Respect the Suits, Bring Back the Gatekeepers!
There are some in publishing who lament about how terrible it is that anyone can publish a book now. Chuck Wendig, for example, coined the term shit volcano earlier this year to express his opinion of other authors, and his attitude is shared by more than just those in publishing.
On Sunday the NYTimes published a screed by a former record store owner who wishes he could turn back the clock to the time when the major record labels were still the gatekeepers of the music industry, a time when not just anyone could record a song and share it online:
I was — and am — a music junkie.
We were on top of the world for a while, but as soon as business dropped, we blamed the “suits” at the labels. It was their fault for raising CD prices. It was their fault for reissuing the same music over and over. Now, almost 10 years after we closed the shop doors for good, every last note of recorded music is at my fingertips. No more waiting and anticipating. Just get up, pour some coffee and minutes later, every release is on your hard drive.
Quite frankly, I hate it.
As an ex-indie record shop owner, I never thought I’d say this, but I miss those suits at the major labels calling the shots and deciding what was worthy of release.
And I suppose it is wonderful, in a way, that the music of some 16-year-old kids in Chicago, say, can be heard in Malaysia with one mouse click.
But maybe this music shouldn’t be heard. The Internet has enabled anyone with a computer, a kazoo and an untuned guitar to flood the market, no matter how horrible or simply unready the music is. This devalues the great music that is truly worthy of being heard, promoted and sold. And it is much more than just an endless supply of choices. The Internet has become a forum for all, regardless of talent. Anyone can be a writer. Anyone with GarageBand can make a record.
In short this guy is saying that the mere existence of bad music reduces the value of all music everywhere, for all time.
He must not have listened to too many of the latest pop hits out this year; those pieces don’t need any help to become worthless drivel.
I would never discourage any musician, however green, from making music. But I would strongly discourage most from releasing that music just because they can. It seems like a kick to the faces of the genuinely talented and deserving, all because of a technicality called the Internet. Where are the suits when you need them?
I can answer that.
In publishing, they’re buying Author Solutions so they can scam writers in much the same way Bennett Cerf did 50 years ago.
In publishing, those suits are churning out celebrity bios one after another.
In publishing, the suits that this guy respects recently slapped a Youtube star’s name on a book which she didn’t write.
And these are the suits that are deserving of veneration?
Respect is deserved (actually, earned), in many cases, but veneration to the point of worship?
I don’t see what they’ve done to deserve it.
image by Darren L Carroll