Let’s talk about Chuck Klosterman‘s recent Esquire article, "Anyone Seen My $4.2 Billion?" The print edition came out a while ago, but it’s just now making the rounds on the ‘nets. I saw it on the Dean’s List earlier this morning, then — voilà! — it appears on Idolator, complete with snarky comments.
I have a complicated relationship with Chucky; part derision, part jealousy and a smidgen of admiration. I commend him for making a career out of not-terribly-original, predictably broad cultural observations, but it’s a bit like Columbus and America: if Klosterman hadn’t discovered the "metal nostalgia + whitebread malaise + geeky romanticism = book deal" formula, someone else of his generation surely would’ve. Maybe even yours truly. Sigh.
Anyway, Klosterman makes some interesting points, but they’re couched in his cute-smarmy prose, which is the essay equivalent of a Tina Fey-penned SNL sketch. The central premise:
People hate corporate record labels and love reading about how the industry is failing. As such, the media coverage of plummeting music sales almost always focuses on how labels are losing money. But this coverage usually ignores an economic element that is less tangible but more interesting: What is happening to all the money not being spent on music?
OK, but what about the surge of profits from video game and DVD sales? Professor K continues:
. . .while CDs, DVDs, and video games are physically similar, and they’re sold in the same outlet, the experiences they offer aren’t logically connected. I don’t see why not having to pay for a Band of Horses album would make a person any more likely to buy a copy of Knocked Up, as opposed to buying four gallons of gas or a pair of sunglasses or a turtle. . .
Uh-huh. And the coup de grace:
. . .my specific theory is this: A lot of the money not spent on music in the twenty-first century is being used to pay off credit-card debt that was incurred during the nineties. In other words, not paying for In Rainbows today is helping people eliminate the balance they still owe for buying Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness when they were broke in 1995.
Yay! We can blame it all on Billy Corgan. I know I always do.