Fair warning: we haven't been keeping track since the beginning, but we think AMANDA PALMER, BEN FOLDS, OKGO's DAMIAN KULASH, and NEIL GAIMAN are about four songs into their 8-songs-in-8-hours recording session up at MAD OAK STUDIOS in Allston. They're scheduled to be at it until around midnight, and taking your suggestions for song titles on Twitter at #8in8. (For those of you who've never seen a recording session, this will be absolutely fascinating. For those of us who've been through a few of these: enjoy the nineteenth take!) If you've got a pass to tomorrow's RETHINK MUSIC conference in Boston, I'll be helping the world's newest internet supergroup unveil their free-for-all album to the world on a panel around 10:30 am. (Proceeds, if anyone decides to pay-what-thou-wilt, go straight to a Berklee College of Music-affiliated charity.)
Lord knows you can't do anything on the internet these days without starting an argument, so when we wrote about the origins and lessons of the NINJA ALBUM CYCLE EXPERIMENT for our special issue on 10 New Ideas That Can Save the Music (Industry), we should've known a shitstorm would be not far behind. To be fair, even fans on Amanda's message board were a little skeptical of this project. But there's also some people who should've known better than to make the really dumb argument that only music that has been created after lots and lots of serious thought and contemplation is any good. Some guy at Hypebot made that argument anyway. (Keith Richards wrote "Satisfaction" in his sleep. End of argument.) Hey, some people don't like "novelty" and think it has taken over the music industry -- and that we can prevent such a tragedy by telling three talented musicians (and one talented writer) not to spend an evening in the studio together. Because let's face it: if only we had spent more time time and effort making Lady Gaga and Britney Spears records, the industry would be novelty-free! (By the way: I love novelty records, Britney Spears, and Lady Gaga: but I bet Hypebot's guy doesn't.) By the same thrust of logic, Music Hack Days would be pretty worthless, too, because -- come on -- nobody can code anything useful in 24 hours, right?
So then Mashable went out of its way to present the oft-dragged-out argument that since Amanda Palmer, OKGO, and Ben Folds all participated at some time in the major-label system or its offshoots, that they cannot be pushed foward as people who are proving the internet is good at replacing the music industry. ("Yes, there are a ton of bands out there who — although unsigned and flying solo — have made a way for themselves, but this experiment is not exactly supporting that theory," they wrote, while somehow failing to point that hyperlink to the Rebecca Black video.) As if there weren't hundreds of dozens of ex-major-label artists whose post-label careers went fucking nowhere. As if there weren't lessons to be learned from the viral-media escapades or community-building feats of artists who were forced by the major label system to do their own publicity because the label never gave them a push. I actually had a long conversation on exactly this topic with Damian Kulash, which space and my typing speed did not permit me to include in my Ninja Album piece. Time permitting I'll try to draw him out on it at tomorrow's panel.
In any case, Amanda Palmer gave a longer rebuttal of the lazy-thinking school of major-label apologistas. It's worth a read. (Meanwhile: OMG, Amanda, if you make them punch in your vocals one more time I'm going to come down there and sing the Tesla song myself.)
But hey, look: if our guide to the best ideas at Rethink and an album's worth of free music isn't good enough -- we've got you. The folks over at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School have released the briefing book that's going out to all attendees at Rethink. Trust us: everyone in the music industry is too lazy to actually read this, so if you do, you will be much smarter than them, which you probably are already. And really, it doesn't get better than this: Yochai Benkler on voluntary payment models?! (Internet geekery doesn't get better than that, unless you're gonna tell us you've got a podcast of Jonathan Zittrain explaining the impact of net neutrality on internet censorship, complete with pictures of toasters.)
READ: Rethinking Music: A Briefing Book
You would also be a dummy if you didn't listen to the Berkman Center podcast, which often includes some of the internet's smartest people asking each other really smart questions. Like just the other day they had Wayne Marshall -- who interviews Nancy Baym for our Rethink Music issue this week -- being interviewed by all-world smart dude and Global Voices co-founder Ethan Zuckerman about the future of the genre still kind of known as world music. Not long ago, Berkman talked to Nancy Baym too. Great minds think alike. Here's all the ones tagged with "Rethink Music." Listen to this and you may not actually need to actually attend the conference.
We'll have updates from Rethink over the next couple days -- if we survive tomorrow night's party, which is being thrown next door to our offices by the guys at the Echo Nest, a/k/a the Most Important Music Company in the World.