Friday, February 10, 2006


A good comment on the potentially troubling trend towards more unbundling of cultural products (i.e., the availability of single songs on Itunes, single pages of books on Amazon, the potential for an FCC mandate that cable channels be sold individually).

One potential problem is that people will underconsume cultural goods. Or maybe that's not a problem at all. I'm not sure what to think. On one hand, some people will buy the hit song for 99 cents electronically, while not realizing that they would have liked 3 or 4 or 9 other songs if they'd bought the entire album. This will discourage artists from putting out entire albums. On the other hand, a lot of albums really do consist of one or two good songs and 8 or 9 songs that are just rehashed filler. Maybe some artists need to be discouraged from putting out anything more than their one or two good songs.

Same for cable: If the History Channel (for example) isn't bundled with a packet of 40 or 50 other channels, there are lot of people 1) who wouldn't think to subscribe to the History Channel on an individual basis, but 2) who would then miss out on the great show that they would have loved, if only they had seen it while flipping channels. On the other hand, I tend to think that anything that gets people to watch less television would be a good thing (such as if they had to pay per episode, which is what will happen eventually if most people get electronic recorders that can skip all the commercials, which will make "free" TV a thing of the past). But back on the first hand again, is it a really a good thing if most people's television viewing consists of Friends or Seinfeld or ESPN or similar junk?

I don't know what to think here. On the TV question, I'm reminded of something that Sheldon Vanauken once wrote to me: If you could push a button and destroy all television (including the very technology), would you do it? Personally, I'd probably pause for half a second while recalling the X-Files or American Gothic or Lost, but I'd do it, no question.


Blogger Joseph Buck said...

So you'd get rid of all TV? Would you include movies as well?

7:06 PM  

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