005, Berklee VP David Kusek and “futurist” Gerd Leonhard based their book The Future of Music on the concept of “Music Like Water,” i.e. the transformation of the music industry into one in which music is ubiquitous and subscription-based, paid for and delivered like any other utility service.

In 2010 Spotify founder Daniel Ek co-opted the analogy and has brandished it in every interview since. Aside from a few askance sentences buried in various article comment threads, I was hard pressed to find anyone else that found the concept distressing. To date, the only formal counter-argument I’ve seen published was by Andrew Dubber in 2007 (who has been fighting the good fight ever since). I would like to present another.

Here are some observations regarding our relationship with water in the US:

1) We need it to live 2) We use it often 3) We perceive it as free (at least, the youth and non-homeowners often do) 4) We get it on demand 5) We take its abundance for granted 6) We take its purity for granted

As a consumer, all six sound great to me, because my only objective is to get as much as I can, as soon as I can, for the least amount of money and effort. I don’t care if slaves made it, I don’t care if it is spiritually toxic or will lead our culture to a place where music is peripheral; I love a bargain.

As an artist, I like the first two because they raise my value. But numbers 3-5 threaten my value, and number 6 seems invalid.

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