This is my response to Cortney Harding’s “The Creative Nonpocalypse” that was published a few days ago on Cuepoint.
Cortney’s article promotes the idea that “there are more avenues to make a living doing creative work than ever before.” She talks about Bruce Henderson’s “success story” even though by Bruce’s own admission, his success (as an advertising professional!) started after he “decided to quit the music business”. She talks about Brooklyn kids working for agencies, and musicians with day jobs.
And then there is this: “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?”
I think I’ve heard that one before. Those entitled artists just don’t want to be good corporate boys and girls like everybody else, how annoying!
I couldn’t help responding, and here’s what I wrote:
Cortney, I responded to you on Twitter but Twitter doesn’t allow for a more detailed, longer-form response, and I think it is easier to understand each other in a long-form conversation. You look like a lovely human being who means well. I would much rather use long-form so that you see where I am coming from.
Yes, as I said, we as humans adapt. We adapt so that we continue having food on our table. Sometimes, people find themselves in a different area (like Bruce Henderson whose example you used in your article). Sometimes, people are just happy to do whatever they are asked to do in order to get society’s approval and hopefully some money. Like servants who are so busy making ends meed and building an appearance of success for their “personal brand” that they don’t have the energy to look up from the ground. Musicians are probably not the only one who are stuck in this game. So are writers, and journalists, and everybody with a strong sense of freedom.
Seems like most recently, it’s become “cool” for artists to be compliant and dance happily to the drum of tech industry and other self-appointed “trend-setters”. What a nightmare! Yes, compliant, secretly humiliated creatives might continue eating, but the spirit takes a hit when artists can’t afford to serve their true calling anymore and instead, become mouthpieces for other people’s agendas.
Helping a brand sell panties? A stream of revenue, it may be. An honor, hardly. I hope that as a writer, you see that.
Let’s take one example (there are many more, it’s a much longer conversation and I cannot possibly cover it in one post).
Tech companies. Many of them have contributed to intentionally hijacking the value of music. They “disrupted” business models to send more goodies their own way, and this is not “progress”, this is a calculated war on the value of art and the personality type of a dignified artist. Their goal? Profit, of course! Are they willing to share scraps? Well, yes, if we shout loud enough. How kind of them.
Are tech companies allowed to be predatory? Well, they are allowed to try, we live on Earth. In my book though, they absolutely aren’t allowed to dictate their rules to us creatives, unless we are happy to be slaves.
Were tech “disruptors” the first ones to eat artists for breakfast? No, but their method is particularly cruel and particularly dissonant to people with a strong sense of artistic mission and dignity. Their version of progress is not the only one out there. It is important to remember that.
Let’s take Spotify. It uses music as a fishing hook to attract customers much in the same way device and media manufacturers used music to sell their physical product. But they make their personal money on bulk (the more customers, the more data they can sell, and the more attractive they are to investors). They will likely get rich when IPO happens, it has nothing to do with music. They are not in the music business. In the meanwhile, do they care that listeners will not purchase individual albums or singles (physical or digital)? Nah, not their problem. There will always be new suckers willing to play by the rules.
UNLESS WE, CREATIVES, PUSH BACK.
It is not about whether internet and “progress” are good or bad. We always find opportunity anywhere we are. The fact that creative people find ways to not starve to death is a compliment to human ability to be resourceful, and not a compliment to the environment.
I am happy to continue this conversation, and I hope that we can all have our dignity.