I Disagree With David Byrne (this time)

picture of David Byrne

There’s that recent article written by David Byrne on The Guardian going around where he makes the statement, “The internet will suck all the creative content out of the world”

I have to disagree…

The internet is merely a tool. One of the most sophisticated, empowering, and equalizing the world has ever known. To me, making the statement that the internet is going to cause all creative content to disappear – on account of insufficient compensation going to the creators and artists – is like saying that the invention of recorded music capabilities is going to wipe out an artist’s career because no one will come to see them perform their works in concert. Or that the invention of radio is going to sabotage an artist’s career because now no one will buy their recordings. Both of these statements have been made throughout history. And both were inaccurate.

In my opinion, the problem lies with the people who play a role in the business system (everyone in the music business-even artists), and their lack of effectively leveraging the advantages of a new technology.

Make no mistake, I think David Byrne is a genius, and believe me I’m completely aware that I’m taking a stance in opposition to someone who is much smarter than me, and much more experienced than me. The esoteric and brilliant artist behind one of the most innovative post-punk/experimental bands ever, has certainly shared some of the most thought-provoking ideas about the world of music. And I’ve enjoyed expanding my knowledge via reading these articles and books by the wise talking head.

But I just can’t help but see the rise of the internet, and all the associated technologies that go with it as an advancement of creative opportunity. Take, for example many of the new inventions that have been created within the last few years – hand held computers (smart phones) that run apps allowing us to communicate, buy, and sell things globally and instantly (and so many more amazing things). Devices like Google Glass, as well as websites such as Instagram-which itself is a platform that has ushered in so much new creative content. eCommerce software and sites that empower people running small business to sell more of their products to anyone anywhere. And new software ideas that are created every day that empower people in the ways of marketing, finance, sales, security, education… it’s an endless list.

Did not each one of these inventions take some form of creativity and abstract thinking to create? And pretty much all of these ideas exist around the internet being the primary function. In the last few short years the app and smartphone industry has exploded. Many ordinary individuals, operating all on their own, have utilized internet marketing techniques to sell products such as information courses teaching millions of people new skills. Meanwhile they have forged new careers for themselves as they have tripped their income.

Looking at the rise of the internet from this angle shows that creativity and ingenuity has exploded. Just go on Instagram and look at all the creative pictures. Peruse music blogs and listen to all the innovative music out there.

Yeah, the commerce around the business of selling art is suffering right now, specifically with music. And yeah, the internet does play a part in that. But saying that the internet is going to suck all creative content out of the world is misguided. The opposite is happening. True, the business of making money from art is a tricky landscape and the internet has created some instability there. But the business of making money from art has always been tricky landscape, and the invention of new technology has always created instability.

The internet is merely a tool. And this tool has fostered more creativity and positive change than we have ever seen before. So I just have to disagree with Mr. Byrne this time… cause I feel liberated by all this free expression and creativity…

At least Lefsetz agrees with me: “Change. It’s constant. The only people who don’t get this are the musicians.”

And here’s the link to David Byrne’s original post: “The internet will suck all creative content out of the world.”


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