Bruce Willis radios for help...
Bruce Willis radios for help…
Die hard! So the brave new world of technology and technological freedom turned out to be a lie.



At first all those songs wizzing about the Internet looked like fun. Musicians were happy to give away content- that was the modern way! Fuck the majors they would say, this is the new anarchy! Keyboard warriors claimed that making no money from your music was great and that artists should be happy not to own their creativity. These same keyboard warriors are less happy now when they realize that they don’t any of the content either thanks to Bruce Willis, well not Bruce Willis himself but an urban myth that blew the lid off the creeping takeover of the internet that the musicians who were awake had been warning everyone of.



Not that we are luddits.


Going forward. Mass communication. Easy access to music- of course we loved this. Pop music is forged in technology. It’s always been about the future and there is some great forward thinking on the Internet. It does tear the fabric and let the freaks make music how they like but all the time the insidious corporates are taking it back- from the computers we buy to access the net to the very ownership of the stuff we love to listen to.


And every now and then we get a wake up call.


Weirdly this one came from multi millionaire actor Bruce Willis. Or it didn’t.


The Bruce Willis story is, of course, not true- an urban myth that got out of control on the internet but it exposed a huge lie at the heart of this fuzzy new culture that we are sleep walking into.


It suddenly exposes the lie that many people, especially musicians, before they ere told to shut up by well keyboard warriors with cushy careers,  had already noted- the lie that all digital content is owned by someone else.


They had noted in the great pirating debate that people like the Pirate party were not the saints they claimed to be and far from the internet being this wonderful place where the old laws were turned upside down and ownership had reverted back to the creator and the purchaser they were actually firmly entrenched with the pirates and corporations.


These are the new corporations of the 21st century- the ones that smile at you and are your friends whilst they own everything you create or buy.


Which is a shame because this could have really worked. Afterall who wants to stay in antique world of only vinyl only for ever- that would be like complaining about the end of sheet music in the 1950s and also having to cart around lorry loads of music when you travel. Vinyl sounds great but is a pain in the arse to listen to unless you want to stay in your flat forever.



The internet threw up so many possibilities and then all of a sudden the corporates got it sussed. They were clever about this- they made out the major labels were the bad guys and that all those hideous advances that were giving to musicians for years were a deadly trap and the modern musician should be prepared to work for nothing. The modern musicians should be happy to give away all their music for free! In the mean time they would make loads of money selling the technology to make sure you could do this.


At first the corporates paid for pop culture, then they owned it and now they are pop culture! In the 21st century the seven-inch single is dead and every twitch of Apple’s machine is the equivalent of a Beatles single in the far off sixties.



What’s more they managed to get the commentators on their side with many saying musicians should be happy to give away their music for nothing. ‘Why should you get paid any money for your music!’ they squealed ‘afterall all you need to do is record it on a laptop and release it’ said these deluded fantasists assuming that everyone had a laptop and that everyone could have their parent buy them musical instruments and subsidize their musical output.


The fact that most of these people seemed to come from some of the lets say, posher neighborhoods of the UK was quite telling. They were the usual suspects, the well paid and the well subsidised lording it over everyone else telling the skint to get radical and be happy that those evil majors were not going to pay for them to make records any more and they were now free to give away their music for, er, free!


No-one else really cared about this until they found out that all those shiny little files they had been buying were not actually bought atall. The word ”Ëœbuy’ seems to have changed meaning- in the old days if you bought a cow, you bought a cow, now it means you are renting the piece of music or culture.


In the future all music will be streamed off cloud, you will get to rent it for a few days like a fast food, hi tech version of renting video from the long gone video shop from the old days. The track will revert back to the corporation and you will own nothing. The musicians will get a tiny royalty like with Spotify and the big boys will make millions…enticing isn’t it!

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. What I am wondering is what will the iTune-Kindle generation have to pass onto their children and grandchildren – what happens to that important cultural and historical legacy that helps define who you are? No doubt locked and deleted when you pass away taking your passwords with you… And no books, magazines, letters, records, cassettes or cds to document the passing.

  2. I’m probably being ridiculously stoopid here, but wouldn’t the solution be to download the files to a hard drive with a short note containing usernames and passwords and pass that on? I mean until they make it illegal to actually tell someone your username and password that is…plus you kind of gain a bit of electronic immortality to boot!

  3. Walter Bruce Willis (born March 19, 1955), known professionally as Bruce Willis, is a German-born American actor, producer, and musician. His career began in television in the 1980s, most notably as David Addison in Moonlighting (1985–1989) and has continued both in television and film since, including comedic, dramatic, and action roles. He is well known for the role of John McClane in the Die Hard series, which were mostly critical and uniformly financial successes. He has also appeared in over sixty films, including box office successes like Pulp Fiction (1994)..

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