The son of a friend of mine is a musician. He is a talented guitarist but also lyricist, singer and front man of a band, Solkins, he and his three friends started a few years back. I can say little about their music. I am not a specialist and I lack the required technical lingo. In my car, I listen to the radio, to pop music and Top 30 or 40 material. I like rhythm and volume. I like lyrics. I like composers who are able to combine a haunting beat with the right words. So there you have it. The limits of my musical knowledge. Still, as for these guys, I daresay that, apart from being young and passionate and ambitious, they have, song by song, gig by gig, developed a sound. And now, to reach a larger audience, they have created a video. Available, of course, on YouTube.
Their video is professionally done. It stands out, has a theme, is visually pleasing, enhances their music. It is the work of a young team and a young band so perhaps there are a few weaknesses. But it is an accomplishment and a window into new talent.
During my research for a story I am writing, I got lost in the deep dark www-Inferno. A click, another click, a link, go back, click, link, people who have watched this also watched, click …. and what began as a quest for the right word for a particular ethnical sartorial item ended with a YouTube tutorial on how to tie a turban. By babylailalov.
Behind babylailalov is a woman who, according to her FB page, lives in the US, is from Moroccan/Swiss/Lebanese descent, is a daughter, wife, mother and most importantly obsessed with make-up. Hence, she vlogs make-up tutorials.
There is nothing wrong with an obsession. There is nothing wrong with sharing an obsession. So I will leave babylailalov be. What I can not let be is the number of views she achieves; anything between 25 000 and 250 000. Yes, you heard me correctly.
Solkins meanwhile have barely reached 4000 people.
So what is the problem?
One should never compare apples to oranges. Still…
I have come across fashion vlogs and make-up tutorials with 10 million views, cardio workouts with 20 million views, cleaning hacks with 3 million views. In a recent video, PointlessBlog shows his previous videos, the ones that (there is a God) did not make it to YouTube. One million people, in an act of supreme pointlessness, watched this.
How? Why? I dunno.
The world wide web is a fantastic monster, a Titan. Leviathan. It grows, pulsates, amplifies. It feeds and satisfies our need for information, knowledge and entertainment. The web is source, warehouse and labyrinth. It resembles the archives of a library, the behind-the-scenes where museums keep their collections.
Libraries and museums hide, keep and store their treasures. The Tate apparently shows 20% of its collection. The Louvre 8%. The Guggenheim 3%. Spatial deficit, fashion, censorship; reasons and excuses the web should not have to suffer from. On the contrary. The web has the power to limitlessly share and unveil. And this is a good thing. But there is a risk. When in our brick and mortar institutions artefacts do come on display, they are carefully documented and sourced. They are, as it were, chosen. For the right and sometimes the wrong reasons, I grant you that. And although one can argue that the selection is made for us, we can also relax and rely on the trust we place in our specialists and their expertise to catalog, classify and select. And when worse comes to worse, watchdogs and critics abound.
And there’s the rub.
The web censures, on occasion and mostly with regard to sex and nipples, but what it does not do is curate. Hence, with so much on display, in the end, we risk not seeing the forest for the trees.
The web allows for self-promotion and self-inflation. It allows for the self-publishing of books and music. It claims and aims to give a voice to those who have for a long time felt silenced. But the web does not filter what it puts on offer. At most it systematizes. But it does not facilitate the making of choices. If anything it encourages ‘herd behaviour’ which is but a fine term for mob mentality. And mobs imitate.
“The mind likes a strange idea as little as the body likes a strange protein and resists it with similar energy. … If we watch ourselves honestly we shall often find that we have begun to argue against a new idea even before it has been completely stated.” Wilfred Trotter, author of Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War
The new is often scary. The unknown frightening.
As for finding the gem amidst the rubble? Beware the click.