Okay. I admit it. I’m old but at least I got too see all the cool bands back in the seventies when they were cheap.
Those were heady days in the music industry before MTV arrived on the scene and the major record labels pushed harder to reach the bottom line in profit and sales. Don’t get me wrong. Show business is really a compound word. Artists need money to survive and to keep producing but at what point do market forces become counter productive to the creative process?
Last night, I talked about this issue with best selling independent author Rebecca Forster, and we agreed that, just like musicians, contemporary authors are forced to trade a lot of independence and originality if they want to please New York publishers and get a lucrative contract. She should know. She worked for them for 20 years before branching off on her own.
I can’t help but think back (way back) to when I saw Pink Floyd perform their concept album, The Dark Side of The Moon, live at Cobo Hall in Detroit, Michigan. The performance was edgy, unrestrained and even somewhat spontaneous in comparison to today’s tightly choreographed concerts. Rock bands were given a lot of leeway by producers in those days to explore and to push the boundaries and fans loved it. Turn on the radio today, and unless you’re listening to a college radio station, you’ll hear basically the same type of tailored mass marketed music. The same is true in the book publishing industry.
Long gone from the scene are publishers who took a chance on writers like William S. Burroughs, Ken Kesey, Hunter S. Thompson,and other experimentalists who dared to challenge the status quo like their musical counterparts. And just think what American literature would be today without them. Actually, you don’t have to. It’s as though they never existed. Somewhere along the continuum, there’s been a seismic shift and I’m not sure about who to blame. Except for a few bold, independent authors, contemporary literature, like Top Ten music, has succumbed to appealing to the lowest common denominator in taste. And as Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden: ”The commonest sense is the sense of men asleep, which they express by snoring.”
No way did I sleep through Pink Floyd’s concert back in 1973 but I find myself yawning just a couple of pages into most contemporary, traditionally published novels that I pull off the display stand at my local bookstore, which features the New York Times Bestsellers.
But then again like I said earlier, maybe I’m just old and tired of “ticking away at the moments that make up a dull day.”