In a recent post, I mentioned that I was working on a new novel. This is true, but what I didn’t mention is that I’m also working on a new piece of nonfiction. This work focuses primarily on the cost and value of creation, and the damages that are happening to the creative class due to some aspects of modern culture. In fact, a working subtitle for the book (at least as I’m writing it) is The Genocide of the Creative Class.

Here’s a snippet of the current work-in-progress.

For a lot of people, creation is their livelihood. For others, it’s where their livelihood should be. I may be modest at times, but I know I’m no Picasso. For people like him, there obviously was a motivation to create – but there was also a cost. In his lifetime, Picasso created an estimated 50,000 individual works. If nothing else, that’s a lot of paint, paper and time.

Still, the obvious question here is “What if Picasso had not been able to create as his profession?” Of course there is no way he’d have created 50,000 works – there simply isn’t enough time in one’s life to do something like that as a hobby. Or, if somehow he could have still produced as many works, it is highly unlikely he would have had the drive to do so, much less perfect his craft to the level which he did.

In the time before creators were easily able to share their works directly with the public (before the printing press, the phonograph or the Internet), much of the work was commissioned by church of government. Works of art we consider core elements of our culture would not have existed had it not been for these commissions. Some works took years to complete, such as Michelangelo’s painting of The Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel which took four full years of Michelangelo’s time.

What is even more telling with this example, however, is that Michelangelo himself resented the commission for this work, believing it only served the Pope’s need for grandeur. So, in actuality, had it not been for the commission and promise of payment, The Creation of Adam would never have existed in the first place.

Of course, not all creators benefit financially from their work. In fact, many never expect to. This does not mean, however, they never desire to. With today’s technology it is much easier to acquire the tools to create, and much easier to distribute the creation once complete. The larger issue, and one that is oftentimes forgotten, is that these only make up the material costs of creation. As I’ve already mentioned, to create requires some sort of incentive to do so – and this is true for the most part because creating a work does not come without cost to the creator.

In Chris Anderson’s book, Free he says, “But some others have simply accepted that, for them, music is not a moneymaking business. It’s something they do for other reasons, from fun to creative expression. Which, of course, has always been true for most musicians anyway.”

Assumptions like this are at the core of what has been happening to reduce the value of music and other creations, which in turn has reduced the perception that being a creator of any sort is a viable career path. Having worked in the music industry for over a decade now, I can without a doubt say that the majority of musicians do so for some sort of future payment in mind. For many musicians, obviously this desire to be paid for their work does not come to fruition. There is only room for so many hits in the world. The fact remains, however, that the act of creation is not a selfless one. Whether it be for the hope of playing a gig, getting recognition from fans, getting signed to a label, being heard on the radio, or simply the hopes of using your music chops as a way to get “closer” to the opposite sex, very few musicians who go beyond school band or playing in the comfort of their own home do so for “fun” or “creative expression” – for them to succeed at their craft requires time, and time, as we all know, is not free.

The Genocide of the Creative Class (A Work-in-Progress)

4 thoughts on “The Genocide of the Creative Class (A Work-in-Progress)

  • August 10, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Interesting, I’m curious if you’re suggesting we go back to a patron model, or that copyright protections aren’t strong enough, or that the business doesn’t value creators, or just that Anderson’s full of it.

    Either way, I’m intrigued.

  • August 12, 2009 at 1:59 am

    Interesting. In my my field (illustration/comics) too, most people, even those who put their stuff out for free, create in the hope that it will pay off eventually.

    Are you at all worried that your title, if you keep it, will be percieved as overly dramatic or even offensive? I’m not saying I find it offensive, I’m just wondering how you feel about that.

  • August 12, 2009 at 5:35 am

    Regarding the title, yes that is a possibility – it’s why it’s my working title. I’d actually like to hear if people do find it potentially offensive or overdramatic, as I definitely value feedback. I’m hoping to make this become more and more of a conversation as I continue to work on it, as I can’t speak for everyone.

  • August 13, 2009 at 2:10 am

    I don’t find it offensive, but I would say it’s overly dramatic. Kind of feels like an attention grab.

    That might not be necessary, because I, for one, am interested in what you’ll have to say about this.

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