The Gap, Again

I think it’s because I was at a meeting earlier this week where industry people were openly talking about the grave downside of capitalism, at least as we practice it here in the United States–any business that sells something to consumers which increases profits by finding ways to keep workers’ wages low ends up killing itself, but it usually takes so long that only the people in the business near the death of the business realize the problem and then it’s too late.

In other words, if consumers and workers are the same people, you have to pay your workers enough to consume your product or you’re committing slow-motion suicide. If consumers and workers aren’t the same people, you’d better hope there are enough consumers out there making more than your workers to make your business model work or you’re committing slow-motion suicide. Note that, if every business is trying to keep workers’ pay as low as possible, all businesses face the problem of not having a large enough pool of well-paid consumers who need their shit.

I keep thinking that we’re seeing this gap replicated over all parts of our society. You have something–in the case of what I care about, stories–and there’s a huge industry that takes those stories and sells them to consumers.

But you have a growing group of consumers who can’t or won’t afford the stories. They start looking for free or cheaper stories. I mean, as expensive as video games can be, what’s they’re per-hour cost? I bought the Butcher one of the Borderlands for $50 when it first came out. I don’t know how much he’s played it, but I bet I pretty easily have only spent $1 an hour on his entertainment with that game at this point. It’s roughly $7.50 an hour to see a movie. Depending on how fast or slow you read…

It’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about with the rise of fictional podcasts. That can’t be a money-making proposition by any stretch.

I guess I don’t have a fully formed idea about this except that it seems like the rise of the online magazine and the podcast and such are, in ways, people making art for people who can’t or won’t afford to consume it through traditional channels.

If a very few people will ever be lucky enough to make a living making their art and if audiences prefer not to pay for art (or to pay much less for it), I just…

I don’t know, really. I just know that it seems like a real gap between The Industry, as such, and what producers and consumers who can’t get access to The Industry are doing and I wonder what that means.

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2 thoughts on “The Gap, Again

  1. I see a lot of artists being really angry/frustrated that there are so many others out there creating for free/undercutting them, and I get that. But at the same time I find it kind of awesome (in the spiritual sense) that the human drive to create is so strong that so many people do it whenever they can, however they can, instead of say, saving their pennies for consumer goods or working more hours. Capitalism has weaponized the artistic impulse to make it impossible for most creators to demand a living wage, in the same way that patriarchy weaponized women’s ability to bear children/desire to protect them into a tool to oppress them with. Don’t know where I’m going with that actually, possibly back to ranting about the need for a universal basic income again so we can resist the abilities of capitalism to hurt us in that way.

  2. Yeah, I feel like my feelings on this are mostly jumbled, because it does really suck that people can’t make a living doing art when so many people consume it. It sucks if only 20 people read your book, but it’s a different kind of suck if 200,000 read your book, but only 2,000 of them pay for it and you’re supposed to act like it’s some kind of compliment that your work is so popular.

    But I really like and find interesting people’s impulse to say “Okay, so nobody wants to pay me to make this movie. I really want to make this movie, so I’m going to find a way,” and because of how cheap and ubiquitous the equipment has gotten, people can make really engaging stuff that, yeah, probably couldn’t find a broader home.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about persevering, but also whether my idea of perseverance is stupid.

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