ICYMI: New York Times: How the Internet Is Saving Culture, Not Killing It

“[F]rom blogs to podcasts to YouTube, the last 20 years have been marked by a succession of formats that have led to ever-lower barriers for new and off-the-wall creators”

WASHINGTON—An article published in The New York Times on Wednesday, How the Internet Is Saving Culture, Not Killing It, examines how the internet has resulted in an explosion of creativity and entrepreneurship. Farhad Manjoo speaks with a number of online creators and entrepreneurs, including Patreon founder Jack Conte and YouTube a cappella singer Peter Hollens, about the internet’s role in this cultural change. Below are excerpts of the story. To read the full article, click here.


How the Internet Is Saving Culture, Not Killing It
By Farhad Manjoo
The New York Times
March 15, 2017

“In just about every cultural medium, whether movies or music or books or the visual arts, digital technology is letting in new voices, creating new formats for exploration, and allowing fans and other creators to participate in a glorious remixing of the work. This isn’t new; from blogs to podcasts to YouTube, the last 20 years have been marked by a succession of formats that have led to ever-lower barriers for new and off-the-wall creators. …

“In the last few years, and with greater intensity in the last 12 months, people started paying for online content. They are doing so at an accelerating pace, and on a dependable, recurring schedule, often through subscriptions. And they’re paying for everything.

“You’ve already heard about the rise of subscription-based media platforms — things like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Spotify and Apple Music. But people are also paying for smaller-audience and less-mainstream-friendly content. They are subscribing to podcasters, comedians, zany YouTube stars, novelists and comic book artists. They are even paying for news.

“It’s difficult to overstate how big a deal this is. More than 20 years after it first caught mainstream attention and began to destroy everything about how we finance culture, the digital economy is finally beginning to coalesce around a sustainable way of supporting content. If subscriptions keep taking off, it won’t just mean that some of your favorite creators will survive the internet. It could also make for a profound shift in the way we find and support new cultural talent. It could lead to a wider variety of artists and art, and forge closer connections between the people who make art and those who enjoy it. …

“Mr. Conte founded Patreon in 2013 and has since funded $100 million in art, with creators on the platform doubling their income every year. Top creators can make tens of thousands of dollars a month. In 2016, more than 35 artists reaped more than $150,000 each on the platform.

“‘I do think something has changed culturally,’ Mr. Conte said. ‘This new generation is more concerned with social impact. There’s a desire to vote with your dollars and your time and attention.’ …

“Thanks to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, artists can now establish close relationships with their fans. They can sell merchandise and offer special fan-only promotions and content. And after finding an audience, they can use sites like Patreon to get a dependable paycheck from their most loyal followers. …

“If there are difficulties in navigating the modern cultural business, there are upsides, too.

“‘I can have a normal life now,’ said Peter Hollens, an a cappella singer who creates cover videos on YouTube. Mr. Hollens, who lives in Eugene, Ore., now makes about $20,000 a month from his Patreon page. The money has allowed him to hire production help and to increase his productivity, but it has also brought him something else: a feeling of security in being an artist.

“‘I don’t have to go out on the road and play in bars,’ he said. ‘I can be a father and I can be a husband. This normalizes my career. It normalizes the career of being an artist, which has never been normalized.’”