Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno have got together to create mudda.org – the Magnificent Union of Digital Downloading Artists. An idealistic venture, the organisation’s goal is to allow artists to distribute their music directly without having to negotiate terms exclusively with labels.
Mudda is not anti-label – it intends to share power and rights between artists and their labels.
As Gabriel states on the Mudda site, “The relationship of artist to the business has most often been one of contract and servitude. We believe the way forward must be a partnership in which the artist can take a much bigger role in how their creations are sold, but also have the chance to stand at the front of the queue when payments are made instead of the traditional position of being paid long after everyone else.”
Advantages to musicians also include being able to release work to their own schedule, instant sales figures and bulk negotiations with online stores – restrictions that many find difficult when dealing with a record company.
Another interesting benefit is that artists will be able to release compositions of whatever length they choose – rather than being restricted to the properties of the distribution medium.
Do you know why a CD is 74 minutes long? Because when the engineers were setting the specifications, they decided that the most popular music CD would be Beethoven’s 5th, and that’s just under 74 minutes.
Pop songs are 4 minutes long because that’s how much music you can store on a 7” single rotating at 45 rpm.
When albums became popular, artists could then experiment with compositions that were 25 minutes long, or one side of a vinyl record. And when CD appeared, Brian Eno brought out Thursday Afternoon, one of the first pieces of music composed specifically for CD and taking advantage of the format’s extended time – Thursday Afternoon has no breaks and takes 1 hour and 56 seconds to complete.
Eno has composed some very long compositions that rely on loops of sound coming into, and going out of synch. Some of these pieces take days to complete, and I look forward to the day when I can legally download and play one at home.
The internet may be about to change music again, in a way that few people could have predicted – as it no longer has to written in 4, 25 or 74 minute chunks.