I'm sure at least some of you on this board are music fans. However, some of you may not be aware of the current situation with music. Record sales are reportedly down, partly because of things like free internet downloading of songs, but the other reason is because, well, a lot of the new music the major labels are coming out with is terrible. People are sick of paying too much $$ for Britney Spears and Nsync clones.
A growing number of artists are going with independant labels, making their own websites to promote their music, and even offering free downloads of a few of their songs. Some artists no longer make videos, or if they do, they only offer them on their websites because they know they'll never get them played on MTV.
Anyway, what similarties, if any, do you see between the current music situation and the world of fantasy fiction writing, publishing, sales, etc? Do you think there will eventually be a backlash against the big publishers, or has it already happened? Or, are fantasy literature fans such a small minority that all of this is pointless?
April 13th, 2003, 12:23 PM
It is true that the entertainment (and sports) industries are becoming increasingly corporatised by huge companies. Music shows this trend in a big way, with the industry churning out far more stars and songs than ever before with purely business motives. I think this is wrong and is the reason for the public apathy which leads to diminished record sales.
However, I do think there is a fundamental difference between (most) of the book industry and the music industry, that makes it unlikely that literature will go down the same unfortunate route, at least in the short term.
The authors and publishing community is still by and large a meritocracy. You have to have genuine talent to write a novel, and competition for publication means that only the best material makes it onto the shop shelves. And what just about any reader wants from a book (unless they are addicted to trashy novels, but such people are a small minority) is readable, high quality literature. If the public knows that that most books do indeed meet these expectations, then their enthusiasm is maintained and there is no backlash against the industry.
The problem with the modern music industry is that to make it, you have to be sexy (sex sells is what the company bosses have unanimously decided) and to have the extraordinary good luck to be spotted by a record company when you don't actually stand out from the crowd. Most pop stars were simply in the right place at the right time when they made it big. Musical or even performing (eg dancing) talents are usually of little importance.
The other thing is that although there seems to be vast number of pop stars, the real power is concentrated in the hands of a very small number of song-writers and producers. These are often faceless, behind-the-scenes characters who do not inspire a fan following. The truth is that these people could get a string puppet to perform their songs and it would still be successful. And when fan realise that their idols are merely cardboard cutouts and minting machines for the record company, it is not surprising that they get disillusioned and stop buying records.
The difference with literature is that authors have to work hard for their money and get what they deserve.
Of course, this is not the case for all artists - there is still a lot of talent about, both recognised and underground. But it does also explain why "pop" is no longer popular and "alternative" music such as rock and hiphop are on the rise.
I do not think that such a situation could arise in fantasy at present because of these differences, and as you mentioned, the fact that the whole industry is on a much smaller scale. But if a climate does ever develop where this is a possibility, we should learn the lessons from what is happening to music and prevent the same from happening to fantasy or literature as a whole.
April 13th, 2003, 08:45 PM
Totally. We see the trend in literature to a certain extent, but for the most part literature belongs to the literati, and is not as mass-consumable as movies or music. I'm not even going to attempt to go into how grassroots culture is dead, the people no longer creating it, instead culture is created by corporations on high and passed down to a docile, accepting, ill-educated and willfully ignorant populace for mass consumption <takes a breath> but I will reccomend, to anyone concerned with the topic:
Culture Jam by Kalle Lasn, head of Adbusters and the Media Foundation.
No Logo by Naomi Klein
The Case Against Globalization and for a turn towards the local - Ed. Goldsmith, multiple authors.
For my part in freeing music, I disengaged myself from the mtv culture some years ago, when I realized that 90% of everything is crap, and even good bands that use mtv are quickly destroyed by the same mtv that promoted them. I thus turned to the antithese of the mtv music culture, the jam band music culture.