future present

Matt Briggs gave a wonderful reading at CCC last night, after which he very graciously hung around for another 90 minutes to gab with my fiction writing class about his stellar flash fiction collection Misplaced Alice, after which he hung out in my office for yet another 45 minutes to gab with me about small presses and to wonder out loud why the publishing business can’t figure out what time it is, after which he disappeared into the fog to find his hotel room, after which he awoke and posted some well-thought thoughts like this:

I think in terms of music delivery the essential nature then of the new industry is there. Music is produced on computers, distributed through servers where it is cataloged and made accessible to the web, loaded into computers, and then reloaded onto hand held devices. This supply chain is as accessible and simple as someone recording a song on their laptop and mailing to their friend. Or it can be as complicated as iTunes which has “inserted value” into several of these steps: professionally produced music, professionally cataloged, stored, and curated music on the iTunes store, a fully supported music storage application for your computer, and handheld players.

Notice none of these steps require music stores with physical space, A&R, record labels. The problem here is one of scale: how to find the “rare” stuff? How to store the massive amount of obscure shit on your computer? In a sense it isn’t do I listen to music? But, how do I manage the massive amount of music I know listen to?

And this precisely what has happened in the music world. Music sales are horrible. The mass market for music is horrible. Less people as a presently of the population buy music. But, conversely music consumers listen to more music and buy more music than was conceivable ten years. My scale of my music library is understandable not in number of tacks, but in days of music. And soon this will be weeks of music. I would have to spend three weeks listening to my music nonstop before I repeated a track.

Is this sensible? This seems like over consumption to me. Maybe I should stop buying new music?

No way. That would be like stop buying books because I haven’t read all the ones I already own.

I suspect that books are very similar to music. I have no idea if digital books will become viable: I hope they do because that will make it easier for me to make and consume books. But, these figures of library usage point out it hardly matters. Less people may read books, but those that do are getting their hands on a lot of books and they don’t want bestsellers. They want the obscure shit.


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