“Now there’s this fame business. I know it’s going to go away. It has to. This so-called mass fame comes from people who get caught up in a thing for a while and buy the records. Then they stop. And when they stop, I won’t be famous anymore.”

Bob Dylan, age 23

One of the highlights of my career: Long ago, I published an essay on Bob may even have read it — the guy who ran the website said he “usually” read what was posted there. Also awesome: I didn’t get paid in money but in music. I was told that they’d send me as many Columbia/Sony CDs as I wanted. I agonized over the question of how much would be too much to ask, and eventually settled on 20 CDs. A week later, they all showed up in my mailbox. 

My friend and former colleague Jason Long and his colleague Jeremy Cook have written a sobering essay on the long-term social and economic effects of the Tulsa Race Massacre, which happened 100 years ago. 

Arnold Kling’s proposal for making Twitter less rude assumes that there are people on Twitter who want to be less rude. I’m sure that there are plenty of Twitter users who would like to constrain other people — but certainly not themselves. 

William Deresiewicz’s essay at Harper’s on what the pandemic has done and is doing to artistic careers is powerful: 

The pandemic will likely extinguish thousands of artistic careers. And the devastation will extend to the businesses and institutions that connect artists to audiences. The big players with deep pockets — Live Nation, the mammoth concert, ticketing, and artist-management company, or Gagosian, which operates galleries in seven countries — will survive. The entities that founder will be the smaller ones — mid-tier galleries, independent music venues — the kind that are crucial for helping emerging artists gain exposure, for sustaining serious creators and performers who won’t or can’t sell out to the commercial mainstream, and for keeping alive the spirit and soul of the arts. […] 

But the most frightening prospect is precisely the degree to which this crisis has entrenched and extended the power of the platforms: Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook; YouTube, which is part of Google; and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. Because it is that power that is ultimately behind what has been happening to artists. Art hasn’t really been demonetized. For the companies reaping the clicks and streams, free content is a bonanza. Along with Spotify and a few other players, the tech giants are diverting tens of billions of dollars a year away from creators and toward themselves. They have been able to do so only because of their size, which has given them leverage over labels, studios, publishers, publications, and above all, independent artists, and because of the influence it has given them in Congress. 

Finally, I wrote a post over at the Hog Blog about how workers reluctant to return to their morning commutes resemble English peasants after the Black Death. 

May 24, 2021

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