‘Owning media is now an act of countercultural defiance’
This post dives deeper into a recent comment made by Eve 6 lead singer, Max Collins, on how media distributors are focused more on profits than accessibility.
Max Collins, the lead singer of the band Eve 6 has penned a great piece for Popula, noting that owning media is now an act of countercultural defiance. Specifically, he’s speaking out against basically all of the major book publishers suing the Internet Archive for making it possible to check out digital copies of books. He highlights, first, how the key gatekeepers, both in music (the record labels) and in book publishing have crafted a system that clearly screws over the actual creative folks, and how they basically want to make it so that all media you consume is on a rental model where you have to keep paying again and again and again.
And now they are coming for the authors of books, by suing the Internet Archive to ensure that books become like Spotify music: theirs, not yours or ours, to own. Owning media is now an act of countercultural defiance.
He talks about growing up going to record shops and finding the hidden gems (an experience I remember well, too). And while that may feel like just nostalgia for “the way things were,” he’s making larger point. There are elements of the new systems that are clearly better than the old. The ability of basically anyone to access almost any kind of music or books at any time is really something worth celebrating. But, he’s highlighting how, when it’s done under the terms of the labels and the publishers, the models are designed for exploitation, rather than to benefit culture.
The Internet Archive’s Open Library operates with an owning and lending model, like a traditional library. That means big publishers, who are the platform capitalists of print media, want to see it destroyed. They do not want you to be able to take digital books out from a library. They don’t even want you to own digital books. They want to move you to subscription services like Spotify, Netflix or Amazon Prime, so they can count on your monthly tithes to CEOs and shareholders coming in… forever.
I’m not sure I agree with the whole “platform capitalism” framing, but the underlying point is solid. To some extent, some of his complaints have existed for many decades (centuries?). He notes that “we’re handing art over entirely to the profit motive…” but that’s actually been quite true for a long, long time, and isn’t exactly new in the age of Spotify, Netflix, and Amazon.
But what is changing is that there were alternatives in the past and ways around that system, and that included things like the library. But that’s an anathema to the companies that want to see if they can squeeze more out of users by making the consumption of media a subscription, rather than something that the users actually have some level of control over. And digital libraries, like the Internet Archive, are important to preserve that other path for access to culture:
The Internet Archive and all other digital libraries and archives must be protected, and people need to see this ludicrously unethical suit by big publishers for what it is: an assault on art and truth and its protection for posterity.
I wish more artists were willing to speak up about this. I’ve seen far too many authors supporting the lawsuit, without realizing the end result of it is to put them even more under the control of the big publishers, which have already been exploiting them as the only games in town.