Is the Internet Helping or Hurting Assyrian Music?

The last time you listened to an Assyrian song online, did you pause for a second and asked yourself: “Am I helping Assyrian music or hurting it by doing this simple act of listening to an Assyrian song online?”

Well you could be doing both! Welcome to the world of online music, where virtually any song or album is available for downloading, either free or commercially, depending on how you like to get it!  And that of course is both a good and a bad thing. Good in that we can now sell music online and not have to rely on CDs, which only carry new songs, and is often difficult to find old albums on them.  So, the Internet after all, can help the Assyrian music industry and the Assyrian song as a cultural component. But it can also hurt it. Let us look at both, the positive and negative aspects to how the Internet can help or hurt Assyrian music.

To begin with, what is the solution to finding Assyrian songs that are no longer available to buy on traditional CD format? How about a system like iTunes? With such a digital download system, you will never have to worry about not being able to find old songs.  In fact, this website (Assyrian Voice) is ready to work and collaborate on such a project with anyone who is willing to take on this challenge. We have the fan base and resources to make it work.  Naturally, such a digital market place will be commercial, and not free, with the majority of revenue going to Assyrian singers.   This is one way where the internet can help promote and help Assyrian music.

We would be fooling ourselves to think that such a system would be popular with Assyrians! At least not right away.  In the long term, it is a different story though, and people will appreciate how useful such a system would be.  We are new to this digital age and when it is all said and done, Assyrians will realize that the Internet is to be used to help Assyrian music and not to hurt it. So instead of using the Internet to hurt our Assyrian music by copying and downloading songs illegally and free, you help it grow and make it widely available, while still getting something back for the singers.  Downloading an Assyrian song for free should be considered a social crime, or worse, like breaking a cultural taboo.  Our parents and society in general have taught us not to steal. Well, next time you get an Assyrian song for free, you are virtually stealing.  Except that your guilt will not bother you, simply because you don’t see the person you are stealing from.

Having an iTunes-like system for Assyrian music will also end the age-old excuse of ‘I am only downloading this Assyrian song or album because it is not available at any store for purchase.’  This excuse is genuine with a lot of people of course, and since that is the case, we know we have a market to start with: people who are ready and willing to buy Assyrian music in a digital format, since they are unable to find the album in a traditional CD format.

Some Western singers have come to the conclusion that they can’t win the war on illegal downloading.  Some have gone as far as to give their recordings for free, in hopes that this in turn will help them in promoting their music brand, sell more concert tickets, merchandise and some premium products.  In other words, might as well give what is already being obtained at no cost, for free, but in a legal and mutually beneficial way.  I am not sure if Assyrian singers can follow suit, because they can’t make much from their live performances-only a few can still make a living from weddings-or selling other merchandise and premium products. Consequently, giving out their content for free won’t cut it yet, even if it will get them extra publicity.

Another thing about the Internet is that it has put us closer and more personal with Assyrian singers. You can easily get in touch with almost any singer through their email, website, fan pages, MySpace or Facebook.  Is this a good thing?  For some, it is a great thing that the barrier between them and their favorite singer has been removed.  From the singers’ prospective, they also have an easier time getting to us. A singer can instantly update thousands of his or her fans with a simple web update, Twitter or Facebook announcement.

As good as this may sound, not everyone is happy about it.  I am actually one of those who are not very happy about the new reality and how much closer we have gotten to our singers.  Why not? Simply because the closer we get to them, the less legendary and respected their career becomes in our eyes.  It is one thing to get more exposure to their music, and make it more widely available for preview and purchase, but quiet another to be close to them on a personal and social basis.  Think for a second about some legendary Assyrian singers and their status in the 80s and 90s, and how much it has changed ever since, given how much exposure we have had of them in public.  In other words, the downside of singers’ hyper-connectedness is that there is less of the traditional fame element or mystique factor that has been associated with them.  There is a reason why Biba is a legend, other than how good his music was!

So after all that you have read about the internet and how it can help or hurt the Assyrian music, what is the conclusion? There is certainly a place for the Internet when it comes to Assyrian music but only to promote and help sell it.  But to make the Internet like a free public market place to distribute Assyrian music, should never be accepted nor tolerated by any Assyrian, singer or listener!  It is imperative and would make a lot of economic sense to have a paid digital market place for Assyrian music, which will contain virtually any Assyrian album ever produced.  In the long term, the internet can be used to both promote and sell Assyrian music.  Such a financial and moral incentive will ensure our singers and musicians are creative and inspired enough to always produce the best.

Share

3 Comments

  1. Raman says:

    Why aren’t more Assyrian songs available on iTunes or Amazon, and soon Google Music? How can we help Assyrian artists get on these music sights? It would be a goldmine not only for the artists but also for our nation as it would provide the best incentive for our singers to produce more Assyrian music, which we all love.

    Thanks
    Raman

  2. Banipal Benjamin says:

    Dear Assyrian Voice Emagazine, I would like to promote a New CD. Please let me know where to start.

Leave a Reply