Archive for the ‘ Arts ’ Category

My Divorce from Rolling Stone

Have you seen the latest cover of Rolling Stone magazine?

Must be that I’ve officially joined the “40 and over” crowd, but I enjoyed writing this email to Rolling Stone’s circulation department.

I have attempted to cancel my subscription for a while now, but you insist on sending me your magazine. How do I put it another way than “I don’t want it.”? I’ve done this online, via phone, stopped payment, yet you continue to send it to me. Please stop. Please, please stop.

You don’t need to send me a survey asking why, or a special discount offer to remain a subscriber. I will simply tell you why:

Your content is of no value to me. If I wanted to join the Lady Gaga fan club, I would’ve done so long ago. Ditto Katy Perry. There is nothing of use to me in your magazine, so please….make it go away. Furthermore, as a father of two young, impressionable children, I simply can’t have your magazine lying around the house. I hide it like a pervert hides porn. If the recent covers weren’t enough (naked Lady Gaga, near-naked Katy Perry, naked blood-drenched cast of True Blood), the contents would certainly do the trick (“effing a crucifix” is not the pull-quote I want my children to memorize).

So, by now, you’re getting a good chuckle at this prude who can’t handle a little edgy content. And you’re rightly conceding that, “then Rolling Stone is not for you!” I agree. Then why do you insist on sending it me? Please stop. Just make it go away. I know you want to boost your subscription numbers to sell advertising, but I have no interest in being a pawn in your deceptive media-planning game.

Please. Just make it go away.

Tom

For a little context, see here:




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I Just Discovered the Internets!

grumpy+old+manThis may seem profoundly mundane, but I think the Internet just might change everything.

No, it’s not 1993. And, no, I’m not 74 years old. But even recent developments have me rethinking just how far the Internet revolution will take us.

It’s not necessarily overly astute to observe that the Internet has become the great leveler, sanding off the playing field so that nearly everyone has equal access to information. On the flip side, the low cost barriers and ubiquity of free Web tools have allowed virtually anyone with the time and interest to become publishers of some kind.

You see this already with respect to news dissemination. As newspapers shrink and fold, blogs and alternative media grow and proliferate. There is very little cost prohibition when it comes to disseminating news and information as there was in years past. I don’t need a printing press, distribution network or employees to deliver information. So pretty much anyone can be a distributor of “news.”

Content communities, such as YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare, allow us all to publish video, photos and visual information. Social networks allow us to connect with others and spread information far more quickly and effectively than old-school word-of-mouth. Everyone has a Web site. Everyone is online. And everyone has either an opinion, an agenda, a passion, a cause or all of the above, just waiting to be broadcast.

So where does it all end? Or, where are we heading?

I envision a day in the not-too-distant future in which all third-party distribution channels are largely removed, and messages and products are delivered directly to the end-user. It’s not all that difficult to imagine; but it’s confounding to me why it’s not happening sooner.

Why do artists need music labels anymore? Will they ten years from now?

Why do authors need publishers anymore? Will they ten years from now?

Why do journalists need newspapers anymore? Will they ten years from now?

Take music, for example. It’s already happening, but pretty soon the physical medium will be a distant memory. CDs will have little relevance, as direct download will have taken their place completely. In such a reality, mass production costs are zero. Distribution can be as easy as publishing to iTunes, a convenience vanity labels such as CDBaby already afford independent artists. There are no printing costs; there are no duplication costs. No delivery. No stocking fees. No retailer fees. All that’s left is promotion and air play. As it stands today, indie artists can in no way compete with the labels in terms of promotion muscle. And the labels and radio stations are in bed together, it seems. But take an artist like Wilco — self-produced, self-published, self-promoted. They aren’t Britney Spears, and they don’t want to be, but they can get their music to their fans at a handsome profit, without the need for third-party muckety-mucks getting their hands in the cookie jar. Is this the wave of the future, only on a much broader scale? Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails are already there.

Next up: books. Vanity presses used to be quaint and all, but they generally didn’t translate into broad-scale success. It was near impossible to get anyone to review them, and you couldn’t get mass distribution for your work. Along comes Kindle. Self-publishing has found new life, as distribution barriers have been removed. If you can get Amazon to pick up your title on Kindle, all that’s left is, once again, promotion. And media reviewers no longer treat self-publishers as pariahs, so if you can create a big enough stir for your work, they just might have to take notice.

It’s exciting to see if this thing knows any bounds. Even movies like The Blair Witch Project and the more recent Paranormal Activity show how successful the independent artist can be with very little overhead costs and and very clever self-promotion.

What makes this so exciting for me, as a failed musician of the 1990s, is the potential this has to deliver broader access to better art, unfiltered and un-watered-down by the know-it-all suits at publishing outfits…not to mention the direct connection between artist and fan that seems more natural in a self-published, self-marketing environment. I wish I was a budding artist today, and had all of this technology and social ubiquity at my disposal. Maybe then I wouldn’t be one of those aforementioned suits.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really starting to believe in these here Internets!