Spare Change

'I'm not good with computers' won't cut it anymore.

Things aren’t like they used to be for artists, or anyone for that matter. Digital technology’s disrupting the game. So’s Covid-19. No one knows what’s next, no matter how high they stand on the ladder. 

But strangely, this is normal. It’s just accelerated right now. 

Recorded music was disruptive technology. Movies threatened to kill theatre. Radio threatened to kill both. TV threatened to kill movies. Cassettes threatened to kill recorded music. Video rentals threatened to kill movie theatres. 

Some of these new technologies carved out territory for themselves, and the ones they “replaced” evolved and they all coexist peacefully. Dylan went electric, but plenty of people still play acoustic folk music. Light bulbs became our primary source of illumination, but candles sales are in the billions every year. Physical books are outselling e-books.

Some forms do go extinct. VHS tapes. 8-tracks. Vaudeville. 

Things are in a constant state of flux. We’re born into a set of circumstances, and that’s our normal. But your normal was the exact thing that made someone else throw up their hands and say everything’s going to hell in a handbasket. 

But you know what hasn’t changed? Our impulse to create. And more importantly, our appetite for music, for stories, for laughter, for wonder. The technological form might change, but there will always be artists creating and sharing their work, in spite of all the obstacles. 

It’s fascinating to watch evolution in action. Marvel and Star Wars and other franchises are dominating at the box office, and indie movies morphed into high quality TV. Covid might very well bring about a resurgence of drive-in movie theatres. Vaudeville died, but turned into variety TV, which lasted decades and then died, and now fringe festivals are full of magicians, jugglers, burlesque and comedians - as is talent competition reality TV. Spotify killed album sales, and I’m listening to more new music than ever.

Each new iteration is flawed. The powerful will always rig the system in their favor. We don’t have to accept this. We can organize and take action against exploitative developments. 

And as artists, we can keep ourselves loose and flexible. Adaptability is the key to survival. Keep your mind open. Never stop learning. You don’t have to adopt every new bit of technology, but it’s in your best interest to understand what it is, what’s good about it, which doors it opens up. You can use it to create, or to get your stuff out there. Or not. Maybe your career will morph in ways you can’t imagine. Maybe it won’t change much at all. But if you cling to the way things were, you’re asking to be left behind. 

So keep cultivating your ideas. See which avenues open up. Keep scanning the horizon for new ways to help you express that fragment of the eternal at the core of your soul. And then be ready for things to change again.

No matter how bad things get, remember that your resilience and ability to push through may serve as a survival guide for someone else.  I never thought my life story would inspire anyone. But I had to put it out there first, and when I did it changed my life.

Embrace change. Now is good.