These days, a media sensation can rise, peak and vanish before you even find out about it. We live in such a multichannel world, deluged in content of varying quality, that it has become easy to miss a rising star, their best work and their subsequent denouement. It’s all over before you notice. When you arrive late at the party, you feel deeply uncool and regret having missed out on all the fun.
I suppose it has been this way for a long time, only different. In the days of television, if you missed it, there was little chance that it would be repeated. Airtime was too scarce. At least these days we have catch-up players on the Internet and things last forever on YouTube. What you tend to miss is the shared experience of discovery and the buzz that comes from experiencing something new with other people. Finding a gem on your own lacks that communal thrill.
Not so long ago, there really was no such thing as the long tail. Once it was no longer available on television or in the shops, it was virtually unobtainable (unless your local library had a copy – remember libraries?). These days, it is possible to obtain oldish books, music and films, long after you missed them, the first time around. What falls out of our culture, though, are worthwhile things that are still in copyright, but for which the remaining market is too small to justify production and distribution, or else those that are out of copyright completely, so that nobody much cares about preserving and making them available.
The problem of our age is that there is too much choice and it becomes too hard to learn that good things are being done. You can’t easily catch the wave of a worthy new artist. There is just no way of suspecting they’re creating wonderful things. Word of mouth is, unfortunately, too slow and uneven, unless you’re close to the unfolding action in the first place. Advertising and promotion doesn’t work, because it’s just another log on the content bonfire, vying for limited attention. You’re no more likely to notice the promotional material than the art it is promoting.
Whereas most content, in previous times, only saw the light of day once it was accomplished and polished, because opportunities for publication and diffusion were limited, now we have saturation of content, much of it made by amateurs who are still learning to become good, by putting their work out there, over and over again. That can be fascinating to watch too, or deadly boring, depending on your outlook. I don’t begrudge people learning to become good by producing their content and exposing it to audiences. What troubles me is that it obscures and swamps things that might already be very good and fully formed. I have no reliable tools to separate the two.
There is a guitar player called Keith Merrow. He’s a young guy in Portland, Oregon who made his name and fame by posting his music to a growing body of fans, via YouTube. He must have some following, because he is now the spokesperson and media relations guru, on behalf of heavy metal players, for a leading guitar pickup manufacturer. There is also a whole range of signature Keith Merrow electric guitars available, made by a pretty reputable manufacturer. In the old days, you’d have to have been a very high profile guitar player to justify such an accolade. As a guitar player myself, I wonder how I missed this guy. Yet, I had – completely. I hadn’t heard any of his music or even heard of him, as a guitar player. He just wasn’t on my radar. Yet, he is now what you would call an established artist, in social media circles. I am extremely late to this party.
It’s a statistical fact that most people who read this post will not have read even a small fraction of my previous blog posts. That’s a pity, because there is, in my opinion, some surprising and interesting stuff there, written with openness, much of which would be an entertaining read, because it can change the way you see things, but who even knows it’s there? There are thousands of blog posts posted every day. Why would mine attract enough of an audience to gather some momentum? I’m submerged in a sea of alternatives. Some of it is way better than my stuff, but a lot of it might not be. The fact of the matter is that there are blog posts I have written, on some of my sites, that my stats tell me have never been read by anybody, except search engine indexers. Writing and publishing them had precisely the same effect and impact as never writing them at all. That’s quite discouraging.
I guess it all just means that people have to work harder to unearth artists of interest. There’s some excellent stuff out there, if you can find it and notice it. It’s not served up to you on a silver platter, like it used to be. There are no giant publicity machines to give it saturation coverage. In truth, there are just too many places to look and no guarantees that any one place can reliably deliver something worthy of your attention.
Who knows? There may be some good stuff in my archives. You just can’t tell until you look. 😉
In case you missed it.