Alex Massie

As go newspapers, so goes the Top 40

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Responding to a reader's suggestion that pop music became terrible once folk could just download (legally or not) any music they desired, Megan McArdle sensibly disputes the premise, writing:

I'm not sure that musical talent is eroding so much as being dispersed. The rise of cheap distribution means there are more genres and sub-genres than there used to be--and also that acts don't need to broaden their appeal so much as they once did. If you don't need to get on a top forty station to make it big, you will lose the elements you once might have added to attract that audience. Conversely, the pop acts will stop trying to appeal to the genre fan base, so their music will sound worse to those of us who didn't much like top forty in the first place.

For music, read journalism.

The problem newspapers have (or, rather, one of the problems they face) these days is that the nature of the beast has traditionally encouraged them to have as broad an appeal as possible*. Hence a single product wants to attract people who love crossword puzzles and those with a passion for gardening; political junkies and corporate executives; cricket fans and teachers...

But as we all know by know, the rise of cheap distribution and the niche opportunities afforded by the internet, threaten all that. Indeed, to some extent newspapers now provide a kind of tasting menu for lifestyle interests with the different that, alas, once you find something you like you leave the people providing the introductory offer behind and sign up with someone who specialises in producing the stuff you're really interested in.

*Politicians, of course, face the same difficulty.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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