Where We’re At

The means of production have come down in cost and we’re overwhelmed by the resulting productions. Everybody’s got a documentary, everybody’s got a track, and other than their relatives, no one’s got time to view or listen. Therefore, there’s a rush to talent and publicity and those excluded are disillusioned while the public is overwhelmed by the tsunami of content.

Every week I get e-mailed a link to a new documentary. Not a Kickstarter campaign, but a fully-finished production. Once upon a time docs were exclusive, it took money to make one, but today with a camera in your phone and editing software on your computer, anybody can be a documentarian.

So I’ve given up watching documentaries. No, not completely, but it’s hard to know what to spend my time on, since I have so little, so I wait for universal acclaim and an airing on HBO. Which is why I watched the Scientology documentary but did not watch the one on Kurt Cobain.


The campaign turned me off.

This is where it gets tricky. Those in power know it’s all about attention, so they double down with the press and we’re so overwhelmed we get turned off. The press believes it must promote everything and is rarely critical. Just open the Sunday paper, whether it be the New York or Los Angeles “Times,” there are endless features about this film or that, and you end up being disgusted.

Kind of like music…

The campaigns are brief and intense and the products come and go, so why should you bother checking them out, since time is precious?

Even if a track gets stellar press at this point it’s irrelevant unless one hears about it from a friend.

So we’ve got an echo chamber wherein the insiders are clueless, believing the public loves Kanye when he ends up getting booed at the “Billboard” awards.

This is the “Tidal” story. I thought it was interesting that Jay Z freestyled his position until I saw it everywhere, realizing that was his intent, it wasn’t a spontaneous rant, it was something done for the press corps. And once you get the press corps involved I’m out.

But Kanye and Jay Z are stars! What if you’re just starting out?

Good luck!

That’s where talent comes in. Since the barrier to entry is so low, it’s not enough that you know how to play and sing, you need to be able to write too, or have access to Max Martin. Which makes the barrier to success incredibly high, frustrating the wannabe, who blames Spotify for this problem.

But the truth is the public is overwhelmed.

Everybody’s a creator, everybody’s a broadcaster, everybody’s a writer, and that’s just too much.

And the funny thing is the filters don’t realize their power. All we hear about the press is the decline in profits, and the resulting cutbacks. But the truth is unless a screed is presented by an authorized outlet, I don’t care. In order to be a nobody and penetrate my consciousness you’ve got to be better than the NYT or WSJ writers. Which is an incredible burden, but I’m only conveying the truth, don’t shoot the messenger.

It will not be like this forever. At some point there will be a clear delineation between professionals and hobbyists. And the latter will expect neither attention nor profits.

And I hope at some point in the future the press will exercise some judgment, help the public wade through the crap to see the gems. But I’m not counting on that, because press and pros are all about relationships, scratching each other’s backs.

Which is why when it comes to blowing something up we rely on each other.

The pros put their best on the line and we decide what works. It’s not radio, as powerful as it is it’s less powerful than ever before. It reaches some people, not everybody. And we’re all concerned with what to watch on our flat screen, but we care not a whit where it’s shown. It’s about the content, not the channel.

So we no longer live in an era of spontaneous virality.

But we do live in an era of chaos.

But it won’t last forever.

There will be a thin layer which many consume and then everything else.

Even fewer people will be successful than before, despite everyone being able to create.

This is what the internet and digital tools have wrought.

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