How do We Cope with the Creative Industries?

Factory Records: Probably my favorite record label.

Factory Records: Probably my favorite record label.

About two blog posts back, I talked about the myth of the artist as a singular being. One of the things I focused on in that post was the how we as consumers like how relatable the individual artist or craftsmen is. In Hesmondalgh and Baker’s Creative Labour: Media Work in Three Cultural Industries, Raymond Williams is brought up early in the book as a way to present some discourse on creativity. Williams writes that,“‘No word carries a more consistently positive reference than “creative”’ (2). Now creative, like artist and craftsmen, might be seen as positive, but industry is usually seen in the complete opposite light by most people (the obvious exception would be mustache-twisting-top-hat-wearing Englishmen from the 19th century). So how do people deal with dissonance of the two elements of the creative industries? The phrase itself is a bit challenging, the words themselves go together about as well as Marx and coca-cola. So the essential question for today is, ‘how do creative industries and the workers in the creative industries justify, or at least cope with the negative image of the industrial?’

One way to go about this is to try create the illusion of a lack of an industrial system. Hesmondalgh and Baker refer to this in relation to music as, “Rock Ideology”. Hesmondalgh and Baker state that, “Rock ideology provides discourses of authenticity that superficially allow for musicians to struggle against cultural capitalism,” (73). As I see it, “Rock Ideology” is a way of pretending there isn’t an apparatus controlling things behind the scenes. It is like saying that on a film shoot there isn’t a studio, or a producer nervously suggesting, or rather forcing, themes and rewrites upon a director. This is all rather bleak, but it is certainly way to go about it. In a world where image matters, maybe it’s more important to brand yourself as authentic rather than actually be authentic.

I’m not sure about that though. I don’t know how effective that really is. We see through inauthenticity, especially when it comes to branding. We know when something is constructed. When McDonald’s tries to be “hip and cool” it’s immediately laughed off and most of us go, “that was lame” and either continue to eat there or not. I think the same is true with the creative industries as well we can almost sense corporatism–even just a scene in a movie, or a second where a song resolves in a tired way. I don’t think it’s worth pretending to be “authentic”.

Another way would be to just ignore any sense of industriousness and do whatever works and if it makes money, “cool” but otherwise, “whatever”. About two years ago this would be my take on what would be the most “ethical” path to take in the creative industries. However as graduation approaches, I think I’m starting to see things differently. One of my own struggles in coping with the creative industries is this awareness that it’s about money, but also art. Let’s be real, I’d like to make money, I’d like to be able to make a decent living. I also would like to be able to create art that means something to me. I grew up idolizing Alan McGee and Tony Wilson, guys who managed to create these record labels, that seemed to make an impact and straddle that line between creativity and business. I can dream all I want about Factory records releasing some of the coolest, creative, and personal music, but Factory never made a dime. So, how do you strike that balance between creative and industrial? How can you be happy with your work, but still make a living?

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