Losing our brains with disruptive technologies (XXXIX): The arts are in danger of extinction.
Have a beautiful Wednesday. Around a year ago I started a saga named “Corporate Strategy as an Art”. My aim to finish it found a roadblock, as a strategist I needed help from historians of art, anthropologists, art consultants, and archaeologists, not just to validate the ideas that supported my writings, but because many of the assumptions that we have studied in relation to our past art timeline are still WIP (a work in progress). So, I had to postpone this saga, until I could raise the money to create a special purpose substance research initiative (with a team of experts). It is a vast project that will take several years. This endeavor requires a budget, not just to pay the full-time experts who will accompany me under the “Corporate Strategy as an Art” crusade, but also we have to afford research resources, fixed costs associated with the project, some kind of equipment and travel expenses. This saga was put on hold. I was digging about how to raise the funds for it, and suddenly the Coronavirus appeared.
Those who have followed me since the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-2018, already know that I am attracted to the beauty of art. But the art that I was raised to cherish has been disrupted by digital NAIQI technologies in a way that it is impossible for me to believe all the damage that has caused. More than 100,000 years of art human dedication are at risk to disappear. Again I am not the most expert when it comes to the anthropology of art, but as a corporate strategist, sadly I have observed how the beauty of “hand made high quality” art (in all its variables and forms) has been ruined by the ubiquity of the NAIQI technologies. All the evolution of millenary years of artistic development are in danger of extermination because of the digital technologies. By using the “creating art” software technology to replace the traditional art-making, we have “evidently” started to return back to the Paleolithic times.
The latter affirmation has been figured out, from the point of view of art producer, not from the point of view of art spectator. As in the sports industries, art has at least three big segments:
- Those who create it and perform it (or play it)
- Those who buy it: the ones who attend art events and acquire the final product (the ones who pay for the ticket band concerts, the singer music downloads, the paintings, the photography rights, the books, the dance performance events, the theater, and cinema oeuvres, the fashion cat-walks, etc.)
- The art intermediaries and media
Each expression of art (visual or not) had a traditional business model that was disrupted by the NAIQI technologies, particularly since the decade of the 2000s, when the computers began to be ubiquitous. Let´s brush the canvas:
Painting: The paintings and illustrations instructors of the Baby Boomer generation, stopped to use the hand precision of the brush movements and pigments mixes. Our Generation X had at least a formative stage to learn something as our ancestors, but as of the millennial generation, graphic design was constituted not just as the replacement of artistic painting but as a professional career. During the last 10 years, digital tablets allowed that our fingers replaced the brushes, in order to draw, paint, edit and mix on the screen; that digital oeuvre, then is printed and sold at the cheapest market price. That is what is happening. Graphic designers or digital visual arts are now dedicating their life to do digital drawings which then are used by marketers, visual social media campaigns, etc. Since I am painting real-life aquarelles, I have observed the destruction of the traditional original painting industry. Many visually leading artists to survive have joined the art merchandising business model, in which their original canvas and oeuvres of art are printed in mugs, notebooks, clothing, iPhone cases, towels, blankets, bags, and any type of art prints which are sold at rotten potato values. Let me explain it with a personal example: My petit original aquarelles (size 5”x7”) are not illustrations, these are real hand made paintings. I create them using brushes, and they take time, patience, and dedication. If you want a beautiful watercolor, the details must be extremely well done. The correct art value for each of them (for the size 5”x7”) must be between US$200 to US$500 dollars, but at the moment, if you visit Etsy.com or Finartamerica.com or even Amazon.com platforms, you won´t be able to buy original watercolors for sale, but art prints of this size for a price between US$15 to US$35 dollars plus shipping (it depends on the artist). The merchandise has substituted the industry of paintings as a solution to find other sources of income for painting creations. An original is not the same than a copy, but visual artists have been forced to sell copies of their art, decreasing its value to worst levels (the artist only gets between 10% to 30% of the merchandise object final price that the consumer pays through Redbubble.com or other similar portals).
Famous excellent artists who have more than 30 years of experience must be paid at least double or triple of my aquarelles original price because they have much more reputation and a branding tradition than me, and I have seen them trying to sell their art for less than $100 dollars for a 5” x 7” original watercolor. Which is insane. I mean you can spend 100 dollars in one dinner for two in Zurich, Switzerland. The chaos that the new digital technologies have ignited in the visual arts industry is mega-catastrophic. It is a tragedy to see amazing visual artists soliciting donations as alms beggars, draining their capacities, offering almost for free their artistic advice on Youtube, Patreon, SkillShare, and similar tutorial websites. Galleries have almost disappeared in every country on earth. And the new generations don´t like to go to museums because they feel their Smartphone streaming is much better than the sculptures, paintings and manual arts representations from Museums. It is a disaster. A new digital business model that doesn´t provide the economic means for visual artists to survive with a decent lifestyle is wrong.
