At one point, the internet was looked upon as a symbol of hope for creators. Before the invention of the web, if you wanted a career in the arts, you had to convince someone with a checkbook and a rolodex of contacts that you were worth that chance. Writers had to assure publishers they were worth their weight in ink. Filmmakers had to sell their ideas to a studio, and musicians needed a label for distribution.
Of course, there were DIY exceptions. But, overall, the success of independent artists was limited by industry gatekeepers. That was the case until routers, ethernet cables, and dial-up modems came into our homes. Finally, creators didn’t have to ask permission to share their creations. Rap empires started on Tumblr. Critically acclaimed shows began on YouTube. Podcasting careers ignited in the garage. All of a sudden, talent, grit, and internet access were all a creator needed to sidestep the powers that be and find an audience for their art.
But the democratization of this distribution and access came at a cost. File sharing dug into the profits of established bands and major labels, making CDs obsolete. Ad-supported free content on the web caused a tornado of bankruptcies and consolidations throughout the print media landscape. From radio to brick-and-mortar stores, the internet shook up every aspect of the creative industry. Still, we were comfortable with this trade-off because the internet appeared to level the playing field for independent artists.
We say the system is broken, and it’s not too late to fix it. The world needs a new system, built around core principles that can enable the long-term success and well-being of creators:
A community that’s fueled by shared passion and respect, where creators and fans can get closer, exchange more than likes, and fans can be more than followers.
A place that empowers creators to follow their vision and create for themselves and their fans, not to meet demands of middle-men, algorithms or popular taste.
A world where being a creator is a viable career path that offers sustainability. Artists should be able to achieve their creative ambitions, grow their businesses independently, enjoy stability, and be served as respected members of society.