Where are the Gatekeepers?

Joni Mitchell called it the “Starmaker Machinery,” the maddeningly complex world of music critics and publishers and agents who used to decide which artists would make the top 20 and which would remain obscure. Oh, there was corruption and injustice, to be sure: disc jockeys and program directors, unscrupulous music critics and record labels all playing payola, but some say the music was better. To be sure, it was more formulaic. Rock groups put out album after album of predictably safe, same-sounding songs, and even die-hard fans could mistake Badfinger for the Beatles. (Their smash hit “Come and Get it” was written and produced by Paul McCartney.)

Then came personal computers, digital recording and YouTube, and the music world escaped the grasp of its gatekeepers, closing the gap between garage bands and rock heroes.

Trouble is the unfettered world is a bit more random. While technology does make it easier for those with rare talents to make themselves heard, the noise level has increased parabolically. So now it’s our job to find the talent.

MarketPoint ran an ad on CareerBuilder, this month, in hopes of finding the next “us.” It was a well-written position description for a job that should have made any mid-career marketer drool. The position description instructed candidates to “submit a (real) cover letter, resume, and salary expectations,” And encouraged them to take advantage of this “opportunity to ‘sell your stuff’ to the principals, who will personally review every application.” But thanks to Career-Builder’s one-click application process, over 80% of the resumes we received came with no cover letter at all.

Are we making it too easy? Was the gatekeeping process, though sometimes unfair, performing a necessary function by raising the minimum standard for participation?

The same problem exists in the marketing consulting world. Everyone’s an expert – or so their promotional materials would lead you to believe. Of course, the younger the consultant, the more technically advanced (on average) their production skills. And the newer the technology, the less advantage in experience.

So, as the last of the gatekeepers prepare for retirement, we can’t stop wondering, who will be left to help tomorrow’s businesses separate the truth from the fiction?

Was it better back then? I’m not completely sure. Though I sympathize with Joni, “I would go back there tomorrow, but for the work I’ve taken on…”