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  • NTSC 4:01 pm on May 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Visibility and the democratization of online creativity 

    Technology is a truly wondrous thing. I can distinctly remember when my family could finally afford to buy a CD-RW drive for our computer. The ability to actually burn your own music CDs had finally become available to the masses, and it was incredible. At the time I was authoring digital music with a piece of shareware software called Goldwave. I’m stoked and shocked to see that it still exists! Anyway, I must have been around 18 years old at the time and I felt like a rock star. I burned CDs with my music and gave them to all my friends (as if the songs were any good at all.) I listened to them with my portable CD player everywhere I went, though it skipped terribly while I walked, cradling it in my right hand like a baby bird. Suddenly, small music producers could create their own mixes, their own compilations, their own actual albums and sell them to the masses at large. That is just one example of the incredible democratization of creativity that technology has created.

    Fast forward to today, when that democratization has truly revolutionized creativity as we know it. With the ubiquity of professional-grade music production software, industry standard programs becoming available through affordable subscription models, and other advances, almost anyone with an inkling to create art can get their hands on the tools to make it happen. For me, this is both a huge positive for the world, and also a negative. While it has made it possible for even the smallest indie artist to make professional quality products, it has also made it eminently easier for absolute offal to flood every conceivable marketplace. Video games, music, illustration, video, if it’s a media that can be consumed online, I promise it has been super-saturated with tripe of the lowest degree.

    Sturgeon’s law states that “99% of everything is crap.” This may be true, but before the widespread availability of media-creation tools, it was probably a little more difficult for all the crap to make it to market. When it took thousands of dollars in startup capital alone just to get your foot in the door, the market was understandably less flooded. Now, crap and mediocrity are the norm and it’s up to each individual artist to try and get their signal heard among the noise.

    That’s where this powerful democratization hurts us all. There are truly great artists out there, with unique, valuable voices who have the right to be heard, appreciated and rewarded for their talents. Today, it’s not enough for those artists to be skillful and practiced at their craft, they also need to be a full-force marketing and social networking machine as well. Nowadays an artist, instead of spending the lion’s share of their precious time creating quality art, must blog and tweet and post and reblog and instagram and snapchat everything they make, in the hopes of reaching any audience at all. It can be discouraging, to look out over the vast ocean of media that is created and disseminated every single minute of every day, and realize that you and your passions are just a drop in that endless sea.

    My wife got me a fabulous book recently, in which Calvin and Hobbes creator, Bill Watterson discusses the state of comics today. He laments the struggle of comic artists trying to make a living online:

    “…the new business model is to put the strip out there for free, attract some zealous fans, and then hope to sell ads, or T-shirts, or original drawings, or book collections to make actual income. You basically put your art out there as a loss leader. Even if it works, wow, that’s depressing.”

    The culture of free-to-play, free-of-charge media that today’s consumers are so accustomed to is, in my opinion, due entirely to the sheer volume of media available. Affordable technology is the cause of that volume. Today, unless your product is free, you can’t hope to compete. That’s not only ridiculous, it’s nauseating to someone who strives to make a comfortable living from their art. Bill Watterson and illustrators of his ilk were able to not only live comfortably, but handsomely, because they were valued and compensated for their skill and talent. It seems the best an artist can hope for today, whatever their genre or medium, is to scrape by on sales of peripherals.

    Personally, The November Criminals would not have an album, or a website, or any real presence at all without the availability of powerful technologies. I wouldn’t have any of my freelance gigs without the power of the software on my home PC. I cannot in good faith demonize technology since it has made my current lifestyle possible. However, I fear for what the future holds. If this is the current state of affairs when it comes to artists trying to make a living, what will happen as the markets become even more saturated than they already are? How will anyone hope to get their voice heard?

    At least I can rest easy at night, secure in the knowledge that when it comes to Polka Hiphop, we are quite literally the only game in town. We’ll always have that.

    For now.

  • Brümeister 8:32 pm on May 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply  


    May 9th was a blast! We had so much fun at Empower the Tower and we want to say THANK YOU! to everyone who sponsored us and anyone who was there to dance at 3PM! (NTSC on the Melodeon gets feet  moving!) AND a shout out to everyone at Riverwest Radio for making the event truly special!

    It was just the three of us up there on stage this time (no beat machine either!) and we still had people coming up afterwards complimenting our unique sound. It made my day a lot easier since I was duty bound to work the door the rest of the day while I wore one of my other hats, the one marked WXRW board member.
    So in case you missed it we have a link to the There Goes the Neighborhood hour on soundcloud. So click here!


    Nov. Criminals getting set to kick off the 3 pm hour of Empower the Tower 2015 to benefit Riverwest Radio.

    Nov. Criminals getting set to kick off the 3 pm hour of Empower the Tower 2015 to benefit Riverwest Radio.



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