You are probably wondering what in the world that headline is about. It’s a line from my new favorite song, “Internet Killed the Video Star” by The Limousines. It’s an infectious, fun song that will make you dance in your car and look like a fool, but it also got me thinking about the music business and how it’s so like the literary world.
If you’re over 25, you probably know that MTV debuted with The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Video really didn’t kill the radio star, instead it turned her into a video star. But this was the beginning of a rapidly changing industry that could give clues to undiscovered writers as to what the future holds.
Like the publishing industry, the traditional way to get a record deal is to find an agent who will then get you a contract to put out albums. And, like the publishing industry, these follow trends or artists that are shoe-ins for multi-platinum records. Thankfully, not every musician is a Madonna or Lady Gaga, some appeal to a smaller audience with heartfelt ballads and experimental tunes. That’s where the Indie labels come in.
That fleeting fad of the early 90s, Grunge, brought to light the Indie artist. Those that lacked what record execs thought was wider commercial appeal, but songs that still spoke to a generation. It was harder for these artists to break through, but thanks to the Gen Xers, it happened for some.
The Indie musician didn’t have the coveted producer, or award-winning album art, or power publicist to get them on every talk show. But, what they – and their music had – was soul. It had lyrics that spoke to angst-filled teenagers, melodies that lingered long after the last chords and arrangements that pushed the musical bars. Because these Indie artists didn’t give up, a whole world opened up for them and the artists that follow. It might be a smaller world than sold out arena shows, but it’s a world of fans that appreciate what they created, regardless of producer, album art or press junkets.
There is a burgeoning movement towards Indie publishers in the literary world. Admittedly I haven’t dug into what these are and how they differ from self-publishers, but my hope is that in a world with a shrinking audience, shifting medium and desperate publishers it will provide an option for those of us that may not have the star appeal of Madonna, but still have a story that someone is waiting to read.
I think books can peacefully co-exist with e-readers. CDs and albums are still being produced in this iTunes world. Rock and roll isn’t dead … and neither is literature.