One of the more remarkable aspects of the American entertainment industry was its long ability to depend on advertising for its income. Soap operas, for example, got their name from the sponsorship of these shows aimed at women by companies who sought women as their customers. Likewise, one of the more notable aspects of contemporary videos online is the product placements for such products as Raid: Shadow Legends or virtual private networks, which prompts a great deal of laughing even as most people who view videos online find it necessary to use ad-blockers to avoid the truly insane frequency of advertising on YouTube. As the abuse of advertising and the lack of desire that many people–myself included–have in having to pay attention to advertising that we hate from people and companies and institutions we hold in contempt has led to a decline in the amount of advertising revenue that remains for those who produce content, other economic models are being explored.
For the most part, these other economic models do not appear to be very promising or sustainable. There is a limited amount of money that people have in order to support causes and institutions that they consider to be worthwhile, and people are always looking for a handout. In my e-mail, for example, I receive numerous e-mail messages a day from people looking for patronage for their substack articles, their writings, their videos, their photography, and a great many other things. One has to gauge which, if any, of these efforts are worthy of support. Rather than a broad-based economy where a great many people can be supported without too much cost, the economy of the present and near-future looks like one in which people support the things that are most important to them and a great many people struggle to make a living by wrangling the support of enough patrons to make it worthwhile for them to do what they do, even as companies relentlessly seek to improve their own bottom lines by seeking to lower costs through exploiting the gig economy.
It has often been fashionable to mock trickle-down economics and the optimistic belief that a rising tide lifts all boats, but there is little doubt that in an atmosphere of increasing austerity that insecurity spreads from the top down just as much as any supposed prosperity. Where people are unable to make a living by being creative because there is no base of income to support them, a lot less ends up being created as a result, certainly a lot less material of quality, because a lot of the quality of what is created requires people to polish what is created, to produce it and shape it and edit it, and those are professions which depend on their being an infrastructure that in turn requires a substantial amount of income from creating things. Where this income is threatened, and where no one is making any money, everyone else suffers as a result.
When everyone becomes a beggar, life as a whole becomes a lot more coarse. What is the relationship that exists between beggars? If people are sufficiently crafty by nature, one can imagine at least some semblance of a decent life through some sort of bartering. People who have different skills can at least get what they need to survive if they can leverage their skills into receiving some sort of useful goods and services in exchange for their own. Such a cooperative model, if it is not necessarily prosperous, at least can allow for survival. What happens when people have to decide whether or not the fifth best jongleur gets their economic support or not and there is only enough to go around to support four? It is like the bachelor visiting an event full of lovely women who all consider him to be the second best man in the whole crowd of people there, but who nevertheless cannot find a partner for himself because no one wants him most of all. In such an economy as ours, no one can afford to be second place, and that makes life increasingly more difficult for us all.