I don’t mean to pick on Chris Anderson again, but he’s such an obvious cipher for the “Information wants to be free” brigade. Now it turns out that his original “grand theory of everything” called “The Long Tail” is totally bogus. Charles Blow explains.
A study last year conducted by members of PRS for Music, a nonprofit royalty collection agency, found that of the 13 million songs for sale online last year, 10 million never got a single buyer and 80 percent of all revenue came from about 52,000 songs. That’s less than one percent of the songs.
This means that Anderson’s declaration that the “80-20 Rule” was dead (80% of the revenue would come from 20% of the product) was completely wrong. In fact it is even worse–it’s the 80-1 Rule. One of my doctoral students tried to explain to me yesterday why so many academics come down on the side of the “screw copyright” crowd–they don’t believe there is such a thing as genius–so they see any attempt to enshrine a particular artist as a continuation of the “great man” theory. If Jackson Pollack is just regarded as the vehicle that channeled the post war zeitgeist onto the canvas, why should he get the rewards for the collective consciousness? So the notion that Bob Dylan was just taking old folk melodies and putting new words to them is an academic trope that vastly underestimates Dylan’s talent and cannot account for the difference between his work and that of Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton and all the other singer songwriters of the era.
This seems to me to be a totally warped view of artistic work and yet according to my student is totally “the party line” in many academic departments.