Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Judging Books By Their Cover

The music director's office at any college station is, even in the most well-maintained situations, overstuffed with cds of all genres and aesthetic qualities. As a music director for a few years, I got a good sense pretty quickly of how to filter through the glut of music. Easiest was when I noticed a band or label that I had already heard of, but even as my knowledge expanded this only covered a percentage. Next were distribution services who either provided a one-sheet or stickers on their cds with RIYL i.e. Recommended if you like __ . Many times this was off the mark (Radiohead meets Sigur Ros meets Flaming Lips) but at least it got you in the ballpark. And then there were plenty of cds where I had none of these hints. And I judged these by their cover, regularly. This worked pretty well. If I hold up a dozen cds I bet you can get in the ball park of the genre for nine or ten of them. If had a big red font dripping blood and is mostly black with some sort of mythical creature on it - that's gonna be metal. If it's super austere with minimal liner notes, its probably techno. And if there's a cheap looking picture of a band of scruffy looking dudes, its probably going in the sell pile.

Really the same things goes for books. When I walk into a bookstore or a library and see all the fiction jumbled together - Victor Hugo in the same section as Danielle Steele, it's pretty essential to start mentally seperating what looks interesting from what I will avoid. Even from the spine it's very easy to pick out chick-lit. And Penguin has always had the right idea with the orange spine. It's simple, it jumps out and the batting average of Penguin books is higher than any other publisher.

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