Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The Importance of The Ecosystem of Expression

A response to Jon Taplin'e excellent post on supply and demand of quality art in the age of digital distribution and a million channels with nothing on (If Great Art Was Popular Again):

You have to square the originalist over traditionalist issues of culture and see the curator as not being a barrier to access but a preserver of what is important. Access to what is good is controlled by the artist who determines how they will be distributed in so far as that is possible. Kate Bush satisfied herself with a comfortable lifestyle instead of a fabulously wealthy and notoriously public lifestyle, waited thirty five years to go live again, then in one series sold 100,000 tickets in fifteen minutes, policed the theatre for cameras and stands to recoup many times that amount with the DVD release. IOW, controlling one's own greed is part of the strategy.

The example quoted in another article about Duane Allman is too one dimensional. If the curator says only Allman's slide playing is important because it is best, he tells George Harrison to never bother to pick up a slide. It isn't a pyramid. Good enough in the right setting is good enough. In fact, an a-list approach is now impossible. The curator has to distinguish between popular and important because one is driven by market economics and it is not possible to dam that up with critiques. Vaudeville stood side by side with broadway and HoneyBooBoo for the short time she lasts stands side by side with Meryl Streep.

I play a few gigs. I usually fill the room with people who are of a certain age and economic demographic. I play quality material from others and some of my own. I compete with kids who beat guitars, sing songs of either sugarlove or suiciderockkillmania. They play often to one or two fans and the drunk who owns the seat. Quality has to compete on its own and by dint of serious hard work. The money is exactly the same and that is tough to solve. However, when there are more people playing in rooms, more rooms need people to play so one has to admit that 500 channels is better for the artists even if hard on the curators as long as the curator believes it is their tastes that determine success and that gatekeeping is more important than preservation or promotion.

The key is the ecosystem of expression. Henry Burnett said it: "I only work with the best." And that works as long as his timing and what he has to say is relevant. But for every OBWAT, there will also be a Secret Sisters that where production quality is high, the material falls flat and fails to find an ear craving to hear that. The Hunger Games were created not by the movie industry but by the youth book industry. Knowing when a message is ready to be heard is easily as important as knowing what is of quality. Pop art and classical art, what is saleable and what is worth keeping, what is original and what will become traditional cannot be divided. You cannot build dams in a flood and they aren't worth having in a desert.

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