Books, music and newspapers are in crisis, we’re told, because the digital zombie is ripping out their hearts, feasting on their words and serving everything up free and easy on the internet.
In this narrative, the iron grip of the old institutions has been loosened to such an extent that nothing will be ever be the same again. Newspapers have gone under, musicians are giving away their music for nothing and books are cowering under the weight of King Amazon.
Where will it all end? Will we see artists and media types be scrounging around in dustbins lusting after past glories: the feel it in your hands brigade who crave the seductive object* between their fingers rather than the grubby words flickering on a smudgy screen?
There are plenty of these dinosaurs around right now – and I’m one of them. I trained as a journalist and, even in the economic boom of the early noughties, the scorched earth policy of newspaper bosses laying off employees was something to behold. Now, after the economic crisis, the gloves have really come off.
There is a similar anxiety in the music and books industries. They sense a new breed of internet warrior who’s always a click away from a tasty menu that offers free content. They want to charge – and have their cut – but their margins are getting smaller and the level of risk in taking on new artists, conservative at the best of times, plunges further into the committee room.
But this new era of the skim-read highway has brought its benefits to those of a creative persuasion. Why go through the tortuous process of sending your work to agents or publishers when you can get it online in a few minutes? Why write to newspapers at all when you can set up your own blog? Why send a mixtape to a record company just to be humiliated?
For recognition, a career and, perhaps, a bit of money too. That’s still totally right and understandable.
But for others – a mass swathe of budding artists, writers and musicians – there’s never been a better time – and platform – to get your work out to as many people as possible. You can go one way or try the other. Each way, the power is tricking down to the right people: those in the business of conception and arrangement.
* Newspapers not included in the seductive object category.