Countering cultural imperialism at home

Last night I was listening to Kot and DeRogatis‘ talking about a talented performer who is signed to a record label whose latest recording cannot be bought, at any cost. Instead, Tim Fite’s very political, satirical and musical album is free for anyone to download. Fite told Kot & DeRogatis that if he was making a statement critical of mass consumerism and how hypercapitalism is ruining our democracy, he couldn’t very well profit from it in the capitalistic sense.

This album would sell. And if radio were still a variety of independent stations instead of many outlets from the same three or four mega-corporations, this song would be playing in lots of stores, homes and cars. Consolidation of radio means you won’t hear this on your boom box, but do go to Over the Counter Culture and download it yourself.

What does Fite gain from giving this away? He gets his work out to a large audience as in creating “buzz.” He establishes his voice or point of view. I think he creates interest in his subsequent work, too. Fite is anticipating an economic system that is emerging from the clash of our post-free market capitalism and a gift economy. He is an anomaly this year because he is giving away his ideas in a digital form for no monetary exchange as well as for his critique of consumer and mass consumption society.

This is an economic shift with social and political implications. You can read about it in print in “Happynomics:Everything you know about the economy is wrong” by Bill McKibben in Mother Jones March-April edition where he discusses the problems with modern economic assumptions of “maximum utility” and rational decision-making that leave out how people actually find satisfaction. You can see it bubbling up in the shift of attention among people as audience from mass produced media to user-generated content. Mash-ups, sampling and sharing are upwellings of behavior that is “irrational” to neoclassic economics.

Where will Fite be next year? My guess is that he won’t stand out for his marketing tactics, but I hope his voice and point of view are still strong and clear.

Video from the album

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