Meandering lunch conversation with my boss and Dave Winer, who paid us an informal visit. Got talking about plummeting newspaper subscription rates, the mainstream-ification of blogging, the question of credibility in a world where traditional journalism is less valued by the readership while the credibility of expert bloggers is rising.
All of this got me thinking about parallels between the music industry and journalism in an age when the internet is slowly but surely interring the old institutions. If the traditional music industry is threatened by the rise of home-recording software + internet distribution models, the industry replies, “Well, you still need us to wade through all the crap for you, to bring the good stuff to the fore.” To which we reply, “You’re the ones who are bringing us the crap!”
Meanwhile, at sites like myspace.com, the public is deciding what’s worth listening to. Artists are made popular by being downloaded — the good stuff (using a loose definition of “good” here) bubbles organically to the top, rather than being force-fed, top-down. So the traditional music industry is needed neither for recording technology, nor for distribution, nor for editorial buffering.
A recent Wired piece about myspace.com blew my mind. The Hit Factory:
… nearly 400,000 of the site’s roughly 30 million user pages belong to bands. [myspace] racked up 9.4 billion pageviews in August – more than Google – and new users are signing up at a stunning rate of 3.5 million a month. … The site hosts 12 percent of all ads on the Web.
One could argue (or predict) that blogging could ultimately do to traditional news what myspace is doing to music.
If 95% of blogs are crap, then so probably are 95% of the bands on myspace. But in both cases, the public decides which 5% are worth listening to / reading. The credibility of the 5% is sui generis — not bestowed by the imprimatur of old media, but earned.
Where the parallel breaks down is that the music industry has been largely evil, while journalism has been largely a force for good (the majority of journalists aren’t doing what they do for money or fame, and the best music comes from artists driven first to create, second to make a living). I find myself secretly rooting for the demise of the music industry while feeling very nervous about the parallel threat to journalism.