You’ve come a long ways since last August. I notice that now you have some cool projects, lots of people linking to the resources on your site, and some press coverage. Tell us about that transition and growth.
We never imagined that Downhill Battle would become such a long-term project for us. When Holmes and I started the site in August 2003, we saw it as a chance to make a timely push-back against a totally one-sided debate about the future of the music industry. Now we’ve been sucked in to an even bigger fight for the future of our culture and the role that the internet can play in reshaping it. What started as a webpage turned into 60-hour work weeks before we new what hit us, but we care deeply about this stuff and, most of all, we’re confident that our side can win.
[...] You’ve definitely interviewed some cool musicians (of which Thievery Corporation is my favorite). What is a recurring theme that surfaces in those interviews?
Our interviews are conversations about music and the music industry with important independent musicians. It’s crucial that we and everyone else hear from musicians while we’re in the midst of this huge debate about what direction music should take, and we want the interview series to be a resource for people.
Standing at this intersection between art and technology, there’s really a fascinating connection that comes out in the interviews between how a lot of musicians feel about music and how free, open-source software people feel about software. Proprietary software monopolies like Microsoft are exactly the same as the record industry monopoly: at one point they were useful enough to people that they made a lot of money and got themselves into a position of exclusionary control. The major record label market share is almost as high as Microsoft’s. They both use that power to deploy a series of dirty tricks that destroy competition– in music that means payola on radio and in magazines that silences independent musicians. Ian MacKaye compares record companies to bottled water companies: it’s convenient to have a company take water from a river and put it in bottles for you to use, and it’s convenient to put music on a CD so you can listen to it. But gradually the record companies have started working against the public interest.
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