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Despite the Downturn: Initial Responses

Quick update on the project Despite the Downturn: An Answer Album. Originally launched on Monday as a seven-track various-artists compilation album intended to respond to Megan McArdle‘s May 2010 Atlantic article ( on file-sharing and the state of the music industry, it has expanded to nine tracks, with more to come. Within about 36 to 48 hours, the recordings have been downloaded over 600 times from its home at

For those just being introduced to the record, the musicians on it all used the illustration, by artist Jeremy Traum, that accompanied McArdle’s Atlantic story as a “score” that they interpreted — an act inspired by the inclusion in Traum’s art of a pre-existing score, reportedly Ernest Bloch’s Suite hébraïque (which dates from the early 1950s, and thus lends a little irony to McArdle’s critique of copyright violation in defense of the record industry — and to be clear, my comment is intended as a critique of the article, not of Traum’s artistic inventiveness).

Coverage thus far of the release includes:

A link from Cory Doctorow at led to a small flurry of commenting, including this:

NDanger: “Having had a hand and foot in the music business at various times, I can’t help but think that some small education about the business would push most people closer to the pro-filesharing position. … I can totally understand why someone might be looking for a reason music sucks these days. But less participation by the record companies is definitely not the reason. Look to the spirit of the age instead.”

Molly Sheridan at wrote of the Downturn album’s free release:

“There are those who say music doesn’t have literal communicative meaning (and those who argue that it most certainly does), but both camps and everyone else will probably want to check out [this] compelling response to a recent Atlantic article. … Big money may be gone, but it seems that new distribution models mean moderate money is now much more more likely.”

Over at Sheridan’s site, commenter William Osborne noted the RIAA’s attempt to “insert an ammendment (sic) into an anti-terrorism bill that would would immunize the ‘recording industry’ from damage caused by hacking into people’s computers.”

Rob Walker at says of the original Atlantic article, “It struck me as a rather retro argument at this late date,” and spoke highly of the Downturn endeavor.

And comments at the web version of the original article, at, have picked back up after a short lull, likely as a result of the new attention, among them:

Tynam: “The industry fought kicking and screaming to the death to avoid providing any customer service of any kind whatsoever, for nearly a decade. They don’t get to be all offended that the customers went elsewhere.” wetterberg: “I’m a musician, and I want nothing more than for the music Industry to die a swift death. We get it; there’s so much free content that having to pay for other content seems ridiculous now… because it is. Now lets lose the fatcat system (which has long since stopped contributing to music anyway) and build flat systems. And fatcats include the iTunes store, too!” metapunk: “If people can stop living in the past and instead try to see the way that things truly are, then we might just have a renaissance in music in the same way that music video has flourished on the web.” ert11567: “The Atlantic seems to believe that giving away material, and lots of it, for free is the way to go. I don’t mind – I will continue to pay for the magazine – though I note it is not supposedly economically rationale. Uh, so what am I to think of all those freeloaders reading for free?”

And the participants themselves are doing their part to get the word out, among them Tom Moody at, C. Reider at, Moldilox (aka Joseph Luster) at, Mark Rushton at

And because we all inhabit a technologically enhanced, rapid-response, digital panopticon, one can also follow the subject’s current spiking on this quick-response filter:,

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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