Caulfield’s Theory of The Conservation of Talent

Many years ago I was a roadie.  More exotic than the word implies, I was a Touring Audio Engineer and sometimes Tour Manager.  I had been a music fan through the 60’s and 70’s, then I was swimming in it through the 80’s and 90’s.

Through the 60’s, Record Companies seemed able to uncover and sign amazing Musical Talents every day.  These were in a wide array of styles and genres, taken into the mainstream and becoming part of the wider culture.  An easy example is the Monterey Pop Festival of 1968:  Jimi Hendrix, Hugh Masakela, Ravi Shankar, etc.

That was when the Record Companies were putting out a few dozen releases a year.  Fast forward to my experience in the 80’s.  They had narrowed the “popular” genre to whatever could rise to popular play on radio stations across the country.  At the same time, they were signing thousands of acts and throwing them against the wall, the vast majority not sticking.

This led me to develop my “Theory of The Conservation of Talent.”  It is my firm belief that there is a finite amount of musical talent in the world along with a variable yet limited number of musically talented individuals.  One result of my theory is the decline of Record Company rosters, even while they throw out more and more releases.  There’s just not enough talent to slather around on all of those CDs.

I was thinking about this lately when I read a studio executive bewailing the fact that nobody was coming out to the theaters anymore.  The most succinct comment was:  “stop making crappy movies and maybe we’ll come back!”

Does my Theory of Talent Conservation extend to other mediums?  As studios tossed out more and more movies over the last century, have they run up against a wall of limited creative talent?  Could someone (knowing more than me) apply it to the Art world or even to scientific fields?

Hard to say.  Too many variables in every field, including the areas of personal taste and how one measures success.  Some of my favorite former employers were dropped by or left major labels decades ago.   Luka Bloom is still producing stunning albums.  Dave Alvin is with tiny Yep Rock records and being hailed yearly as an American Treasure.  On the movie side, I’m watching Anime and Documentaries on Netflix that make me believe that there is an ocean of talented film folk out there.

Oh well…jut a theory, subject to testing and correction.


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Know lots of stuff about (mostly) meaningless things.

2 thoughts on “Caulfield’s Theory of The Conservation of Talent”

  1. I think it definitely applies to the web, in many different ways. Millions of sites out there today, but are there more useful sites than 10 years ago? voidmastr’s law would predict both the growth and the lack of quality. My theory would be reworded to say “as bandwith expands into the available waste, content quality is limited by the finite nature of talent.”

    …or something like that 🙂 Still thinking about it.

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