The trouble with finding new talent online

April 22nd, 2009


Awhile back I sorted through my YouTube descriptions and found a user that made unique and moderately-disturbing-but-in-a-good-way videos had recently uploaded two new videos.

The artist has really grown in skill since his earliest creations. Both videos were amazing in that they both had great video concepts and appealing music – but terrible lyrics. Bad enough that I won’t share the artist’s identity.

One track in particular sounded like a hit record complete with hooks and well-composed music, and the video had interesting special effects and a music video quality story line (quite an accomplishment for being entirely filmed in a finished basement). But the song: the song had a commendable subject, but the vocabulary of a fourteen year old boy (I’m not talking about swear words, but the word choices were limited). The artist is eighteen.

The extreme unevenness of the artist’s work presents a confusing situation for me. I enjoy finding new things and promoting them to others – it’s important to pass along new and interesting works of art because why carry the burden of not having given an idea or an artist the chance to flourish? The artist has huge potential – I can see him pulling off a full act of music, style, and vision in the same tradition as David Bowie, Madonna, and others who carefully constructed an iconic personality and style.

However the artist still needs time to develop. He needs to make more music and videos and work on his lyrics and his presentation. With a few years of work he could be as big of a cultural force as Lady GaGa currently commands.

Yet he’s out there on YouTube and MySpace (and even Twitter) distributing his work to others. Hundreds of thousands of people have been exposed to his half-baked work – when even ten years ago the exposure would be limited to small audiences at local establishments, limiting the impact of the poor work upon whatever he may create later in his career. The localized nature of the exposure limited the impact of any bad work, and it kept a larger audience from reacting negatively to works produced during the developmental phase of an artist’s development.

Perhaps this isn’t an issue at all.

History tends to remember the victors and forget the rest. When it comes to art and entertainment, this trend is reinforced by the relative high cost of production and distribution of works. A writer needed to get published by someone who has invested in a printing press and distribution methods to get any amount of exposure. Musicians needed a business to make, promote, and sell records; filmmakers still need financial backers and distributors to get their works seen. This is no longer a problem. With the internet, the barrier to entry is so low that anyone can publish their works online – this blog stands as an example.

Maybe it’s not too terrible to expose mediocre works to large audiences. The larger the feedback group, the greater chance to improve and become better. And if the artist starts out mediocre but develops into something worth keeping, the only audience for the lesser works would be hardcore fans and archivists.

This means that I can justify sharing with you the artist in question…but I won’t; if he gets better and no one still isn’t noticing, I may become his manager and profit off of my discovery! The real reason is that my tolerance for quality is not shared by many others, and my preference is to back a recommendation that I enjoy much more than the best work of this artist.

Here’s what I’ll do: if my ‘discovery’ makes something that doesn’t have any glaring deficiencies, he’ll get lots of free promotion from me. Persons who have the potential to create something great need just as much promotion as established artists – we aren’t starving for content, but there is a lack of substantial quality in today’s art and entertainment*.

*This is worth a separate post.

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