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William C. Altreuter
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Sunday, March 14, 2004

There is a good study to be written someday about the way music distribution effects music. Sheet music; piano rolls; the fact that most early record labels were owned by companies that sold or manufactured record players; the effect of radio, then radio networks; taping and, of course downloading. There's been stuff written on how LPs changed both jazz and pop (stuff that mostly seems to overlook classical music, but I'm sure there is a reason for that). There has been stuff written about the effect of technology, ("Everybody knows Muddy Waters invented electricity,") but nothing worthwhile about the economics of distribution , that I'm aware of. One thing that I've noted is that there is a tendency for music distribution to trend towards consolidation, then splinter. One effect of this trend seems to be a tendency in homogenization in the music itself, which then ends when some 'revolutionary' new sound finds its way into the marketplace through a new channel. There are a lot of examples of this, but consider for a moment that some of the biggest acts of my late high school/early college years were all managed by the same guy. Ever wonder why Steely Dan, The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, REO Speedwagon, Dan Fogelberg, Journey, and Boz Scaggs all sound alike? Ask Irving Azoff, as good a reason to go to a club and hear the Ramones as ever existed. (Follow Me Here raised the question, and pointed me to the article.)

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