The Death of Creativity

This week my newsreader (Feedly) presented me with two articles heralding the death of creativity. It turns out that both were by the same author, David Byrne, and were really about money and the way money or lack of it could impact young artists.

One article has the sensationalist headline “The internet will suck all creative content out of the world.” This piece is not about “all creative content;” rather it is about how little musicians receive from streaming sources such as Spotify. The argument is simply that if artists are not compensated, they will turn from making music and the world will be the poorer for it.

The second article is “If the 1% stifles New York’s creative talent, I’m out of here.” This article too focuses on finances and talks about how only the super-rich can afford to live anywhere in New York City anymore and how that same group refuses to “fund culture-makers.” Because of these two things, that which has made New York the creative capital of the world will disappear and the city will no longer draw the world’s best creatives. This will cause Byrne to leave.

Although Byrne should be applauded for his concern for future generations of artists, equating the conditions set out by these articles with the death of creativity is just silly.

Byrne links creativity and money, but in different ways in each article. Certainly for anyone to continue to be creative does require funds sufficient to survive and acquire materials. How those funds are secured are as varied as artists themselves. However, people do not start making art to get rich. They make art because they have something to say, because, as a colleague recently put it, “it’s worth doing,” because they can’t not.

The music business is, and has been, notorious for paying artists as little as possible while pocketing huge profits from the sale of recordings. There is no real reason to think that the future will be any different from the past in that regard, but this is not a new thing. The new things are the method of distribution and better global communication that allows artists to be more aware of what is happening. But will this cause them to abandon music? Not if they’re really artists.

Byrne also ties New York’s continued dominance as a center of all arts to money. Does it really matter whether New York continues this dominance or not? Somewhere will. During the reign of the Medicis, it was Italy. In the early 20th century it was Paris. And it has been other places at other times. There will always be a place that draws the best of the creative best because it facilitates what Byrne calls “the possibility of interaction and inspiration. . . .[and] serendipitous encounters.” And regardless of where that place is, artists will find it, and many will go there, and the fame of that place will explode, and then wane, and then the mantle will move to somewhere else.  We could, like Byrne, mourn the potential passing of New York as the center of all things creative, or, like Scott Walters, who is certain that New York is already damaging at least theatre arts in America precisely because it is the creative center through which all artists must pass, be pleased about that prospect.

The factors that Byrnes cites may exert negative forces on creativity, may even stifle it for a time. But creativity will resist being stifled, will resist being suppressed, will even resist lack of nourishment forced upon it in certain cultures at certain times, and will survive. Individuals who are creative will find a way—as they always have—to make their art whether there is proper compensation or not, whether they are able to make a pilgrimage to the artistic Mecca of their generation or not. Creativity will survive because it comes from a source deeper than money.

Date: Monday, 14. October 2013 0:34
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