Caught a few episodes of “Download: The True Story of the Internet” on the Discovery Science Channel. Last night’s program, ostensibly about the development of its social networking functions, made the point that the advent of YouTube and its ilk have made inroads into the traditional gatekeepers of media. The narrator fairly beamed as he touted the creativity and the vibrancy to be found on the net.
Yeah, I thought, that’s because it hasn’t ossified yet. Soon you’ll have to be related to Bill Gates or someone to put stuff up. ‘Cause it struck me. Think about it. Books used to be hot. Yeah, yeah, TV, video games, etc…. But when was the last time, you read a good book, not a “good” book, the kind you the Times tells you to read? There are maybe twenty authors out there whose work is enjoyable. Of course, those twenty authors have been writing for twenty years, and it shows. Gatekeepers.
Do you realize that some of our greatest writers just sent their work out to publishers? Try doing that today. Oh, no, you need to have an agent. Well, try getting an agent. They won’t read your stuff either. Years ago, in an experiment, the first chapters of some “classics” were sent to publishers. Nada. Gatekeepers.
The other aspect that has depressed book sales is the depression factor. Why is it that so many of the books published today are about the Millicent’s hangnail and its effect on her interpersonal relationships? Forget about books for teens. Just reading the blurbs on the back is enough to send someone into therapy. Aren’t there any happy teens? Doesn’t anyone grow up in a two parent household without alcoholism, violence, and bulimia? But that’s someone’s idea of good young adult lit. Gatekeepers.
I was watching a program on England’s Royals the other night. There was Anne Liebowitz doing a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. I remembered her explanation of how she started in the photo business, hanging around with the guys from Rolling Stone and taking some pictures for them, that is before they became a real magazine and she became a real photographer. And the likes of David Geffen started out hanging around with less than famous musicians. These same musicians could send DJ’s their demos and actually get airtime, if the DJ liked the stuff. Now you only get airtime if you go through a middle man. In the meantime, music sales are down and were on the way down before napster and itunes, etc… Gatekeepers.
I could go on; the same is true of TV, movies, journalism just about all of the arts. You either go the corporate/academic route or the “my father was a big producer” route. Not so on the internet. Yes, there is chaos, and there are regular joes in their underwear, but there is life, there is talent, and there are no gatekeepers.