Wednesday, May 21, 2008

In Defense of Cultural Elitistism

I just came across this interview with Last.FM's Martin Stiksel in Wired's Listening Post blog. As I was reading through it, I came across this passage:

The site [Last.FM] differs from its competitor Pandora (he called it a "friendly rivalry"), because Pandora hires experts to classify music, while Last.FM tracks users' collections in order to generate associations between songs. Stiksel compared Last.FM's system to democracy, and Pandora's to aristocracy. He also said this approach makes Last.FM more scalable than Pandora, and that the inspiration for this feature came from the way the original Napster let you search for a band liked, and then browse the other songs shared by users who had that song.
I'm going to revisit Custom Radio in a future blog entry, but given that one of the points I wanted to make has been explicitly stated, I thought I'd quickly seize the moment.
While I agree that the democratic process makes sense in politics (well, if you live in a wealthy secular country with a large middle-class). But when it comes to the arts, I'd have to say it flat out sucks!

I could go on and on about the reasons for this, but there is a much simpler explanation. For those of you living in the US or Canada, tonight is the night of judgement for American Idol. From this day forward, we will be blessed through an intensely democratic process (one that has more participation than the US elections themselves, I might add) with a new "Idol". We even have 6 idols already, and there is no doubt that when the history books are written, they will all stand head-and-shoulders alongside: Mozart, The Beatles, Bob Marley, Can, Charlie Parker, Nirvana, and Radiohead.

And hey, if you don't believe me, just go ask any 12 year old boy or girl. They're sure to have an opinion.

Stay TUN3D.

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