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The Canadian Broadcasting Company recently spoke with an interesting range of new media and music pundits about how our current downloading culture was likely to influence the kind of music we are listening to five to ten years from now. Will lowering the barriers of entry to the music market encourage more grassroots participation? Will the ability to issue one song at a time enable musicians to become even more topical, serving, as Chuck D described it, as the black man’s CNN and responding to news events as they happen? Will it increase the global flow of music so that we have access to songs from around the world which might otherwise not make it into the American market? Will the focus on singles, each of which have to stand on their own, decrease the diversity of musical offerings, since there will no longer be the kinds of novelty or experimental songs that used to be called B sides? Will music consumers become better informed and thus more discriminating? Will downloading produces songs that all sound alike or will it produce more mutations, niche markets, and subgenres? What role will blogging play in shaping the flow of popular music in our culture? These are some of the possibilities considered here, along with some tea leaves that we are all trying to read to determine what the future holds for popular music. These are, of course, not the doom and gloom scenarios that are most often being pushed by the record industry itself–and that’s part of the fun!

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