Jeff Jarvis cites Bob Garfield's assertion that "a million monkeys at a million videocams..." could eventually produce something that approaches Hollywood standards. It wasn't that long ago that folks thought the same way about home recording studios.
I've been in a super-nostalgic mood this week, for some reason, thinking back to some of the first shifts I ever pulled in college radio. I remember what things were like before Pitchfork and the rest of the web, when you actually had to wait for the mail to find out what songs you might be adding each week.
And I remember, as I started putting my first few recording projects together, how similar the criticism sounds to today's guffaws over YouTube. In the early 90's, it was a huge undertaking to get a 7" record pressed, and you either had to have a lot of guts or a wealthy relative to get your stuff out to college radio.
Making your own music still takes a lot of guts. But you no longer need the wealthy relative. You've just got to have something remarkable. Now that everybody's got Pro Tools (or something like it), you really have to have something that feels and sounds right to your audience, or else you'll fade back into the white noise.
YouTube is today where indie music was fifteen years ago. Folks are getting noticed just for getting something up there... but the novelty's wearing off already, and you have to start doing some incredible things (a la LonelyGirl15 or OK Go) to pop up the charts. And, by comparison, all this YouTube stuff that's off the cuff makes a lot of today's independent music look really polished and planned by comparison, and that's actually a good thing.