T Bone Burnett shook up the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit yesterday by boldly declaring at the beginning of his segment:  “The future of music is…” wait for it, here it comes…”analog”.

While much of the conference focused on digitization as slayer or savior, and the Internet as love child of the universe and musical cash register, T Bone turned the conversation towards the quality of recorded music.  Portions of the audience seemed stunned by some of T Bone’s thoughts, here are a few highlights:

  • He finds it shocking that artists allow their music to be distributed in such a degraded form as MP3s.
  • MP3s should be free, because they’re not worth anything.
  • The Internet is a broadcast medium, not the omega point.
  • Any musician who uses the word “monetize” should be ashamed of themselves.
  • Musicians should not spend time marketing and analyzing data, they should be focused on making great music.
  • To someone starting out at as an artist today, his advice would be “stay completely away from the Internet.”

T Bone Burnett in conversation with Greg Kot

In the (unabashedly amateur) iPhone clip below, T Bone explains why artists should not put their music on the Internet. (Gasp!) While some attendees speculated that Burnett was just playing the role of an agent provocateur, he seems genuinely concerned about the decline in quality of recorded music.  As noted previously, this a concern we share here at MMT.

However, the market appears to indicate that our concerns are not widespread.  There will always be a core group of audiophiles who will invest in more authentic musical experiences, but the convenience, portability, and ubiquity of digital files currently allows iTunes to rule the musical world.  When I asked T Bone about these market realities, including the failure of premium audio formats such as DVD Audio and SACD, he said basically that it’s not over yet.

T Bone believes we are in an interregnum, a place where the old hasn’t died, and the new has yet to be born.  In this case, the old are the MP3 files, that have been around for about 20 years, and the new will be a strong, future-proof analog storage medium.  In the meantime…er, interregnum, music should not sold or stored in any format below 24 bit/96 kHz.  Bring on the new!

Next, we will look at what T Bone believes may be the biggest challenge of our times, in T Bone vs. the Machines.