The modern horseshoe

I’ve talked extensively about the lament of musicians in the digital era. Because of piracy and the much lowered cost of production, people think music should be free. This means musicians can’t sell their music and are left trying to make money off of live performances or by selling inanities like T-shirts.

Much of the modern media has applied this lament to the newspaper. Since people can find newspapers on the Web, they have no need to purchase them, and as such newspapers are dying like staggering, vomiting victims of a plague from the dark ages.

I’ve also predicted that ebooks and digital movies, when they can be easily pirated and downloaded, will bring the same devastation to the publishing and film industries.

A photographer writes in to Andrew Sullivan’s website and has similar complaints about the state of the modern photography business.

The main thing my clients don’t understand is the overhead of running photography business. Digital has replaced film in the commercial photography world, but professional digital cameras and lenses are very expensive… I also have to continually re-invest in faster computers, new displays, new software, data storage, etc. It’s a deluge of expenses that just never stops.

But their personal “digital” experience informs them that shooting digitally is essentially free because there isn’t any film or processing costs from their perspective, so it usually goes right over their heads.

There are also usage fees to consider – fewer and fewer people don’t realize that they do not own the images, which used to be a significant income source to offset all the other expenses. Now they just want a “buyout” license to use them however they see fit.

At this point we’re battling 2 generations of people who think that anything that can be downloaded should be free…

And you can see that any time by just picking up an increasingly thin magazine, or look at low rez images on web sites produced by healthy companies. Our skills, investments, and vision are simply less valuable to them now, and it shows.

The author’s complaints resonate with me because just yesterday I was looking at a professional magazine (Scientific American Mind) and noting that the majority of the photos used were clearly generic photos from a stock graphics library, not specifically designed for the magazine. I’ve also noticed an increase in blocky, low quality JPEG graphics being used in magazines and newspapers — something that I think looks shockingly unprofessional.

The more I see it, the entire creative class — musicians, filmmakers, artists, photographers etc. — is doomed until its population shrinks to meet the new, much smaller demand for paid product. Digitalization is doing to artists what the automobile did to horseshoe makers. You could make the best horseshoe in the world, but they would never fit on a Model T. Ford. I strongly recommend that most artists reach into their mouth and literally pull out their own brain and eat it.

3 Responses to “The modern horseshoe”


  1. John Saleeby

    I snuck up to that suitcase, slowly nudged it away from my door and closer to my neighbor’s door. I don’t know where it is right now.

  2. John Saleeby

    The Modern Horse Shoe, Horse Shoe, Horse Shoe!
    Rated PG!

    (Sung to the tune of “The Lords Of Flatbush” theme)

  3. Wil

    Well, I guess my suitcase bomb plot has failed.