There’s an insidious problem among the younger generation where they just don’t want to own anything. They don’t want a shelf filled with DVDs or cabinets laden with CDs. The main factor for this is storage, and the big companies have noted this insight and tailored their business structures to suit. And the Millennials have lapped it all up, praising the effortlessness of being able to listen to Beyonce or watch new episodes of Rick and Morty and not having to own any of it. The downside to casting away ownership and falling into paid subscriptions is that it makes enjoying art look cheaper. Why spend $100 a month buying four new albums, when you can spend $10 a month and listen to as many albums as you want?
I’m an artist myself, trying to get a leg up in the catatonic world of writing. I’ve come to the conclusion that an office job is too risky nowadays, with so many online publications downsizing. There’s too much media saturation around current affairs, mostly because newsrooms have always seen the viability in milking popular stories for all their worth. That’s exactly why I’ve steered clear of current affairs journalism and have decided to pursue my own business empire. Viral Blogger Tim Denning says that young people see their careers like businesses, where they need multiple revenue streams. This is far unlike the reality 20–30 years ago. With the online world at our fingertips, we have complete control over what we can put out.
But writing hasn’t had much of a shakeup as music and video. For one, people still love buying books, and that’s simply because the writing industry hasn’t wooed the people into going online. Novels and short stories are still created in the same format: words on a page. And the journalism world still continues to do what they’ve always done: feature image followed by the story. I heartily believe the future of online storytelling to be something like this.
Even the creative writing industry is mostly unchanged. Second-hand bookshops are still standing because Millennials are aiming to save money and because the mediums we use to write novels and nonfiction texts haven’t changed much. But the “saving money” part could create a flow-on effect from the cheap subscriptions around music and video to the writing world. And it’s the intangibility of viewing or listening to art that is making it sound cheap. Why pay heaps for something if I don’t get to touch it?
I understand the aversion to owning things, but not owning things means the content creators lose out. They get paid pittance and are drowned out by the widely popular artists. If musicians succumb to music streaming services like Spotify, they have to suffer with what the streaming service pays them. Not only that, they can cannibalise their revenue from album sales. And in the film industry, the gatekeepers control what content gets sent out. It costs a lot to make films, compared to music and writing, so it’s a harsh market to get yourself into. There’s a reason why Apple has decided to kill off iTunes; they will make more money on their Apple Music streaming service.
Ultimately it’s the audience that controls the way the market goes, and right now the market is becoming cheapened by Millennials who refuse to own things. It has very much started with music and if it continues with the ongoing proliferation of the internet, then we may see it take over the rest of the arts. And this means there will be fewer artists willing to give up their time and energy to make great things. Which means it’s the audience who loses in the end.
But there are great reasons for not owning things in this day and age. It means you can travel more without having to cart everything around. It means you don’t have to find places to store those things. It means you aren’t burdened by the stress of dealing with it all. On the other hand, we cannot continue with what we’re doing if we want to have great content in the future. So we need to find balance. I’ve probably been a little too harsh on Millennials because I know that it’s not just Millennials who have bought into the new world, but they are leading the charge. In fact, the new world is not the problem, it’s the way we are spending on content. Spotify is great for big stars like Beyonce and Taylor, who receive revenue from multiple sources, but it’s not good for the up-and-comers. We need to be active in supporting the smaller artists. If you like an album and it’s from someone without a big following, buy it from them. If you like an indie film, contribute some money to the creators. If you like a book, buy it. If you like a writer, subscribe to them personally and contribute to them.
Don’t just expect the big companies to throw money at them, because all companies have a profit motive. Their motive is to make money. You cant expect trickle down economics to work if the company isn’t willing to spend it.
It’s up to all of us to make the change.