How a garage band is like a self-published writer

Seth Godin wrote a great blog post a few weeks back about how digital technology changes markets: True professionals don’t fear amateurs.

The best professionals love it when a passionate amateur shows up.…If you’re upset that the hoi polloi are busy doing what you used to do, get better instead of getting angry.

Pink Noise by Wout J Reinders

Photo by Wout J Reinders • http://www.sxc.hu/profile/wout • Pink Noise, a Pink Floyd cover band in Netherlands

I’ve been mulling this over, because it made me think about garage bands.

When teenage musicians gather in someone’s garage to play, the only people who get angry are the neighbors. When those kids play at a friend’s party and burn some homemade CDs to sell, or if they post their MP3s online, no one says they should hold back because they’re not good enough. They’re not accused of watering down the market with their inferior amateur music.

Even in the most frenzied days of RIAA lawsuits, the suits were going after distributors and consumers of songs covered by record company copyright. They weren’t going after garage bands—at least, not bands playing original music by their own amateur songwriters.

Why then, is the publishing industry having a collective conniption over amateur writers self-publishing their stories? The disdain traditional publishing has for indie and self-publishing rises to the level of protesting too much. By which I mean, “What are you afraid of?”

You don’t hear Lady Gaga complaining about B-list night club bands watering down the music market. The B-list bands aren’t complaining that their market share is driven down by kids playing in garages. Justin Bieber doesn’t complain about amateurs posting their videos on You Tube…Oh, wait…

Does that make Amanda Hocking the Justin Bieber of publishing?

In my youth, I both spent a Friday night hanging out at a friend’s house listening to his garage band play the same four songs over and over, and shelled out large sum of money for concert tickets. My point is — both.

If there’s room in the music business for international superstars and local club bands and garage bands, then there is likewise room in the publishing business for best sellers and indie authors and self-publishers.

I’m not saying discoverability isn’t a problem. It clearly is, especially now that we know Amazon reviews aren’t as trustworthy as we once thought.

What I am saying is, if the kids want to post their videos on YouTube or their songs on Last.fm or their books on Kindle, let ’em. They may be at the same skill level as a garage band, but at least they’re a lot quieter.

About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

4 comments on “How a garage band is like a self-published writer

  1. Huh. This is a good illustration. Why do the publishers hate the indies, anyway? The publishers are the ones with all the money and clout for advertising. I think they’re just mad they’re not getting a slice of the pie. It’s why the RIAA went nuclear on Napster and its ilk–and now we have iTunes, which gives a huge royalty percentage to the artist and not the label.

    Once the dust settles on publishing, I imagine selling books will be like how iTunes is to music.

  2. […] gets it. This hits right at the heart of what I’ve been saying since before I compared new writers to garage bands. Novel-writing is the only artistic profession where you’re expected to hide in a garret until […]

  3. […] gets it. This hits right at the heart of what I’ve been saying since before I compared new writers to garage bands. Novel-writing is the only artistic profession where you’re expected to hide in a garret until […]

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