Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Can you get me a CD of Armenian death metal? 

Tyler Cowen calls it the extent of the market. Chris Anderson calls it the Long Tail. Tyler points to music as an example, citing Brian Eno.
...go into a record shop and look at the dividers used to separate music into different categories. There used to be about a dozen: rock, jazz, ethnic, and so on. Now there are almost as many dividers as there are records, and they keep proliferating. The category I had a hand in starting�ambient music�has split into a host of subcategories called things like �black ambient,� �ambient dub,� �ambient industrial,� �organic ambient� and 20 others last time I looked. A similar bifurcation has been happening in every other living musical genre (except for �classical� which remains, so far, simply �classical�), and it�s going on in painting, sculpture, cinema and dance.

...As people become increasingly comfortable with drawing their culture from a rich range of sources�cherry-picking whatever makes sense to them�it becomes more natural to do the same thing with their social, political and other cultural ideas.
Glad they still call them 'record shops', but honestly I don't go to them much any more (sad about this since I still like the people at Electric Fetus and miss their selections sometimes.) I did back then, and the joy of finding Here Come the Warm Jets filed right behind Emerson Lake and Palmer is now replaced by Genius lists on iTunes and a podcast of Irish rock I discovered after watching the movie Once. (If you've not used this movie for a night with your one true love, you have an opportunity knocking.)

When I asked Littlest who she's listening to the other night, she gives me a name I never heard of and calls it a "screamo band". What's screamo, I ask? Is it like emo? "Oh Dad, nothing like that." And the arguments over who gets the label are hilarious (I did a Google search for bands that are screamo, and the discussion is entertaining.) So we can expect more and more labels. #1 Son, when consulted, simply said "You've listened to Slayer -- she'd probably like that." He was wrong. My guess is, we'll simply divide the market further.

This goes further and further. Mrs. S asked this morning about personalized trains. Now I remember personal train cars from The Wild Wild West and the Atlas Shrugged, but a whole personal train? I said, this is why we have cars. Panera, not a coffee shop, still manages to have four flavors of coffee (light, dark, flavored, decaf), and we kvetch when the one we want isn't there. But what Eno is describing is that music that we missed out on because Rhino or the Fetus didn't have it -- and you thought they had everything! -- is now ubiquitous. I want to try out for a musical, I want to hear the soundtrack. But not just any soundtrack -- I want the one where so-and-so sang that part. Ten minutes later it's on my iPod, and in 15 I'm humming along and trying to learn the words. And it pretty much doesn't matter which musical I'm describing. I want some Armenian death metal? If I don't know any and there isn't a category, I start with someone nearby like System of a Down and seek similar bands via Pandora. Within an hour, I'd find something close. (note: I do not like metal. Just an example. But I did discover Visa the other night using SoaD, Gogol Bordello and some Armenian folk rock. I'm already addicted.)

Need to grade. I'll have some Bernanke thoughts this evening, please stand by.

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