Saturday, January 31, 2015

the new media

Well the new media is not so new, of course.  But this blog post by Mike Shatzkin, along with this CBC News article and my discovery of Daniela Andrade and the whole indie/online music scene got me thinking about the rumbling, rolling ongoing earthquake in the creative world.

Firstly, here is Mike Shatzkin's blog post: No the Big Five are not a Cartel by Mike Shatzkin
Secondly, the CBC article:   Indie Music labels and streaming music
Thirdly:  Daniela Andrade:  Daniela Andrade on YouTube

Mike Shatzkin, for those who do not know of him, has been reading books on mobile devices since the days of the Palm Pilot, but  his working life over five decades has been and is spent in various capacities, mostly advising,  for large publishers - usually as an expert on sales and marketing though his first job was working in a book store. He argues in this blog post that the big five publishing companies are innovative and reactive to new technological realities and more importantly do have the author in mind. Probably true,  as true as it can be for a large company heavily invested in old technology (print).  Where my eyebrows went up, was where he admitted that the acquisitions editors for big publishing companies, and their various imprints had no interest in books that would only sell a few thousand. They are, he admitted, mass market book factories (my term, not his).  I suppose this is his way of explaining why so many subsequent best sellers had a very hard time finding anyone to publish their first novel. This is a very long list.  Today, self-publishing in the eBook world, or even as print books for Amazon or Lulu, means none of these potentially classic books are missed or overlooked.  But, my point is that he admits his clients, the big 5, are interested only in mega sellers.  They are thus leaving out the vast majority of authors - probably the 99%.  This tells me they have yet to figure out this new world.  and 'they' in this sentence include the big name authors as well as their publishers. Anyone today can be both author and publisher all rolled into one and the big authors and big companies do not like this.

Now why did I link to the CBC article on indie music labels being hurt by streaming? Well, again, it is a case of the big names, both musicians and labels against the new technology.  The indie labels are small enough to be flexible and find a new place in this new media - which if you read the article carefully, you find they are doing.  The big labels stick DRM onto their product and the big artists complain publicly about piracy.

The third article presents a truly indie artist - a young, talented woman who has eschewed the old way of making music and becoming known entirely.  She makes her own videos and shows them on YouTube, or puts her music freely on SoundCloud.  She gets tens of thousand and even hundreds of thousands of views and downloads, all free. She then can sell to those who wish to pay.

The point of all this goes back to a discussion I participated on in Linkedin a few years ago. In one eBook group, someone asked:  If you could tell the future and you knew you would never make a living writing, would  you still write. Of the roughly two dozen who replied, only two of us said yes, as we had to write - it was a compulsion, it was part of who we are.  The remainder, the vast majority said, no, we would find some other line of work and stop writing.

It seems to me to be there are two types of creators:  those who must create, whether that be music or writing (or I imagine any sort of art) and those who have an ability but are in it to make big money only. With this new media, there is now a rumbling and a rolling of the earth underneath the feet of the big 5 publishers, the 1% of big name authors, the big recording labels, their main artists, which hides from them  an entirely new world of creativity being presented to the public, under their noses, which sniff disdainfully.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Non-linear Writing

I have a complex life, doing a number of widely different tasks in any given day, some of which are money-making and some of which are necessary maintenance.  I won't bore you with the details, but while engaged in maintenance duties, I have taken to either listening to audio podcasts or watching video podcasts while engaged in these tasks.  One of these is a series from Open Yale on late Roman and early mediaeval history presented by Paul Freedman. I am on the lecture where he introduces Gregory of Tours to his class.  He mentions two translations: one he had  his students read where the editor and translator attempted to group and organize Gregory's writing into a logical and linear fashion. The other follows the original order. That is, it lacks the sort of order many consider to be 'orderly'.  It is non-linear.  That is, Gregory of Tours might be writing about a battle in one section, then in the very next paragraph digress to a discussion of a local saint, then in the next give a pocket travelogue of a city. I have attempted this in a limited form in  a World Religions course I teach as a part time, online instructor  (an Adjunct to Americans; a Sessional Instructor to Canadians) at the University of Guelph.  There I have the usual weeks corresponding to a typical term at my university:  twelve. But I also constructed with a brilliant Instructional Designer (alas now gone from the university) a chart using the stars in the night sky to allow students to surf the course.  That is, there is a star for Bahai, for Christianity, for Islam and so on which they can click and are whisked away to that section.  I also organized these 'stars' in cultural groups. Thus, Christianity, Islam and Judaism are located near to each other, as also Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism are close to one another, and that group is near to Shinto and so on.This is very much like surfing the net. 
 This is also the essence of my long prose/poem The Man who fell from the Sky.  Hmmmm.  I might include something similar for The Man who fell from the Sky.

Friday, January 2, 2015

William Blake

This post is not really about William Blake.  But, in a way it is.  This morning while eating breakfast I began to read some of his poems from Songs of Innocence (I have a free copy on iBooks on my iPhone). His poems worked about the same as mine - that is, I am rarely entirely satisfied with any one of my poems.  I have written hundreds over the past five years, but I would guess that maybe 10 or 20 satisfy me completely.  So, that a recognized classic poet is about the same relieved me.  But, I digress.  I have assiduously avoided reading the poetry of others since I began writing the same.  I have a weak will, and knew or believed, that if I read poetry I would copy the style of each poet as I wrote. With Blake, and other older poets, I decided to take a chance, thinking that their style would be so old and formal that I wouldn't have to worry.  My chief influences from High School days of studying poetry were Leonard Cohen and Catullus - so I avoid these!  But dreary, stilted Victorian poetry carries no such worries for me. 

I read a few, then decided to look at the Wikipedia article on Blake to get an idea of the man.  I found him to be someone who burst the boundaries of convention in his time - the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He was a romantic - which I admire.  He was not a producer of standard dreary, stilted Victorian poetry. 

But, and this is the point of my post here, I realized from learning about his character that I had gone off track with my long prose-poem The Man who fell from the Sky. Yesterday, I published part of it here on this blog, after having rewritten sections and added other parts over the past week or so.  I have lost my way in it.  This work was to be a work of pure inspiration, avoiding - no not avoiding as the word 'avoid' implies deliberation.  The Man who fell from the Sky is to be a work where the voices shouting in my head pop onto the screen without any attention paid to conventions of writing, either prose or poetry.  Instead, over the past week, I have tried to shape it into a narrative, with only a few nods towards the madness I want to see there.  I am writing now a side story, as an experiment - a strictly text based, narrative bit of erotic romance.  An experiment because I didn't think I could write a strict beginning, middle, end narrative tale. I am enjoying the experiment.  But I find it has infected Sky Man.

So back to the drawing board for The Man who fell from the Sky. If someone like William Blake can spend his adult life in near penury because he refused to follow the conventions of his time in  his art, then surely a minor figure such as myself can also in this age.