It’s always worth looking at who remains silent in many of these debates; while some Western artists have vocally opposed streaming, you don’t hear artists from developing markets doing the same. Maybe the heart of the debate about the new creative economy is this — are creators who were in power for so long willing to secede some of that power if it means other voices can be heard?
Is it true that some artists have a harder time making a living than they did fifteen years ago? Absolutely. Is it also true that other artists have been able to make a living where they never could have before? Yes. We now operate in an economy where flexibility is key, and if you expect to keep making a living the same way your entire career, you’re going to have a hard time. This doesn’t mean that we should ignore copyright and condone piracy, nor does it mean that artists and their supporters shouldn’t advocate for fair compensation. But to suggest that creative workers are doomed in the current market vastly overstates the case.
Steven Johnson’s infamous New York Times article really raised some dust, and I find this Cuepoint piece a notable addition to the fray as it focuses on the most important point, which was missed by most of the critics. Indeed, we’re seeing a breakdown of traditional avenues for creative livelihoods, as well as the problems caused by legacy corporations struggling to shove the genie back in the bottle. But the emerging self-employment opportunities presented by this internet disruption – coupled with a potential ‘leveling of the playing field’ in distribution and promotion for creative works – makes for exciting times for the budding artist. I’m not saying you won’t have to work a day job; was there ever a time that the overwhelming majority of musicians didn’t? But the chances of that job existing in orbit of your creative field, or under your own authority, are now greater than ever, especially if you can think on your feet. I believe that counts for something.
I also love the caption on the article’s banner photo:
iOTA, the flame-throwing guitar hero from this year’s Mad Max: Fury Road, proves that there will always be work for musicians, even after the bombs fall.