When the people took back art

There has been a lot of talk recently about the music industry facing ever increasing problems. Usually this is attributed to piracy and file sharing communities on the internet. However, perhaps it is just that they have been taking advantage for too long and people have had enough.

Art from artists, not from companies

Radiohead recently released their latest album under a system where people paid what they felt it was worth. While this is an intriguing idea (and while many people simply said it was worth nothing and got the album for free), what I found most interesting was that a major artist set up a successful means for people to buy their music directly from them. Radiohead are currently without a record contract and they financed and put out the album themselves. They took full advantage of a digital distribution system and it paid off for them.

I read an article today about the reasons why the major record labels will soon die out because they put profit ahead of art. I'm not sure it's as cut and dry as that, but I never like when companies get involved in art. It never seems to work out well. Even when it takes huge companies to make art (as in many large budget films), the best ones usually arise when the money-men let the artists do their own thing.

In any case, we don't think money is bad. Certainly, artists will often need funding to realise their visions. But, at the end of the day, investing in the right artists makes these money-men more cash. Without the artists, they wouldn't have anything to sell. It's a fine balance and one that seems to be weighed a little too much towards the money-men at the moment. The major record companies make much more from CD sales than the artists do. Screenwriters in Hollywood are about to go on strike because they make less from each sale of a DVD than the guy who slips the cover into the plastic case.

It feels like the money-men are not being fair. The truth is that the relationship is symbiotic. The artist needs the financier and the financier needs the artist.

Digital technologies are starting to close that gap a little. Empowerment is coming to a lot of people in the form of free or cheap technologies that allow people to be creative and to show that creativity to the world. The money-men are starting to lose their ground. Perhaps it's about time.


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