I worked at a used bookstore in high school and college, and I learned something interesting about booksellers: most people who sell used books don’t read. My boss and his colleagues told me that over the years, sellers see so many books come and go that it becomes almost impossible to choose one to read, and eventually, you just kinda give up.
I remembered that detail this week as I was reading an interview at Wired.com with the founder of Tommy Boy Records, Tom Silverman. Silverman has a lot of things to say that are contrary to the whole, “hey-ho, technology is saving the music industry” line we hear so much these days. The bad news? The music market is so glutted with bands and artists struggling to DIY that nobody is making any money. Fewer artists are breaking through today than ever before.
According to Silverman, our love affair with technology has created a supersaturated system whereby there is too much content for any quality to rise to the top. He quotes numbers claiming that 79,000 (80%) of the albums released last year sold under 100 copies – a number so insignificant in terms of industry stats that it might as well not exist. In other words, the industry itself is becoming like a used bookseller, so overwhelmed by choice that all those many choices may as well not exist.