Something big is happening. Things have been changing for quite a while. Are you aware of what’s happening? Have you been trying to ignore it or deny it? If you are an artist, you cannot have missed this. But do you acknowledge it?
The big media companies, book publishers, the record industry, the movie industry, art galleries and various other affiliated industries have been telling us that piracy is going to kill the creative industries. The argument goes that unless we protect the livings of these corporations and their artists, we shall have no art worthy of the name. It may be true that large scale art, requiring serious funding, is at risk. Financing a major piece of work is getting harder to do, as the incomes from such enterprises become less certain. Does that mean art has disappeared?
What we are seeing evidence of is the polar opposite. There are more photographs, recordings, songs, poems, paintings, blogs, e-books, videos and acts of creation than ever before. They’re everywhere, usually for free. This is something that is undeniable. We are living through the great artistic outpouring.
People all over the world now have the means to create and publish works that were previously the preserve of well-funded corporations. High quality works can now be realised with quite humble budgets and quite modest tools. The fact is that the tools of creation have never been so affordable and powerful.
While claiming (truthfully) that there is more supply than ever before, the same media gatekeepers of old are claiming that nothing is of sufficient quality to reliably monetize. Meanwhile their monopoly position over access to mass audiences has trickled away. These middle men are losing their role.
Is the work emerging from the great artistic outpouring of low aesthetic value? Hardly! More people than ever before are listening to emerging artists’ tracks on SoundCloud, YouTube and ReverbNation. User generated content is being actively enjoyed by millions. Blog readership continues to grow. People that enjoy art are discovering there is more truth and beauty to be had from user generated content than has ever been the case, in all of history. The internet has become a catalyst for the greatest folk art movement in millennia.
The problem is that nobody is making a living at it. That’s bleak in the sense that most artists are, in fact, waiting tables or working in offices, rather than devoting their time to improving their art and creating more of it. However, I believe the next wave will be one of subtle consolidation. As the population of artists emerges and publishes their works online, eventually audiences will naturally gravitate around a few and these artists will become popular. It is at this point that collaboration becomes a powerful tool. The sum of these collaborative artists’ output is always greater than the individual contributions. Media creation tools are just beginning to encourage solitary artists to collaborate. We’ll begin to see collaborative art of incredible quality. Large scale funding will be less of an issue. Feature films will come together because people want them to, not because a board of investors requires a return.
Will that mean anybody will get paid? Perhaps artists will find ways of monetizing their works, in time, but as media production is now so democratized, artists are effectively trying to sell to other artists, rather than a passive consumer audience. That changes things. In fact, it changes everything.
It may be that the only rewards from this whole revolution are that we get more of something we didn’t expect, but that we needed all the same. The great artistic outpouring may provide the world with greater insight, deeper truths, common understandings, passionate arguments for justice, increased empathy, more interaction with each other, more connection with like minds, plentiful works of great beauty and less passivity in the population. Beauty may become ubiquitous. We might stop believing what we are told without question. We may begin to think more, just to make art of acceptable quality to others, if for no other reason. The causes dearest to us may find voice in our artistic works. We might become more aware and more prepared to say something about it. Are those really such bad outcomes?
You can’t always get what you want, but you can always get what you need.