Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Cult of the Amateur.

Sup yall. Today I'm going to be talking about Andrew Keen's book The Cult of the Amateur. To give you a rough synopsis of the book, Keen's main goal of writing this book was to start a conversation about Web 2.0 and how it could potentially destroy our culture. Yes his ideas are a bit biased and extreme at times, but I commend the man on the stances he takes because in the end, they have allowed him to accomplish his goal. I flew through the book in a few hours and had immediate interpersonal communication with a handful of people regarding particular issues I found noteworthy. In the next couple of paragraphs I'll address some of these issues, shed a little light on them, and hopefully get you talking about it as well.

First off you must know, I'm a bit of a music head, as my blog may indicate at times. I'm not sure if this is just a cartoon thing, but music to me is like the coal you have to keep shoveling into the furness to keep the train rollin'. I must have it. It keeps me going. Keen is also a music junkie, but is already claiming the music industry "dead" like everybody else and it's all because of Web 2.0 and file sharing. I'm not so convinced. Yes, billions of dollars of music are downloaded every year, but whose to say that everybody who is downloading would have even bought the album anyways. Keen admits that music has become more popular than ever with the introduction of Web 2.0, but automatically assumes that every album somebody downloads would be an album that they would buy. Yes these are potential sales, but are consumers that might not even be in the market without Web 2.0. If anything, this might increase purchases due to consumer involvement being at an all time high. Attendance at live performances have been at there highest rate ever, so maybe revenue is just being reciprocated in different ways like at shows, ringtones, ect. In no way am I trying to say peer to peer file sharing is healthy. It's still stealing. I just think that everybody automatically concludes that file sharing is the reason the industry is dying. We must consider that we are in the midst of a format war and maybe the major labels should take a second look at their business model. As we have seen in politics, tradition doesn't always give you traditional results (i.e. the economy). The same should be said about the music industry. Besides the last time I checked musicians can still make a very good living and have a blast doing it!

Ok I feel like I just wrote a lot, but I'll deluge into one more topic that I actually agreed with Keen on. Actually, I kind of felt that way about the whole book it was just a little extreme at times, but was necessary to accomplish his goal of starting conversation about Web 2.0 externalities. However, the one topic I did find myself a little outraged/nodding my head to was Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is great, but for certain things. Being a music fan I find myself routinely checking Wiki pages of my favorite artists to learn a little bit more info on them. I find that it strengthens my appreciation for the artist at times. Also, you need to know your shit if you start talking to somebody as passionate about music as you are. My dislike for Wikipedia stems from scholarly posts. Although the information about a large variety of subjects is regularly accurate, it can be biased or misleading at times. The particular example that Keen used about the guy who had devoted his entire life studying the environment and climate change that had been limited to how much he could contribute per day because they believed he was using what they like to call Point of View (POV), was ridiculous. Facts should not be excluded from Wikipedia if they want to be taken seriously. Also, Wikipedia is putting experts, people who have devoted their whole lives to education and research, out of jobs because some teenage bastard can copy and paste something off the internet. Wikipedia has the potential to be great if they make some major adjustments. They should have something like a "Wikipedia Scholar" where only experts or professionals are allowed to post and then they could just do a regular Wikipedia where any Joe Shmo can post a fun fact about Jay-Z or some other tid bit of celebrity gossip.

Well I feel that this is adequate for my first post, so feel free to comment and fire up the conversation as Keen intended his book to do. If you get a chance I would highly recommend that you read the book. It's a really quick read and is highly relevant to our generation because ultimately, we are the ones that will fix this mess. Hopefully...


  1. It would be interesting to see how many musicians torrent/download other music. Some bands have reverted to giving people $1 for downloading their music. I like to think that the music industry is evolving and adapting to our culture.

    I wonder how many book copies Keen would have sold without Web 2.0.

    It sounds like keen is very one sided and is fearful of change. Maybe I'm all wrong :D... I bet class discussion on this subject was very fun.

  2. I'll drop off the book for you the next time I'm in Eau Claire. It's pretty interesting and is a really quick read.