Revolution vs Evolution


When a regime becomes unresponsive to the society from which it derives its power, a segment of the society, having exhausted all legal or peaceful means of implementing change, may sometimes engage in a revolution against that regime. This “turning upside down” of the status quo requires that a new regime replace that which was ousted. In the arena of consumer economics, given a free market and freedom from predatory monopolies, consumers revolt by means of boycott or organized exposure of faulty products. But, as in political revolution, that which is revolted against is replaced by another, new and improved, crunchier, carb-free product, usually packaged with 25% extra.

We hear of revolutions every day. The revolutionary new SUV, the digital revolution, the revolutionary new painter, novelist, film maker, sculptor or composer. And then we have the revolution taking place in the marketing of recorded music. If there is indeed a revolution occurring in the business of music sales, the current regime will be replaced by a new regime. Authority revolted against must be replaced by another form of authority. And in the case of the music business, the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for” has profound meaning.

I would hope that the “revolutionary” methods by which music is beginning to be marketed are not revolutionary at all. The artists who make, and the consumers who buy music may perhaps think that iTunes, Amiestreet or Sellaband are the battalions leading the revolution for the overthrow of the old guard. Again, I hope that this is not the case.

The leadership of a successful revolution becomes the new regime. And a regime will retain authority in two ways, responsiveness to it’s constituency or brute force. The first is sure to fade and the second will eventually result in another revolution. Slogans are written, battle lines are drawn, scapegoats are slaughtered and the big picture may get a photo-shop update, but nothing of substance really changes.

Here is the way it really works…

Once upon a time, the world (the music business) was covered in nice warm water. In this water lived a few giant dinosaurs (record companies). Living in the water, the big dinosaurs did not notice how heavy they really were. They frolicked weightlessly along, unaware that their huge feet were crushing the smaller organisms(Indie companies and consumers) living on the bottom of the water. Because the dinosaurs were so heavy, they never left the water, not even to shit. So they gamboled about in the water, shitting enormous piles of waste (flooding the market with new releases) which began to choke the smaller organisms.

The dinosaurs thought that this Eden would last forever. They really enjoyed living in their own shit and feeling it squishing between their toes as their huge feet mashed their shit and the smaller organisms into the sea bottom. But over the years their shit started to pile up and the water began to recede. The dinosaurs were beginning to feel their weight but couldn’t stop shitting. The more they shit, the shallower the water became until the day came that they could no longer move about. What was once a fresh blue sea was now a muddy shit wallow with a few huge dinosaurs struggling to survive.

And then one day, out of the dry shit there crawled a few of the smaller organisms. Because they had to struggle in the shit all those years, their fins had become strong and their breathing mechanisms had learned to survive out of the water. The smaller organisms grew strong enough to go out on the dry land and some of them even developed a taste for dinosaur meat. The dinosaurs begged the smaller organisms for help but the smaller organisms had had enough of living on the shit of dinosaurs. They ate what was left of them and moved out over the land to have adventures of their own.

That… is called evolution. Some organisms learn to adapt to changing conditions and thrive in the new environment. Others try to hang on to tradition and fall by the wayside, becoming the fossils that give us a glimpse of what once was. Stagnant conditions can cause unrest and even revolution. But when conditions change, courageous organisms adapt to the new surroundings, adopt new methods of survival and thrive.

The advent of digital recording technology, widespread access to all corners of the world via the internet and the stench of shit encrusted dinosaur feet have changed the conditions surrounding the music industry forever. There are those who cling to tradition or shy away from the learning curve of new technology and become museum exhibits. And then there are those who become strong on dinosaur meat, embrace the technology and become compassionate agents of positive change.

Sellaband in particular is in the unique position of becoming such an agent of change. I would hope that those in the Sellaband community reject the temptation to take on the mantle of revolution in hopes of becoming the new regime. The effects of revolution can be short-lived…but evolution, by its very nature, offers an exciting future to those eager to adapt to changing conditions. The biggest price to pay is patience and the realization that those who follow will benefit more than those who are first out of the water.

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