There was news last week that Universal Music Publishing signed Michael Chabon to a publishing deal. There has been a long history of novelists becoming songwriters and songwriters becoming novelists. Paulo Coelho was a famous lyricist in Brazil before he started writing best selling novels like the Alchemist. Leonard Cohen started as a novelist and eventually crossed over and became famous for his lyrics. I have been a huge fan of Michael Chabon for a while and his novel Kavalier and Clay is one of my favourites. To hear of his interest in writing pop songs was a bit surprising even if it isn’t something new for novelists.
One part of the verge article I found interesting is where the author wrote “At the very least, it’s a fascinating expression of intent from an author who’s always been interested in culture’s impact on people’s behaviour and experience.”
The music business itself and the potential for a songwriter like Michael Chabon to earn mechanical royalties will probably continue to diminish every year.The recorded music business used to be a 40 billion dollar industry and has now shrunk to under 20 billion. From a business perspective it doesn’t seem like he is riding a growing wave.
We are living in a generation where people’s attention span continues to diminish each year. Kavalier and Clay was a 640 page book but a Mark Ronson song lasts just 3 minutes. It’s easy to imagine that even if people won’t pay for music anymore that at least they’ll continue to listen to it in some form. In a recent landmark study, Edison Research found that, “America is in a golden age of audio consumption and that Americans spend roughly a fourth of their waking day listening to some sort of audio.” If Michael Chabon’s main goal is to impact culture then he probably picked the perfect time.