No Man Is An Island

In Culture in the Age of Blogging (read it in Commentary), Terry Teachout writes of

…stand alone journalists,” a term that refers to self-publishing, self-supporting professional journalists who are unaffiliated with the MSM [main stream media].

He then takes the discussion beyond the blogosphere and goes on to write:

In an analogous development, professional artists have started using the web to market their wares without resort to distributors or other middlemen…

and cites Maria Schneider’s recording project via ArtistShare as an example of how it can be done.

The phrase “other middlemen” led me to think about another issue, one that, while not directly on point vis a vis the Teachout piece, is no less important. If you read my recent posting about ArtistShare then you know that I am a supporter of this business model and I love the idea of focusing on the creative process instead of the final product. I will not lose any sleep or shed any tears when distributors and rack-jobbers become obsolete — I haven’t set foot in a record store in many years and my trips to bookstores grow fewer and fewer — but I do worry about a different group of middlefolk: sound engineers, graphic artists, text editors, and others whose skills add value to an artist’s original creation. No artist should go it all alone, unassisted, although many think that they can, and therein lay my misgivings about this do-it-all-yourself-with-technology age in which we live.

A few versatile artists may be supremely talented on multiple fronts, but culture consumers beware when singers and musicians and writers start mixing their own audio, designing their own packages, and editing their own words. The idea of self-sufficiency brings with it feelings of power and control; it can be quite intoxicating, and it can save you money too. I myself am not immune to the lure, and have been giving a lot of thought as to how I might apply such a model to my own writing career. But hopefully artistic considerations will prevail over commercial concerns. Before I sign on to become my own chief cook and bottle washer, I will take a good look at my own skill set and ask myself if I am really the best one for the job. More likely than not, the answer will be “no.” Besides, technology-enabled fissiparous tendencies be damned, creativity benefits from collaboration, and I can use all the help I can get.