moments before the wind.

April 30, 2006

EMP Pop Conference #6

Filed under: authenticity, business, distribution, indie, marketing, music, writing — alimarcus @ 4:24 pm

Matt Corwine gave a hilarious and also informative talk on the theme music from Super Mario Bros.  (He pointed out, quite perceptively, that it's not often to listen to one song, over and over, for hours and hours and years and years, and that there is areason why it is so completely embedded.)  At a certain point, he began to talk about other video games, and said that no video game has ever come up with a score that compares to this early 80's composition that remains in a certain generation's hearts to this day.  Anyways, a delightful Freudian slip brought to light a very relevant issue.  The exception to the rule, Corwine said, is the popular video game "Grand Theft Audio," and then he immediately corrected his mistake.  I wonder if he realized the irony, as I am sure that I cannot have been the only one.  In speaking of music licensing, alternative revenues in a changing industry landscape, and all these kinds of related issues, Grand Theft Auto is well known to be a major player in the market.  Even I, who to this day really only enjoy playing the original Super Mario Bros. and certainly has never played Grand Theft Auto, am aware of it's central usage of pop music in the soundtrack, and the money it generates for artists.  But to inadvertently mistake, or subconsciously substitute, the word "Audio" in there was more than poignant – to the point where I wonder if Corwine did it on purpose, though he did not seem to be one of ther performative speakers. Grand Theft Auto Grand Theft Audio Some questions on the latter:  Can music be stolen?  Is it being appropriated by a consumerism that is engulfing all sense of culture, individuality, character?  Is it thievery if the musicians actively seek it out? 



  1. (discovered this post through the magic of technorati…)

    hi – glad you enjoyed the talk. i was a little embarrased about that slip, although actually i think the subconscious reference was to a group from vancouver called “grand theft audio” that i wrote a little about back in the early ’90s….

    i’m of two minds about consumerism and music. given shrinking sales for physical product it’s more important to musicians’ careers to find other ways to support their work. indie digital distribution and a focus on live performance are what i think will be the two main ways artists make money, but licensing music for tv/film/videogames/ringtones is another way. (also a good marketing tool given the decline of radio as a way to introduce people to new music.)

    on the other hand, unless musicians embrace and accept (and control) the way their music is used, they run the risk of being put into a context they may not be comfortable with (e.g. promoting things that offend their politics or tastes) or is artistically a poor fit. it can only be “stolen” if the artists let it happen, whether out of greed or desperation or ignorance. the fact is, music’s role in our society is changing in a big way, both culturally and economically, and right now nobody really knows how to react to that.

    Comment by matt — May 2, 2006 @ 2:44 pm

  2. You know Matt, I completely agree with you. And I think that, given the conflicts involved (some might say inevitably), I think live performance should be the focus of all. Especially because of the sense of community that it cultivates, in a time where the physical presence of others seems to be rapidly disappearing.

    Comment by alimarcus — May 2, 2006 @ 9:05 pm

  3. When do you think ringtones will be gone and phones will just be like mp3 players?

    Comment by James ringtones — October 3, 2006 @ 2:30 am

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