The Value of Creation
Whether it be a new song, the printed story or even something like a new piece of luggage…there has always been a value placed on the work of others. We take time to do something, and we get paid for it. Even a volunteer at a food shelter or hospice will tell you that there is a payday at the end of every shift. So the point is…your time has value. That is, until recently.
I write stories and play music, and have never sold them for a lick. It takes time and discipline to navigate a career in either; neither of which I’ve ever had much of. So my livelihood turned to the business of music, and for quite a few decades I managed to prosper on the creativity of others who needed help in monetizing their art. Now, I was not a super executive who pulled in a few million a year but rather a journeyman with a knack for getting music on the shelves, and with a little luck, in the shopper’s bags.
As many music industry veterans can attest to, the allure and mystery of fame has very little to do with wealth. In other words, most of the musicians we listen to can barely eek out a living. CD sales have always been a crap shoot at best, so most rely on revenues from shows and merchandise to exist. Even in the best of times when CD’s were flying off the shelves by the millions, a musician was hardly getting anything in return. At least a songwriter could count on his or her nine cents per song royalty, but a picker was lucky to pretty much just break even after the advance was recouped and the promotional and ad costs were deducted from their accounts.
So…there’s a long ramble for you, as I’m stumbling toward the point I wanted to make when I started to type…or keypunch, as it’s called these days.
Lately, I’m beginning to think that the value of creation is zero. Be it newspaper or song, information or entertainment…it’s free for the taking. I sit on the computer most of my days now and although I was looking for a second life in music, I can’t figure out a way to do it anymore.
Look…I have always shunned all the free and illegal ways to acquire music, as it struck both my income and to the artists who were being ripped off. But the dirty admission I make here is that a few weeks ago I started to research why 90% or more of the music downloads on the internet are illegal, and the answer if because it’s both free and easy. Duh….I know…..kind of late to the game. So in trying to see how easy it was, I started to experiment and see what’s what.
And the envelope please….everything is out there and it’s all yours to take. From Steve Earle’s show in Madrid last month to the entire Dylan catalog, from the most popular of today’s music to the third (not the first nor second) Ultimate Spinach album…I find it with a click and a search,and get it free…for not even a cent. I’m sorry to sound so surprised…but it’s unbelievable. The value of a song is now nothing. Zip. Zero.
So it extends to the printed word, and to the movies. And great and treasured artwork is also available to download. Information and instruction is aplenty, and for god sake what about porn? It’s all there and the value…from a monetary viewpoint…is now zero. As No Depression has discovered, not only is it hard to publish a magazine or newspaper for a profit, but it’s even impossible to make that bridge to an online environment. If anything, I would say that not only is the business model broke, it’s just been completely blown up.
As has been mentioned previously here in someone’s blog, the good news is greater variety, better access and a world at your proverbial fingertips. The bad news is that you can’t get paid for your creativity, at least not in way that would cause you to quit your day job.
There is no great ending I have here, because it hasn’t been written. We’re in the midst of a revolution of gigantic proportion where the plates are being swept from the table and are laying on the floor broken and shattered. Politics, business, art…it’s all changing.
I do so welcome and embrace this new community the ND folks have come up with. Perhaps the definition of value will change….and we can all play a role.