Ooohwow! (with a long aspirated “ooh” preceding the wow!) There she went and put everything into most articulate words I could have possible thought of myself. Giselle Minoli, writer, designer and creative individual at large herself, comments on a recent NY Times article that speaks of royalities from streamiing music and how unlikely it thus becomes, musicians should be able to support themselves through their art. This along with a recent thread on a similar subject – in this case downloads of ringtones – discussed on Darren Rahn’s Facebook profile (see his own website here) has one really wonder about the reasons why certain artforms or genres have become so devaluated/exploited over recent decades. The observable reality almost lends itsself to concluding that the more training certain genres like e.g. Jazz or Classical music require, the less commercial value they seem have in the public eye. How is it possible that corporations fight over securing existing – and dated at that! – business models on the web, while at the same time ripping off the very contributors they derive their content from? (the latter goes for any digital content IMO, be it the written word, music, video, photography – they have all seen a sharp decline in yielding proper monetary revenue). What does this tell us about the consumer and the ways music, photography, arts in general are being perceived and consumed? My personal feeling is that with the availability of powerful technology in all these areas and said technology being made in ways that yield quick and fairly decent results, people might arrive at the assumption that any creative expression comes about as easily as merely pushing a play button, pressing a shutter, holding down a video record button or copying and pasting text. I think, it has to do with a general perception of “I can do this, too”, where those maybe subtle, but significant differences between e.g. a photography and a piece of art in photography are no longer seen, let alone appreciated. As goes for music: If I can come up with something sounding fairly decent using a piece of software instead of years of attending music school or college, years of honing the skill and practicing, some might conclude that making music is just that: Using nifty software, inviting a singer in, boom – you got a hit record! The list goes on for visual arts and other artforms, where available software makes the creative process appear like a doodle anyone with the most miniscule measure of creative talent can accomplish.
While I myself and in my capacity as a composer/musician/singer won’t cease to be amazed at the sheer power available technology puts in our hands, I can’t possibly be happy with the direction things seem headed in. About four and a half years ago I was convinced I’d be able to make a long standing dream come true, where writing and performing my own original music might at least make me a modest second income, ideally something to expand on and take to another level. Four and a half years later it looks less and less likely, I’ll get to make that break for myself. And I’m not the only one, of course, given the current situation.
I think, it was about time, we all began to question our general assumptions as to what value we typically attribute to the arts and culture in general. Have they become a commodity like the typical Starbucks Latte we pick up on the way to work in the morning? Do we take them for granted like clean water, electricity, heat in the house? Or housing and holding a job in the first place? Or is is the strain the general economic situation puts us under?
I don’t think, we’ll find an answer to all this right away. But it could be a start to look at our consumption behaviours in terms of enjoying music, film, visual arts etc.