Todd Rundgren

My latest CD is Areana, if you like raging guitars and a guy screaming like he has his nuts caught in a belgian waffle maker you may like it.

What is your most memorable moment? What are you most proud of? That just tells you they never listened to the CD. You predicted everything that has happened in the music industry, what is going to happen next? I didn’t predict, I mostly precursed it. I’ve been in it 40 years. I went to the the Wikipedias. The music industry is only a bit more than 100 years old. [showed video of first phonograph playing Mary had a Little Lamb.] This was the first time that music, which had been a service, became a product. Beatles, jazz, Elvis, Elvis… And then in 1979 Sony came out with the Walkman. Previous to that the music that you wanted to hear rarely left the home. this allowed you to make music part of your lifestyle, and adapt it.

I began to deduce things about how this had changed people’s music listening habits. How the impression of what them usic industry was started to change, and it was in control of the audience. People started taking the music where they were and it became background to their lives. The music was returning to their original purpose which was a service, it was doing something for you, you weren’t a slave to it.

I began to deduce that music was beginning to break down in terms of its originality, recycling was starting to happen. Most significant example of this was M.C. Hammer’s Can’t Touch This, which was actually a James Brown song. They were such a hit with this song “Relax” that every two weeks they would release a remix and it would go to the top of the charts. Got a concept, No World Order, because I was into music and computers and programming I moved to CA in the mid-80s began going to MacWorld conferences, it was technically possible for us to create a system that would allow users to completely tailor music to whatever they were doing at the time and even do it in real-time, to change it in real-time.

Philips decided to experiment with it, Andy Levine a friend of mine and anti-social, they had something called a CDI box, made music to be adaptable. I changed my ideas of composition, it was still songs, but they had to have discrete entrances and exits within it. The idea was to give people control over the music in a number of vectors, took the 1000 music bits and gave it to 4 other record producers, they all did their own version, each came up wih radically different ideas conceptually. One liked the instrumental way more than the vocals, another tried to make songs out of the pieces even though they weren’t in song form. So those were the preset mixes, but all of the rest were customizable. Program (presets), direction, form, tempo, mood, mix (take instruments in and out), and video (screensaver). Core piece is a continuously variable random generator, you have all the numbers in a hat, and you pick more and more than they’re all gone. If you want ot have something less than random but still kinda random you apply a Gallsian (bell-shaped) filter to those numbers.

Were approached by Time-Warner for full-scale experiment in interactive television, put fiber to the curb. Used a SGI Envy, almost crushed half the TVs they put it on. ’94, designed a system to have on-demand music into people’s homes, needed to get the content though. Went to 6 remaining record labels, at least half wouldn’t take a meeting, of the ones that did they were polite but nobody could wrap their minds around it, one was getting licensing from each of the artists, and second that they depended on retail. They would piss off Walmart and they would shelve their records. We couldn’t even get Warner Brothers to license a single artist, and it was owned by the same company. They decided the internet was a great way to get exposure for unsigned bands, it was an evolutionary concept. IUMA existed until just about a year or two ago.

Then came Napster. Suddenly the record industry is having their lunch eating right in front of them, 3-4 years after they tried to do the experiment. Who gets involved but the RIAA? Napster fended them off for a pretty long time. iTunes was the first program I had that allowed me to just take my entire CD collection and just automatically capture everything. My first MP3 was the Neo Jukebox, for hackers it’s great, got a regular laptop-sized hard drive, no DRM crap, about the size of a paperback book and carried it around for years and used it in live performance often. Along came the iPod, he managed to accomplish was to get the numbskulls to put their music on a server. Interesting lexographic point – server, service, music is turning back to its original purpose, which is a service not a product. A CD is a license to listen to the music, not even the industry undestands that which is why they’re so f-ed up.

RIAA started suing their customers. Is there another industry that sues their own customers? Record industry kept looking for ways to make up their money, it never occured to them that they were making crappy music and charging to much for it. They started licensing ringtone stuff. Wasn’t long before people figured out a way to take songs you had already paid for and turn it into ringtones. Here’s where it’s going. “Warner Music pushes for mandatory music tax on your internet bill.” There’s a model for the music industry, it’s the cable industry. Once you get a cable account, nobody keeps track of what you watch anymore, you can watch hundreds of hours per month, you can go on vacation and watch nothing, but you wouldn’t cancel your cable bill just because you went on vacation. It’s a great mode, which is why they come up with great programming with like Deadwood. People are still buying songs at 99 cents a pop. Music is never worth 99 cents a song, there are hundreds of thousands of songsn thta are worthless, there are hundreds of thousands of songs that are priceless. If I were to sit down the four major labels, why don’t you tell Steve Jobs where to go, get together and set up a subscription service, we’re willing to pay $10 a month to listen to anything anywhere anytime.

Music is supposed to be a service, not a product. The last 110 years of the music business has been an abberation, and it’s time for everybody to get over it.

One Comment

  1. Posted January 6, 2009 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    the master speaks again with authority and wisdom…THANKS for posting this TRanscript.

    Todd Rules!


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