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Books And Music: Variety Would Spice Up Our Lives

I know it looks like I do a lot of reviews, mainly music and books, but the truth is I could probably be doing double the amount that I do now. If I were to review every CD, book, or DVD that was sent or offered to me I'd have to be posting twice a day just to keep up.

I sometimes wonder if I, basically an amateur who does this for fun, receive this many offers of review material, how many are the people who get paid receiving? Since some days I receive as many as ten such requests, either by the item showing up in the mail unsolicited or via an email offer, the potential boggles the mind.

It really makes wonder how the record companies and book publishers do business. What exactly is their idea of quality control? Do they work under the assumption that the more items released or published the more chance that they will luck into something people will want to buy? For all their talk about artistry and demographics there is more than a slight whiff of an infinite number of monkeys trying to produce Hamlet about their marketing methods.

Of course once they think they've stumbled on something that strikes a chord with people they immediately saturate the market with it and similar items in an effort to make as much money from it in as short a period of time as possible. When people begin to tire of the product almost as quickly as the market has been flooded (somebody should really explain to them the principle of diminishing returns – the more of the same that is produced the less profit you make) the monkeys are sent back to the typewriters.

Of course it's the public's fault the pundits tell us, everybody has such a short attention span these days that they won't stay interested in anything for more then a nanosecond. Have they ever stopped to think that the problem might be that it's only by offering people real choices that they pay attention to anything? If everything sounds the same what is there to listen to after a while?

If variety is the spice of life then corporate music needs someone to pass them at least the salt, if not some basil, and maybe even some cumin. Their idea of variety is… well to be honest I don't know if they even know what it means. Making sure that the flavour of the month has a different cup size from last month's or that their hair is peroxided a different shade of blonde doesn't quite make it in my book.

I mean there is only so long you can look at a pretty young thing before you realize how damned annoying her voice is. It doesn't matter how many topless or bottomless photos of them show up on the Internet – they all just start to blur into one bimbo who can't sing after a while and if people start to flip channels or it's equivalent who can blame them?

The book publishing industry is just as bad as music; they think they're onto something that the market loves. So they pay millions of dollars in advances for true confession, daytime talk show style books without bothering with something as simple as fact checking. When that crashes and burns, instead of thinking about chickens and baskets, they sink even more money into the next big thing.

I could almost understand the first part of the approach, the monkeys and Hamlet, if they weren't only focused on finding the one big thing to be ground into oblivion in a year or two. Would it be so bad if when they found somebody or some group that resonated with people that instead of spending a fortune trying to clone them, they invest only what's needed to allow the original to continue its development?

That would leave them more money to continue to tap into the typing pool of monkeys and work with more than one band or author ensuring the public has real choices. I know it’s a bit of a novel concept, but why not let people decide what they want to read or listen to instead of dictating their choices for them?

I bet that if people were given real choices instead of more of the same on every page and in every CD you would find that their attention spans would improve. They won't all pick the same thing to rave about, but I'm sure you would see fewer one hit wonders and more bands and authors with good sales records.

Instead of industries having to wonder where their next "big hit" is going to come from in order to survive, they would have sizeable numbers of consistent sellers that more than recoup their initial investment in publicity and development costs. Every body would turn a tidy profit and more writers and musicians would make decent livings. There doesn't appear to be any lack of people out there trying to produce something of quality so lack of material to choose from shouldn't be a problem.

You don't need an infinite amount of humans to produce a variety of interesting music and writing, that's been proven many times over. You do need producers and publishers who are willing to believe that there is more than one way to write Hamlet and people would like to choose which version they read. Is that asking too much?

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