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Overrepresentation Of The Rich In The Arts

This a thing that’s always been the case, but John Harris, who is a music writer doesn’t really understand why there are so many posh people in arts.

Culture is subject to the same basic economic rules as everything else. In 30 years of writing about music, I have seen it enough times: when the industry is subject to shocks, the victims tend not to be the big music companies, large-capacity venues or huge-selling artists but people and businesses on the edge, both financially and artistically. In recent years there has been sporadic panic about the arts increasingly being dominated by people from privileged enough backgrounds to enable them to ride out hardship. Here lies a danger that is too often overlooked: that starved of funds and deprived of the live element that represents its absolute foundation, what we used to call popular music will become elitist, wholly dependent on big money, and lousy with it.

If we’re talking about *basic economics*, it helps to understand them. One of the biggest ones is supply and demand. Lots of people want to be in a rock band doing their own material, or writing novels, or to be an actor. It’s a pleasurable creative job that is high status. So, supply and demand means the average rewards for it are low. Yes, there’s Bono, JK Rowling and Tom Cruise, but they’re pretty much like lottery winners compared to the total number of players in the market. The mean average income for an author is £16,000. And that includes the authors with Scrooge McDuck swimming pools full of money like JK, Lee Child and the woman who does the 50 Shades books.

One of the effects of this is that people who don’t particularly need money can do it for longer than everyone else. If you’re rich enough, you can spend your whole life just going to rehearsals and trying to make it. Or just spend your life doing the sort of things that don’t make money, but are about producing art. So, everything else being equal, you’re going to get more posh kids doing it. That doesn’t mean it’s all posh kids, though. There’s going to be some genius kids from the working/middle class who will get through on superior talent, even without the advantages. Gary Barlow didn’t come from a posh house, but wrote A Million Love Songs when he was 15, which is better than most anyone can write their whole life.

And what’s often overlooked is that the posh kids are going to spend even more money to get there. For every Radiohead or Benedict Cumberbatch, there’s the kids with trust funds who never made it. Which seems like a win-win to me. Posh kids get poorer while trying to produce art for the masses. Why is someone at the Guardian against this?
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Mr Womby
Mr Womby
3 months ago

“Gary Barlow didn’t come from a posh house, but wrote A Million Love Songs when he was 15, which is better than most anyone can write their whole life.”

‘Better’ is doing an awful lot of work in that sentence.

TD
TD
3 months ago

In my younger days I knew quite a few people trying to make it as musicians or other artists. They all failed when focused on the music alone. What many eventually wound up doing is going into some sort of technical support of the arts – cameramen, lighting, sound engineers, gallery managers, etc. Even a couple of roadies. They actually made a modest enough living, kept up their art as a hobby (or sometimes playing in a bar band), and today seem contented with their lives even if they didn’t become Bono. From them I learned that there is a… Read more »

Spike
Spike
3 months ago
Reply to  TD

Some of the street players may have “focused on the music alone” – perhaps didn’t have the discipline, the willingness to work with fellow musicians and venue owners, and the ability to resist booze while performing, it would take to get to the next step.

Bernie G.
Bernie G.
3 months ago

“It’s hard to understand why some make it and others don’t as simple talent alone doesn’t seem to do it.”

Luck helps…sliding doors. There’s also a lot to be said for just turning up every morning. Reliability.

Chester Draws
Chester Draws
3 months ago

One way to vastly increase the proportion of poor in the arts is to stop subsidising the art of the rich. Stop paying for Opera, ballet, experimental theatre, performance art etc. All art is posh, but bits of it are much more so than others.

The Guardian might struggle with the arts that the poor prefer mind you.

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