Playwright Alena Smith, describing the faded fortunes of American playwrights, notices that the impact of the Internet extends far beyond the print media:
This is what happens to “old media,” after all — new media rise up and displace them. We are clearly in the midst of such a conflict right now, as the internet has seized control of the global cultural economy, upending established industries and eroding formerly paramount institutions from book publishers to the music industry to print newspapers and magazines to now, finally, even the mighty television networks. Rough times lie ahead for the television industry, and these challenges will inevitably impact its writers.;
Side note: We’ve joined this revolution by dropping our cable service several years ago (saving ourselves over $100/mo). Now we do all of our “television” viewing online, Internet only.
As internet pioneer turned techo-skeptic Jaron Lanier starkly puts it in his 2010 screed You Are Not a Gadget, “Once file sharing shrinks Hollywood as it is now shrinking the music companies, the option of selling a script for enough money to make a living will be gone.” Lanier’s warning may seem hyperbolic, but unrestricted file sharing is surely what undermined the music industry, and it’s what’s hurting the world of journalism, too. In a sense, the internet caused the unbundling of both the music album and the print newspaper — and in doing so, severely damaged both industries. The trouble comes down to simple economics of supply and demand in the digital age. When infinite copies of a work of art can be made and distributed globally in an instant, supply is limitless, and the value of an individual copy gets pushed down to zero. But of course, the original cost of creating a work of art in the first place, for the creator, does not change a bit. Writers still need to eat, pay rent, and feed their families. They just can’t necessarily rely on profits from their actual work to compensate them for that endeavor. This is how a profession gets demonetized. This is how a job — a living — gets reduced to a hobby.
Notice too Smith’s perspective on net neutrality:
The platform where nearly all of culture now takes place is, in fact, owned and controlled by a handful of incredibly powerful, borderline-monopolistic corporations. And these are the companies, like Amazon, now getting into “the scripted game.” We’ve already seen the types of problems that can arise under this new arrangement — for example, in the recent conflict between Amazon and the publishing company Hachette. In an era where Amazon is responsible for 65 percent of all online book sales, and 41 percent of book sales, period, their thuggish negotiation tactics can be potentially calamitous for a publishing company, and devastating for individual writers. If this is how Amazon treats the writers of books, how well can we expect them, as producers or distributors, to treat the writers of TV shows? Similar questions can be asked about any of the powerful new platform owners — in particular, the telecom companies that actually control the physical cables and routers through which all our media now travels. The fight for net neutrality is the fight to stop the internet from becoming a place where giant telecom companies are able to dictate terms to every creator who wishes to distribute content through their pipes. And screenwriters’ livelihoods depend on it.
Read the full article here: “You Can’t Make a Living: Digital Media, the End of TV’s Golden Age, and the Death Scene of the American Playwright“