Monday, October 1, 2007

Goodbye to the middlemen

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross reported on his blog this morning that Radiohead, “the monumentally great English rock quintet” is bypassing record labels and on October 10th will offer their long-awaited album, In Rainbows, from a dedicated Web site on a pay-what-you-like basis. Ross billed this as “The death of popular music (as we know it)” but it could be a rebirth, similar to the revolution that happened in the eighties when Soundscan (the technology that records CD sales) was instituted and it was suddenly discovered that the best-selling album wasn’t by the over-hyped Michael Jackson but a little-known band from Georgia named R.E.M.

It’s too bad the unique character of visual art prevents it from being democratically disbursed, but instead is controlled by such a tight web of self-interest that we have no idea what people would find valuable if they had any say—if they could “vote” with the equivalent of a $9.99 download.

On the other hand, if I had to pay Radiohead what I thought their music was worth, I'd be broke.

Meanwhile the September 28th blog post of gallery owner (I refuse to use the term “gallerist”) Edward Winkleman poses the question: “Is there too much art?” (If you asked that about music, the answer would have to be “Yes, so much good music I can’t get to it all.”) The problem, however, isn’t a surfeit of art per se, but of inconsequential art marketed as great art. Is there too much art in Venice?

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