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Diversify or Die

Exploring ways the arts and culture industries can navigate the digital age. 

It is not uncommon to hear both artists and arts and culture managers bemoan how much technological advances are changing the way the arts and culture and creative industries function. Everybody, from record producers to venue operators, is crying foul. They perceive today’s digital culture as having a negative impact on growth and revenue in an industry that has always had its own share of struggles with generating income. I may be one of the few voices welcoming the change.

Embracing change

The arts and culture industries aren’t the only ones that have had to adjust to the digital age. So, when I hear key industry players crying foul, it reeks of entitlement and lack of ingenuity. Many artists and arts and culture managers contend that people just aren’t consuming ‘real art’ anymore and that the overstimulation of the technological age and increasingly shortened attention spans are to blame. I’m not sure I agree.

For the most part, technology doesn’t necessarily change the quality of the art we create. Great art is still great art. What technology has done is change the way art and culture are disseminated and consumed. Therefore, finding new ways to share ‘real art’ that this generation can receive is important. A new generation, with its own new way of living and exploring the world, is simply not going to enjoy and consume art in the ways previous generations did. The sooner we realise this, the sooner we’ll be able to capitalise on the new options that technology affords us.

Seeking out technology-driven revenue streams

Of course, my call to diversify is not a call to abandon everything that came before. Instead, it is a call to incorporate new elements into that which already exists. A big part of doing just that is seeking out—or finding new ways to create or capitalize on—digital revenue streams. Look, for example, at the possibility of creating apps dedicated to achieving quick, easy, and convenient access to (and purchasing options for) your products and services.

A changing of the guard and using your artistic nature to your advantage

One of the good things I’ve seen resulting from the digital revolution is what I call a changing of the guard. Technology and the digital revolution has, in many ways, levelled the playing field and removed the existing elitism by which only certain artists and handlers were invited to the party. Now, everyone must fight more smartly for their place and independent artists can create sustainable grassroots or mainstream success.

Some may argue that the elitism of which I speak protected the quality of the art and cultural experiences that were available; again, I disagree. There were perhaps lots of better options that existed but never came to the fore because of the nature of the ‘old boys club’. With equal opportunity, the cream will rise to the top.

However, we still perceive the changes the digital age has brought to the industry; one thing is clear—we must diversify or die. Like it or not, technology is here to stay. Therefore, we must find innovative ways to attract and stimulate a new generation while continuing to make a cultural impact through art.



Kerri-Anne .C. Walker

Master in Arts and Culture Management