A long time ago, I took an issue with pop music. I wrote a piece for my regular op-ed column with a newspaper at the time about Britney Spears…not in the way that many mocked her, because I don’t want to do that. I was just pointing out that her music was…well, vanilla. Generic. I proposed that playing one of her CD’s and finding where one song ended and the next began would be quite a challenge, because they all sounded the same.
I think that’s the issue with popular culture, is that it plays to the lowest common denominator as far as taste in concerned. For some reason that I can’t fathom, many want only to listen/read/view what’s popular, without probing hidden gems out there that aren’t on the pop culture radar but that have a great deal more substance.
I bring this up because I’m interested in the self-publishing phenomenon. When I finish my current project (the novel I keep talking about here and slowly making progress toward…I think I’ll have it finished by the year 2085 at my current pace), I plan to self-publish. I may change my mind later, but right now I want to go that route. I love how easy it is for authors and artists and photographers and musicians to get their work out there for others, without getting a big business in the middle.
And, for all of us creative types, that’s ultimately what we want: to get our work out there, and hope it impacts others’ lives. Financial success is typically secondary to that.
Still, I wonder what the end result would be if we removed the gatekeepers…that is, traditional publishing houses…from the picture altogether? I say that because sometimes I think we need educated people with good taste working to put high quality literature out there, and keeping some poor quality fluff away from us. Honestly, with so much pop culture vibe going on out there, I’m not sure that the literature that receives the most reviews to become popular would be the highest quality literature. Which would lead one to be concerned that the high-quality stuff would go largely un-noticed after a while.
And, we can’t ignore the fact that some work becomes popular because it’s of such high quality. A Visit From the Good Squad is a great example. This is true for all mediums of artistic expression, as well: U2 has been one of the most popular bands in the world for some time, because of the originality and quality of their art.
As far as publishing is concerned, I’ve heard many say that traditional publishing will never go completely away, and I’m sure that’s true. I think, though, that we’re only years away from having it fade to the background, just as record labels will, I suspect, and perhaps motion picture producers, as well. So what does that mean? How does it impact the overall quality of the literary landscape? What really makes me curious is how it will impact the world of academic publishing, where the review of others in the discipline is absolutely paramount in determining acceptable quality, which in turn has a direct impact on the quality of education that we all receive.
I love watching these changes take place. I’m really interested, and hopeful, that they always take us forward culturally and creatively.