Musicians as futurists

Paul Raven @ 22-02-2010

If you want to get a passable guess at what the future will look like, maybe you should skip the science fiction shelves and head to the music department instead; The Guardian‘s John Naughton points out that David Bowie made some prescient statements about the current state of the music industry just under a decade ago, and that the Grateful Dead had sussed out a post-scarcity business model for a touring band long before anyone had started bandying that term about in connection with digital media – the latter of which is a riff off an article in the Atlantic which I seem to remember hearing somewhere else in the last week or so, quite possibly at TechDirt.

Of course, the Dead’s “vision” has long been the butt of snark from musicians and critics alike – only now does their anachronistic tribe-first model look like anything more than a weird hangover from the 60s. I very doubt Bowie was the only person who foresaw the impeding self-immolation of the recording industry – in fact, one would assume that a career in the pertinent industry as long as Bowie’s would be a, and I’m surprised that any mention of music and futurism together doesn’t warrant some words on Brian Eno… but Naughton’s post is a healthy reminder that proleptic predictions are as much a function of hindsight as they are of foresight, if not more so.