The revolution didn’t start with punk rock

I’m still in the middle of reading The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, but in tripping through it I came across a bit of musical history as it relates to DIY media that I think is a bit inaccurate.

Anderson writes:

But punk rock changed the game. Punk rock said: “Okay, you have your guitar, but you don’t have to do it right. You can do it wrong! It doesn’t matter one bit if you’re a skilled musician; it just matters if you have something to day.”

There is no doubt that punk rock was a significant social force, and it taught a whole new generation that all you needed was “a red guitar, three chords and the truth,” but the DIY spirit has been part of the American music heritage since their were pilgrims at Plymouth. Granted, prior to punk, the American and British music scenes were pretty dismal, with a long list of vapid, overly hyped and over-produced stars, but the bad stuff wasn’t the only music in the world at the time. Before the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and the Clash, there was the New York Dolls, Iggy and the Stooges, and the MC5.

And before the proto punks, there were garage bands such as the Kingsmen, the Troggs and the Standells. And much of their inspiration was drawn from such early rockabilly artists as the Rock’N’Roll Trio, Charlie Feathers and Dale Hawkins.

Rockabilly, of course, was the product of the most DIY’ish music of the 20th Century: Blues and Hillbilly.

Need I go on?

DIY is just part of the American music character — it’s why we have jazz, blues and country and all the genres in between. DIY didn’t start with punk, and punk isn’t why DIY media is exploding today.

Music has evolved as the technology of music making has evolved. With each new advancement, new generations have found new ways to express themselves. The history of music proves that if you give people the tools to create and share, they will create and they will share. Better and more accessible tools just means the tail gets longer and longer and longer.

Peer-created media is a powerful force. It is a force of nature.

For all those in big media hoping P2P is just a fad: It isn’t. Hisotry proves it.

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