When I was in grade school, a neighbor’s family owned a reel-to-reel tape recorder. I envied them that amazing machine. I wanted to be able to record radio plays. They could do this whenever they liked. The father worked for a TV station, and had a Saturday morning show where they played black and white cartoons and Three Stooges shorts and Francis the Talking Mule movies and sometimes did their own skits in the studio. His son, who was my age, got to appear with his Dad in them. Now this was living!
By the time I was in college, cassette tape recorders had come into general use. Initially, they came with microphone jacks, but soon manufacturers didn’t bother with that added expense, because few people were using them. They were simply dubbing their LP’s onto cassette, using the line-in stereo jacks.
A few years earlier, in the Soviet Union, people were being arrested to recording and distributing tapes of poetry, songs, writers reading essays…anything you could voice. In Russian, this activity was called “samizdat.” The state found such activity threatening. There was no problem on our side of the world, because we just wanted to hear professionals do their thing. There was no American renaissance of radio drama or poetry readings. Nobody went to jail for sedition.
Now, thanks to the Internet and smart phones, everyone, everywhere can find an audience for audio, video, writing…there’s no gate and no gatekeeper. So are we witnessing an explosion of creativity? Not that I’ve noticed.
Most people on Facebook share memes created by others. That’s about as creative and personal as it gets. They “like” things. I, still struggling to find an audience, write blogs and link to them, write amazon kindle books and link to them, record videos as various imaginary characters…and it all adds up to nothing. I might as well be performing in front of a mirror or hollering down a drainage pipe.
Ease of access to the means of production wasn’t ever the problem. Now, the problem is nobody cares about anybody but the same few celebrities. If you’re not a celebrity actor, writer or musician, good luck finding an audience much less making a living.