Once the Smartphones Have Freed the Music

You go out for the night with a couple good friends.  You have no specific plan, but you all like music, and the city is filled with music.

You all go to the bar and venue district.  You grab a drink.  The smartbar reads your phone semi-remotely (in your pocket) and charges you directly for the drink.  Your auto-tip app makes a little coins-in-the-till animation appear on the bartender’s screen and he sees you gave him a standard couple bucks each.

You finish your drinks and wander next door, where you could already hear throbbing bass coming through the walls even over the piped-in music at the bar.  It’s some post-dance-whatever band.  The basslines are catchy but after just ten minutes it becomes clear that every song of theirs has the same exact awkward beat.  You and friends turn to leave.  As you pass out the door, the smartvenue reads your phones, and notes that you were there less than 15 minutes.  The cover charge begins at 15 minutes, so you don’t get charged a dime.  But because you’re music fans and understand how hard it is out there, and you’re willing to support even bands you dislike, your auto-tip app automatically tips the awkward band a dollar each.

You wander through a couple more venues.  Nothing catches your ears long enough to keep you there past the time when that particular venue starts charging.  Finally, you come in at the halfway point of a multi-act show, with a bunch of varied but musically related indie-R&B groups.  You and your friends find yourselves engaged enough to stay through the end, an hour later.  The smartvenue charges your phones a typical $10 cover apiece as you leave.

Before you left, you brought up the third band on your phone and starred them three and a half stars in your personal rating catalog; their recordings will pop up in your headphones sometime in the next three days or so, and, knowing yourself, if you like them when they pop up unexpectedly, you’ll give them another half star.  Your personal settings have four stars as the threshold for show reminders and larger automatic tips at shows.

Your friend arranges her music-rating-and-tipping set up differently, and she once again tries to convince you to take her approach, but you prefer to only give money when seeing a show or downloading an enhanced album package.  Your friend, on the other hand, uses the patronage app to do the heavy math it does.  For a three-star personal-rated band like this one in her system, she automatically has it set up to approve a $30,000 a year lifestyle for each band member.  The app calculates how much she’ll direct-deposit tip them on a weekly basis, based upon how many other fans they have, the salary levels those fans support, and the band’s actual publicly reported income.  A week later, she’ll learn that this band, while earning stars left and right, is still very new, so their fanbase is small (but growing).  The app hits her programmed cap for support to one band, and $1 for that week is donated to them, bringing her support total for all music acts that week up to $10.50.  She is delighted to see a tweet from the band saying they earned enough from their new fans to upgrade a crappy microphone they had, and she feels positive and like she has some ownership and some kind of mutual relationship with this band.

You all see the band both times they get gigs in the next month, at which point they announce they’re taking a break to finish their album for all their new fans.  Two months later, it’s out, and your friend renews her argument in favor of her system by pointing out she’s now paid about $12 in regular donations and another $10 in tips, and for that $22 bucks she got three great shows and a polished album download – and the satisfaction of knowing that the band is on their way towards making a modest living doing this, just as soon as they break the 5,000 patron mark.  That’s all it takes, she says!  And every few hundred fans after that will decrease her donation until she’s paying fractions of a cent each week to support them (at which point, actually, she’d probably up her approved lifestyle-donation-rate to $40,000 or something).  But for now, they’re so close to the important 5,000 patron mark!  But she can’t convince you; you prefer to pay as you go, and note that you ended up paying $30 for the same three shows and downloads in the end.  It’s all lighthearted; this is one of those chocolate-or-vanilla things that everyone likes to argue about but doesn’t really matter in the end, it’s still ice cream.  Everyone gets to pay the way they feel best.  But you’ll keep having this debate with her all the same.

Your little secret is that you do use the patronage app – just not for music.  Your half-dozen favorite local writers – observant bloggers, clever playwrights and incisive sketch-comedy acts – you support that way.  Tomorrow night your favorite favorite, a wonderfully wry playwright who sets funny stories right in your neighborhood, is debuting her new show, eight months in the making.  At the rate of 20 cents a week, you and her few hundred other local fans are allowing her to focus on her work by only needing a part-time job, and you all get a great show for a couple bucks plus how ever much of a tip the show earns from you that night.

The day after tomorrow, you figured you’d tune in to the first presidential primary debate, and see what you feel about the candidates.



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  2. Anonymous · · Reply

    Smart phones aren’t exactly my things.

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