six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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No, let’s not bring back the suits

A gentleman named Sal Nunziato revealed himself as an idiot in the New York Times:

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.

Nunziato’s argument is that the old days, when corporate suits made business decisions about what music would be the most marketable, were good days. Because when the suits made all the decisions, there wasn’t an infinite amount of music to choose from.

The curation aspect of what those music-industry suits and their A&R men and their talent scouts and the rest, that did (and does) have value. Today, more than ever, people who can identify what’s worth listening to (or reading, or watching) are incredibly valuable. There’s so much stuff out there, that it’s impossible for any person to try it all. We need to look to people who match our tastes to recommend things to us.

But Nunziato’s story isn’t about curation. It’s about gatekeepers. He believes that people shouldn’t be allowed to create art without a guy in a suit making a business decision to allow them to do so:

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.

I’m not quite sure how the existence of bad music devalues good music. (Wouldn’t it be the reverse?) And see those last two sentences? There’s the democratization of creation, right there—and Nunziato says it like it’s a bad thing!

The Internet means that if someone creates something that people love, it doesn’t matter who they are. A kid in his basement in Minnesota can gain an online following and turn into a top-selling recording artist. That’s not a horror, that’s a miracle.