19 October 2006

Filling the Holes in My Head

My sinus cavities, that is. Between that and sudden breakdown of matters for two clients caused by third parties, I'm a bit too busy to blawg much at the moment. So I'll just leave you with these miscellaneous thoughts:

  • A recent article in the Chicago Tribune fits in nicely with my recent musings on the efficiency of business models in the distributed-entertainment industry. The money quote:

    More than 80 percent of the music that is released in America is made by independent artists who don't sell big enough numbers to attract major-label interest. Yet a handful of corporations continue to haul in the bulk of the shrinking industry's revenue. That's because they concentrate their marketing efforts on a few dozen mega-selling artists, while more than 90 percent of the artists who record for a major label never see a penny in royalties. That business model looks particularly rickety in the Internet era.

    A playing field once heavily tilted in favor of the major labels is now leveling off. The main incentives for artists to sign with a big label were to gain radio airplay and shelf space at retail stores, propositions that required lots of revenue. The Internet obliterates the need for both.

    Greg Kot, "In This Digital Music Age, the Listener Is King" (15 Oct 2006)

  • Julie Bosman ponders the annual fall rush for name authors in the NYT, remarking that

    Publishers and retailers are hoping for an industrywide lift during this high season, when holiday gift giving pushes up bookstore traffic. It may also be a respite for booksellers, who have been grumbling for several years about sluggish sales and a dearth of dependable blockbuster fiction. "This is one of the best fall seasons for fiction that we've seen in a long, long time," said Stan Hynds, a book buyer at Northshire Bookstore, an independent bookseller in Manchester Center, Vt. "The category has been hurting for a few years because political books have been so dominant, so it's nice that it's going to bounce back this season." The lineup of writers this season includes many who have large and loyal fan bases, the kind of customers who will buy anything a favorite author writes. One of those authors, Mr. Albom, has a new book, For One More Day, to yank at his readers' heartstrings; it has sold roughly 319,000 copies, according to BookScan. The much-anticipated Thirteen Moons, Mr. Frazier's follow-up to his hit novel, Cold Mountain, has been closely watched since its debut on Oct. 3. So far, 74,000 copies have been sold, according to BookScan, a sizable number for a literary novel, but hardly Albom territory.

    "A Crowded Autumn Book Season Presents a Pileup of Name Authors" (19 Oct 2006) (typography and fake paragraphing corrected; emphasis added). As every bookseller and publishing-industry figure knows, though, there is almost nothing less dependable than a blockbuster.

  • Armand Iannucci ponders the contrast between news and comedy in the Grauniad.

    It's what I suspect most of us who work in the creative arts occasionally feel: that what we're doing is interesting, it's fun, it's probably the only thing we can imagine ourselves doing. But is it a proper job? Is there a point to what anyone in the arts is doing? It's only recently that I've come to find out that it does - that spending one's life just imagining things, making things up, performs a crucial role today. It matters because it's an act of imagination, and imagination is one of the things that defines us as human beings rather than monkeys. It's an act of imagination that is just as valid, just as crucial, I think, as any serious competitor, like a drama or the novel. But I think we sometimes see comedy as an inferior art form.

    "Comedy to the Rescue" (19 Oct 2006). Unfortunately, Mr Iannucci missed the boat. The "modern" journalistic method makes the journalists, hosts, presenters, interviewers, etc. come across as if they're somewhere between "I have no opinion on this" and "I don't care about this, it's just a job." Comedy doesn't work if it's not presented with some passion, some point of view. (Neither does right-wing talk radio.)

    Or one could just sarcastically note that the writing is so much better on The Daily Show and Not the Nine o'Clock News than it is on their mainstream competitors that even those who don't know that they're looking for good writing flock to the comedic news sources. Perhaps we should assign Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language" more often...