Publishing Industry and Music Industry

The most obvious comparison between these two giants of intellectual property distribution is the digital connection: the music industry had a boom in the last couple of years that petered out, which relied on iTunes and streaming services, while pay-for-access still had trouble, and access through free channels is still the way to go. The widespread supposition is that live shows and higher amounts of participation in music is the way of the future, less than passive consumption. When all of the hoopla about “Millennials” came out, how they demanded more active participation in their classrooms, their culture, and in their society, this seems to mesh well. In my mind, this seems to have some connection with the diversification of music outside of the major labels, and the rise of independent labels and musicians.

Could the same thing happen to the publishing industry? Over at the comments section of a blog post about the total failure of libraries hearkening in a “Digital Underclass” (as if there wasn’t one already), one commenter posted:

Today, authors use publishers for distribution but that may change. They may start publishing their works themselves – just as some musicians do.

The reply was: “Never happen.” Looks like someone hadn’t been paying attention. In addition to self publishing sites, and Amazon getting in trouble after a really bad PR job about pedophile handbooks for the Kindle, it’s clear that self-publishing, along with the rise of small and successful publishing houses, that people are actively participating in the creation and wider distribution of content.

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3 thoughts on “Publishing Industry and Music Industry

  1. This is interesting to read after having read a comment from a literary agent on a Boulder listserv for media professionals. She was discussing the pros and cons of self-publishing versus producing with an established publisher. She stated that most authors will achieve their goals more easily by having a publisher handle all of the editing, production design, marketing, distribution, etc. rather than trying to do it all themselves. This is not a big chain versus small publisher question; the literary agent was discussing the merits of publishing with a publisher–be it the giant HarperCollins or the tiny University Press of Colorado versus publishing something completely by yourself. I am becoming more and more skeptical of so-called active participation in publishing. On the surface it sounds great, but It seems like Web 2.0–the idea that anyone can participate in discourse on the web at the click of a button–has led to juvenile extreme-right or extreme-left comments in response to newspaper articles and discussion being reduced to clicks of “Like” or “Recommend” buttons. Newsletters become blogs become “microblogs” a la Twitter. This lunacy does not seem to be afflicting music, as far as I can tell–people are still producing full compositions that they post to Facebook or MySpace. But I feel like the concept of “self-publishing” needs to be reined in. Comments? Go.

  2. Go!

    I think your point is pretty legit. There’s a lot to be said for publishers, just as there are for record labels, which to me seem to be vetting sources for cultural objects. I guess my main curiosity is if there is going to be a rise in smaller publishers (my bet is that self-publishing, like self-releasing music, will proliferate, but with little noticeable impact on the rest of the industry).

    • Maybe we just need a little more micro-vetting: small publishers can assess writings in different and perhaps better ways (instead of just focusing on whether something is mass-marketable). Vetting is good. I know it’s a controversial topic for librarians, but that’s what we have to do–we can’t collect and/or purchase everything, so there’s always going to be some selection involved.

      Segue: with regard to music, you can self-produce and still get your music added to Pandora. Which is really cool, but the only catch is that your music has to be sold on Amazon.com or iTunes. I don’t think that has to do with some deal Pandora made with those two companies. Tim Westergren explained it at this Pandora “meet-up” over the summer and I don’t remember why–the music has to be distributed somewhere, interface with their software, or something . . . So that’s the only criteria that the music has to meet–it’s purchase-ability through one of two channels.

      Keep up the interesting thoughts, Joe! :)

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