We live in exciting times; the next world war will be not be fought for the traditional reasons: real estate, food or gold. It will instead be a struggle for bandwidth. And the weapons may not be traditional either. They may be entirely virtual.
What does this mean for the entertainment industry? the vanguard contestants employing armies of programmers, telephonists, lawyers, accountants, all doing vast virtual battle amidst violent eddies of national fortune. As we slither anxiously toward the millenium we will become more and more aware of wars of the omnipotent franchises.
If the above sounds ominous, let me temper your fears a bit. In the chaos that almost certainly will define the Age of Information, the artist, the downtrodden, exploited, and agonized soul, will have, as never before in history, an opportunity to thrive. Not, perhaps, in direct financial gain, but most certainly in delivery of his/her art to the world populace, in popular attention, in peer adulation, should the art be of sufficient excellence.
For example, it becomes possible for a musician to have a dream come true: one's own audio/video broadcast, available at no cost to whoever desires it, over the World Wide Web. Many "pirate" "radio " stations exist today, and the numbers grow quickly. It cost little to set up and administrate; anyone with a personal computer and a few hundred dollars can do it.
The catch, however, is this: it is going to become more difficult to get paid for disseminating one's art. The same technology that frees the artist from the corporate stranglehold almost certainly assures reducing the monetary value of art "information" to nearly zero. "What!" cries the new artist, "how will I eat? what good is the new technology if I can't house myself in order to continue my art?"
A valid and troublesome question. But necessity being the parent of invention, ways will be found, and the will of the artist shall find a successful path.
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May 14, 1998