I reprint below an excellent substack post by Ted Gioia – a keen cultural observer, especially of music.
He explicates many of the obvious trends in our cultural degeneration. As one who has studied the entertainment industries from the inside and out, I have shown that these trends are primarily driven by technology and economics. Digital tech has minimized the return to risk for publishers and distributors, leading to the depletion of risk capital. Without risk capital on unproven art, there is no investment in the new and innovative. Thus, we get the most risk averse business models that basically regurgitate what worked last time. We see this is movies, music, visual arts, and books.
14 Warning Signs That You Are Living in a Society Without a Counterculture
by Ted Gioia
I’ve occasionally mentioned, in interviews and other settings, that we are living in a society without a counterculture. People ask me what I mean by this.
That’s a a reasonable question, but the new normal defies simple explanation. At some point, I hope to write in-depth on this subject. But today I will simply offer a quick definition, and then share 14 tweets.
These capture the flavor of what I’m trying to express better than any long-winded analysis.
First, here’s a quick definition. These are the key indicators that you might be living in a society without a counterculture:
- A sense of sameness pervades the creative world
- The dominant themes feel static and repetitive, not dynamic and impactful
- Imitation of the conventional is rewarded
- Movies, music, and other creative pursuits are increasingly evaluated on financial and corporate metrics, with all other considerations having little influence
- Alternative voices exist—in fact, they are everywhere—but are rarely heard, and their cultural impact is negligible
- Every year the same stories are retold, and this sameness is considered a plus
- Creative work is increasingly embedded in genres that feel rigid, not flexible
- Even avant-garde work often feels like a rehash of 50-60 years ago
- Etc. etc. etc.
This is a deep matter, and I won’t try to unlock all the nuances here. I will now simply share 14 tweets that capture the stale taste of life without a counterculture. Some of these tweets are my own, others from total strangers—but they all paint the same overall picture.
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You might be living in a society without a counterculture if. . . .
(A story told in 14 tweets)
1. Every screen shows the same movie.
2. Alt Weeklies disappear in every city—along with everything else that’s alternative or outside the norm.
Alone in a room with neatly stacked newspapers. It feels like a vigil for the alt weeklies that are gone, whether bought out by big media & whittled into husks or ended altogether. Everything from The Village Voice to my community paper, gone. I hope the sound they made echoes.
3. The most popular song doesn’t change for three years in a row.
Are we stuck in a loop? bit.ly/39awdlpvia: @tedgioia
4. The banal word ‘content’ is used to describe every type of creative work, implying that artistry is generic and interchangeable.
Martin Scorsese says “the art of cinema is being systematically devalued, sidelined, demeaned, and reduced to its lowest common denominator” due to the naming of films as “content.” (via: bit.ly/3qvlXYI)
5. There are lots of journalists, but they all seem to be working for the same corporations.
Consolidation of US news publishers is hitting record levels with many newspapers owned by only a few companies, says Justin Eisenband, a Managing Director in FTI Consulting’s Publishing + Digital Media practice at #WNMC21
6. The dominant company in the creative culture views everything as a brand extension.
Disney CFO Forgets the Name of the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Hotel in Walt Disney World Disney CFO Forgets the Name of the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Hotel in Walt Disney WorldThe Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser luxury hotel is so vital to Walt Disney World, that Disney CFO Christine McCarthy can’t even remember what it’s called. During a recent event at Walt Disney World, McCarthy fumbled around with the name of the Galactic Starcruiser, first calling it the “Starship,”…piratesandprincesses.net
7. Indie music and alt music are marginalized.
“A Spotify playlist study has found that the Big Three labels (UMG, Warner, Sony) benefit most from curated playlists. In many cases, they practically control them.” Study Confirms That Major Labels Control Spotify PlaylistsA Spotify playlist study has found that major labels (UMG, Warner, Sony) account for most new songs added to curated playlists.digitalmusicnews.com
8. Telling jokes becomes a dangerous profession.
9. The experts who ‘explain’ the culture to us all seem to be insiders with identical backgrounds.
Here’s the second installment of Daniel Stone’s analysis of the clique-ish world of the New York Review of Books—which Russell Jacoby once claimed “withdraws from the cultural bank without making any investments.” danielstone.substack.com/p/new-york-rev…
10. This year’s movies look a lot like last year’s movies.
11. Even elite awards for creativity are dominated by reboots and remakes.
Four of the Best Picture Oscar nominees this year are remakes or reboots of earlier films. Academy history can offer clues about how “Nightmare Alley,” “West Side Story,” “CODA” and “Dune” might fare on Sunday. Four Best Picture Contenders Are Remakes. Does That Matter to Oscar Voters?Academy history offers clues about how “Nightmare Alley,” “West Side Story,” “CODA” and “Dune” might fare on Sunday.nyti.ms
12. Five companies have almost complete control over the book business—where, in an earlier day, dozens of indie publishers thrived.
Industry consolidation in US commercial book publishing has come down to a “Big Five” (soon to be a “Big Four”) commonly listed as Penguin/Random, HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster. Each of those companies, though, is of course owned by a bigger company.
13. Everybody is encouraged to watch the same TV shows and movies—with niche options gradually removed from the dominant platforms.
This is a great deep dive into Netflix’s film library, including how the quantity of titles has leveled out since a big drop in 2015 and a breakdown of how many films from each decade are available to US subscribers. Via the always brilliant @kasey__moore. whats-on-netflix.com/news/netflixs-…