Books and the Music Industry

The more I hear pundits talking and writing about the Music industry and the Book industry, the more I’m convinced that they’re in the same boat.

For the most part, the point of the big publishing houses is not to go about the business of getting books/music written/performed, It’s the promotion of the next hot title. The book industry has the high volume dreck, it has instant sellout potential when a book is mentioned on Oprah. It’s similar to the way that a hit single, if put in the right locations and helped with a little grease will become a runaway success.

And both the book industry and the music industry are scared stiff by the internet.

But that view is the high level view that covers the fraction of a percent of the product that gets national attention. There’s far more out there than you have heard of, and it’s just waiting to be discovered. University presses published 135,000 books last year (figure from NPR tonight). There are countless small bands that can produce independent albums without the intervention of the big labels. In the last month, I’ve picked up three cds from local artists, all of whom produced most if not all of their music, none of them with a recording deal.

The difference, perhaps, is that the barrier to duplication for bands is much smaller. Locally, you can start with cover art and a cd-r, and $1200-$1800 later you’ve got 1000 copies of your cd. You can’t quite get a book duplicated for that.

So what is the future of the Music/Book business? Both exist to generate demand for things that artists produce. I’m not sure, but I’d venture a big guess that the same restrictions on use that will be pushed by the big publishers will ‘accidentially’ make it much harder to self publish.

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