Thursday, April 26, 2012

Creative Class on Studio 360

MY latest Salon story on the plight of the creative class has gotten more attention than anything I've written this year -- thanks to those who read and passed around this story.

"No Sympathy For the Creative Class," as it's called, looked at the distance between our assumptions about artists, musicians, writers, etc. and the reality of a life in the arts, especially during times that are hitting the creative class especially hard.  In any case, it seemed to strike a nerve.

So I'm pleased to announce that I'll be on Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen over the weekend. (Times vary.) This is one of the nation's finest arts/culture shows, and it was a real pleasure to discuss these topics, however grim, with the SPY magazine co-founder.

Kurt is an excellent interlocutor, and our conversation was lively. But I admit to being a bit tongue-tied when he asked me about solutions to our current plight. Part of what's happening is structural, grounded in technological changes, and cannot be easily reversed. Part of it may budge with changes in thinking and doing.

The simple answer, which I should have given Kurt, is that so far I have concentrated on the root causes and human, tangible effects of this new world we find ourselves in. As for a path out of the current crisis, to a less punishing world for creativity and culture, stay tuned. Ask me in six months.

I'm also going to start posting small items that relate to my argument. Here's a story from UK's The Guardian whose title is quite direct: "Other professionals don't work for free. So why are writers expected to?" As someone who broke into journalism by writing for nothing, because I was told this was an important exercise in "dues paying," and who continues to get offers to work for free, this hits me particularly hard. I welcome comments on it.

Thanks again for following these issues, folks, and see you on Studio 360.

UPDATE: HERE is the link to my interview, which broadcasts nationally over the weekend.

3 comments:

nashmallow said...

Great piece in Salon & Studio 360 on the the harsh economics of the creative life. I'm one of those displaced people--10 years as a newspaper food writer, 10 years as a cookbook editor, 2 years freelancing both. I just couldn't make it work financially any longer--I really don't see how anyone can--so now I'm a mammographer. That fact alone is getting me more ink than anything else has. Thanks for reporting our little corner of the recession.

ef5d4e88-9405-11e1-8013-000bcdcb471e said...

Just listened to your interview on NPR and subsequently read your piece in Salon. Thanks for writing about this. I'm a university trained musician (and writer)who teaches music privately six or seven days a week. I'm happy to have a full schedule but after six years of doing this full time I'm considering going back to school to learn how to program computers. It seems that computers are our current instruments and programmers our contemporary composers--at least that's how I rationalize it. The idea of 2 complete days off every week and benefits to boot is also somewhat attractive.
I've come to realize that teaching something you love is a far cry from doing something you love. No farther, it seems, than doing anything else.
If Americans want to learn how to compete in the current marketplace they should take a cue from musicians. We were made redundant by technology before anyone else and have learned how to survive in an indifferent environment. The synthesizer may have started the demise, but computers, cheap recording technology and the internet have possibly nailed it shut.
It seems that if you work in an industry based on selling copies of an original product(music, publishing, film) then you are headed towards extinction. The internet has rendered anything that can be copied unprofitable. Hollywood is biding its time, and flexing its copyright muscle, but as soon as the price of making a quality movie falls below $10,000 (if it hasn't already) that industry is toast.
I don't think, as you point out, that any of those industries are replacing their present or retiring workers with younger employees, so that forecasts a drastic change within the coming decades.
Technology has rendered most of us useless really. Entire orchestras can be reproduced with a finger stroke on a keyboard that costs half as much as a violin.
There are computer programs that can prescribe medicine based on reported symptoms. The military is replacing its pilots and soldiers with drones and remote technicians -- and the military is usually just a few steps ahead of musicians in terms of embracing technology....
It's accurate to say that we're entering a post-human era...

Unknown said...

As a writer/artist, I have come to expect little/no renumeration for my work. The sad fact is that fine arts funding in today's society is sorely lacking and most taxpayers and governments can't/won't justify spending. This attitude has coloured all areas of our society -- there is just very little appreciation for the work we do.