Grammy President Reacts to NYT Magazine ‘Creative Apocalypse’ Article

The lively debate continues.

Steven Johnson’s recent New York Times Magazine* piece “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t” accomplished what every such analytic feature strives for. The article sparked heated discussion, some of which is highlighted in the next issue.

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Along with criticism from Casey Rae, CEO of Future of Music Coalition, and a rebuttal by article author Johnson, there is a letter from a very qualified individual – Neil Portnow. From the West Coast, here’s how the president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences sees the current disruption:

The creators I speak to every day as head of the Recording Academy, the organization best known for the Grammy Awards, are finding it harder and harder to make a living in music. Far too many talented creators have left the business, and we can only imagine what we have lost. Those who remain in the music business will be surprised to learn that the data Johnson cites put them in the same employment category as actors and athletes.

Johnson is right about one thing: The new music economy has freed creators from a single reliance on record labels to produce and promote their music. But the new market he describes does not yet offer songwriters, artists, musicians and producers the ability to negotiate with the new digital-music merchants for fair compensation for their work. Until it does, creators and music lovers will continue to suffer.

The reader comments to Johnson’s piece are well worth scanning as well. The lively feedback includes these two points of view:

Galen, San Diego: Mr. Johnson’s most important point is that the current economy for creative workers rewards the self-promoting personality; it does not reward the self-refining artist as much. Branding is much more important than practice…

Steve, New York: NO, NO, NO!! This article is so misleading, it borders on being completely irresponsible… First, it forgets to point out that Napster was STEALING. It was based upon willful copyright infringement. Next, talk to some established artists like David Byrne or Marc Ribot. Anyone who has been involved in the arts for many years will tell you that the “sharing” economy has in most cases destroyed a once-healthy marketplace. However, creative careers are thriving for bottom-feeders who work for low rates, and have no idea that the fees they are accepting will never sustain them as a lifelong artist. These “diverse voices” mostly live in poverty!!!

*Correction (7:30 p.m.):
The original version of this article incorrectly attributed the article in question to T magazine. FishbowlNY apologizes for the error.