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Album of 100 Songs, All 30 Seconds Long, Holds Digital Music and Modern Life Over the Coals

A songwriter collects the likes of Mungo Jerry and more to pillory modern existence.

If nothing else, the web has provided out-of-the-box thinkers with an endless playground, albeit one that feels (actually, is) encircled by armed guards and mathematical formulas, working both for and (mostly) against us.

Take Kutiman’s achingly beautiful, height-of-humanity quilts composed of YouTube uploads or Vulfpeck’s brilliant, cynical ploy for free money. Or Yacht’s very existence. The default digital mode may trend towards negativity and fear, but the opportunity to rise above remains steadfastly in front of all our faces.

That said: Sometimes negativity is justified. (Ahem.) And funny.

This summer, New York University songwriting professor Mike Errico wondered, darkly: “Spotify, the clear leader in the streaming space, pays after 30 seconds, so an honest question is… why write beyond that?” Mark Christopher Lee got the joke, and took it very seriously indeed. Six days ago he uploaded 100×30, a record of 100 songs each a hair over 30 seconds long, to SoundCloud. No industry participant is spared.

A short list of 100×30‘s targets include: Spotify, YouTube, Shazam, Deezer, the Brit Awards, the BBC, MP3s, SoundCloud, sync deals, The Orchard, Sony Music, NME, Starbucks, Noel Gallagher, Steve Jobs and MacBooks.

Speaking to Errico via The Independent, Lee says: “I’ve been trying to have a meaningful debate about how we value music, and how we pay for it.” Mostly, however, his focus seems to be on how we don’t pay for it. For instance, the lyrics to “Ain’t Nobody Makin’ Money in This Business Anymore”:

Yep, nobody’s makin’ money in this business anymore / Leave the guitar in the guitar case / The lyrics in the drawer / Guess we’ll all get loaded and die out like the dinosaurs / ‘Cause nobody’s makin’ money in this business anymore

Or the lyrics to “All About That Bass And Not Being Paid A Fair Amount”:

It’s all about that bass / But mostly about / Not being paid a fair amount

Or “Nobody Makes Money Anymore”:

Nobody makes money anymore

You likely the get the point. The music on 100×30, which ranges from ’90s house to Blur ripoffs, garage rock to The Streets’ minimal monotone hip-hop, definitely isn’t going to win any critic awards. But the gumption is admirable, and its pragmatic economy is, for better and worse, the real star here. It may be true that any expectation of financial stability arriving through artistic endeavor is slipping into the sea faster than the ice caps, but ideas like Errico’s and executions like Lee’s at the very least point to a pin-sized beam of hope in the ceiling.

To that end, Lee has made CDs of the record available on its website — not that you’ll buy them.