This weekend I read an interesting piece in The Observer on Sunday with Jaron Lanier, a digital pioneer who has turned against the culture of free writing, free music and free art that has been put in place through the internet.
Lanier’s book – You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto – argued the internet is stifling creativity. And it is a truth these days – many people do not expect to pay for their journalism, creative writing, art or music.
The result of this is that original artists cannot earn a living from their work. Long is the time when musicians could make a living from selling records. These days they make records to sell a tour – the only way left to make any effective money.
In my music journalism career I have been shocked by how many successful well-known artists cannot earn enough from their art to survive, relying instead on partners, part-time jobs and even parents to support them.
A Mercury Music Prize-winning singer songwriter I interviewed last year is supported by her partner, despite winning one of the country’s most prestigious awards.
And it is not just the musicians. I have two friends who are published award-winning novelists. Both make royalties that barely cover two months rent/mortgage. One subsidises his income by working as a freelance journalist, but a drop in the use and rates of freelancers has seen him close to signing on for unemployment benefit on more than one occasion.
The internet is still a relatively new thing, and while creative people have embraced the many advantages created by the internet there has been an erosion of income streams for creative people who weren’t earning the best of wages to start with.
While the desire to hear, see and read new creative artists will always be there, the sad fact appears to be a looming dearth of true creative talent as the great musicians, artists and novelists are forced into other careers in order to create a livelihood for themselves and their families.
The only hope is a lack of genuine art available may re-stimulate people to support arts. Indeed schemes like Kickstarter show people are beginning to re-awaken the knowledge that creative arts are a powerful force for good in our culture.