Music: From the point of view of the consumer, regardless of the genre of music (classical, rock, pop, rap, hip hop, romance, etc). Before the record industry appeared, people had to attend concerts or wait to listen to unplugged artists who were constantly invited to the radio stations. Then, vinyl discs and cassettes emerged, providing a profitable new concept to audiences: anyone was able to buy the music they wanted to, whenever they wish it, but in a fixed location. With the appearance of the CD players, mobile cassettes, and tiny discs, the music was mobile “on the go”. Once the Smartphones, Internet, and Itunes came into the scene, the whole traditional music business model came to an end. From the point of view of the music creator, music composing and music-making software inundated the music production industry, and for the first time in history, there was no need to learn to play instruments, because anyone could do it using specialized software that converted a keyboard into every single band instrument that we can conceive. Today, with the rise of electronic music, bands have been left out of work. And with the expansion of social media, audiences don´t want to go to pay a ticket to see their preferred singers or bands, but because there is a new substitute model in Youtube, which allows them to see them at its convenience, whenever they want to and for free. In addition, quality music has been replaced by the number of likes, the amount of subscriptions and the quantity of downloads from your favorite video internet platform. Now add the streaming, which has knocked the old model, putting in danger not just the weakened music revenue traditional sources, but the essence of the music that we hear. Thousands of musicians (instrument players and singers and their respective agents) have diminished their already limited income, jeopardizing the beauty of the existence of our acoustic experiences. At that rhythm, believe me that the majority of homeless or dispossessed are and will be musicians playing in metro stations, or in plazas, just to try to collect for daily eating.
Dance: As the sports events, in the past, the majority of dancers’ maximum dream was to perform at a Professional Dance Organization, and the ambition of excellence was to perform in the Lincoln Center and its equivalent events´ theaters all over the world. The dance show business model attracted masses that paid for the spectacle, and revenues were then given not just to the dancers, but the agents, dance intermediaries, theaters, and of course the media. Right now, with the emergence of social internet media in YouTube and the streaming, the LIVE events show dance performance revenues of the traditional model have almost shut down this industry. What is worst, the emergence of the new sources of income from digital vehicles is not enough. Massive audiences using the Internet are not able to pay for these platforms. Why? They don´t have cash available. The free or gratuit system that already exists is just draining the “Unique economic recognition” of dancers. What is worst with the dancing sub-industry, is that it is normal to see classical younger dancers doing their performances on the streets or plazas, scrounging for money in return; in order to survive meanwhile, they attend high-end dancing schools who can´t promise they will be able to be hired with decent salaries once they finish their school programs.
Literature: This is another mess. Technologies are omnipresent in literature, and the paper books were annihilated in less than 20 years. With the idea to protect the trees, the books are now on the “PDF” version, that you can buy for less than 1% of what is the real author’s cost of each book or magazine or journal. The literature sub-industry is also having trouble with survival. Journalists, novel writers (of any type of genre), poets, essay authors, or anyone who is an “author”, regardless if they are famous by long years of experience, or emerging (as my case) or initiating their literature studies; writing has been already hit by the digital technologies, particularly in the revenue flowing of funds. Believe me, I have been trying to mold and put my literary production using this blog platform, and after 3 years still, I have not been able to find one sponsor, not even international or local academic sponsors (inside and outside El Salvador). Not even one. And that is the same case for sculpture, photography, etc.
Copyrights. I do not want to shake the issues with copyrights, which is a tremendous problem in any type of art. It is impossible to enforce the law once you put your art creations “online”. Not even in the EU with all the regulations in place. For example, anyone can copy your art or can take a picture with a Smartphone and make an art print. The solution to all copyright troubles is ethics.
For the visual arts, each artist knows when its creative content is 100% owned. For example, if I use internet public domain photo references, as a watercolorist, I have to pay a royalty fee (10% to 20%) to the photographer, only if I sell the art. It is fair enough to do it. Otherwise, it is simply a practice exercise that was not able to be monetized. It is up to me to recognize the value of a photo reference, and I must do it because ethically that is the correct thing to do. If the picture is not mine, just for the usage of the photo, I must recognize the work and the copyright value of the photographer. It is my own decision to act this way. But not all visual artists think the same. And the same applies to music, sculpture, fashion, literature, etc)
In summary: the art industries in its traditional business model are on an immense crisis. And I don´t see any feasible solution with the NAIQI technologies in place. The art as it has been for 100,000 years will disappear. We have to admit that art creators have economic needs and wants. Each oeuvre has a market value that must be higher because as luxury items, not everyone can pay for them. Handmade things or real performances from dancers, musicians, and singers are expensive, and who will pay us? In the new digital economy, our efforts are simply slaughtered. The massive amount of people who use social media can´t recognize our original art´s value. They can´t do it because their earnings are not enough. And the digital sponsorship model can´t help us either, not even in the short-medium or long term.
Art is part of our life as much as we eat or sleep. Excellent artists must be recognized because of the beauty of their creations above the rest. At the moment, the digital economy and NAIQI technologies are leaving the traditional artists as pauper mendicants who are at risk of extinction.
No new economy model can be sustainable or successful (long term) if it is based on the destruction of others means of existence.
Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY. Nevertheless, the majority of the pictures, images, or videos shown on this blog are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.
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