Gartlandia – Art and the internet

 
 
Photo: Laura Horgan

As the internet brings us closer to artists than ever before, Orla Gartland talks about the challenges of creating art for the digital age

The internet is a revolutionary platform, a generational feat. I have the web to thank for the foundations of the music career I now have the pleasure of pursuing it full-time. However, being such an online geek over the past few years has led to the formation of some sceptical ideas about the internet. Here are two of them.

1) The internet will never stop changing

Once upon a time in Ireland, Bebo was more popular than the Google homepage with over one million visits a day. Who could blame us? (Brief nostalgic flashback; remember flashboxes? Bebo skins? Sharing the luv?). However, along came Facebook and away we went.

The success of particular websites can be painfully fleeting. It seems it will always be just a matter of time before we all collectively hop on the next bandwagon. Surely, in the grand scheme of the web, this is simply a natural process of development and renewal? I would agree, but let’s not forget how many people get hurt along the way.

This summer, I met a huge number of musicians who have used the internet since the dark ages known as the Myspace era. Some gained huge overnight success on the site. They had hundreds upon thousands of plays on their original material, legions of new fans and subsequently the attention of the industry and media.

They sat in the shiny boardrooms of major record labels and planned their glittering futures. From 2008 onwards, people flocked to Facebook in their millions, as Myspace accounts were deleted and became inactive. Myspace died, and so did so many of the site’s most popular artists.

Tales such as this make me nervous for the current ‘celebrities’ of YouTube; the content creators who find fame on the site and make a decent living from the ads placed on their videos.

You see, there are no rules. The quality of your content could increase as your popularity decreases; some day you could upload videos and receive a quarter of the views you once racked up.

What happens if you pay your rent with ad revenue, and it’s suddenly slashed in half for no reason at all? Scary.

2) The internet devalues art

I once met a Dublin musician who vowed he would never busk. He said that blasting out his music for free in the street would diminish its value; that people passing by didn’t deserve to listen for nothing and that he didn’t deserve the guilt of having to force it upon people who didn’t want to hear. Is this the case with the web?

The internet is used freely as a platform for the arts; filmmaking, poetry, comedy, music and more. By uploading our creative content online for people to access free-of-charge, are we responsible for a generation in which so many deem art as worthless? Are we responsible for a generation where many struggle with the concept of paying 99 cent for a song and instead lean towards downloading music and movies illegally?

Although I began by uploading YouTube videos, I’m now lucky enough to experience the more traditional aspects of being a musician; collaborating, songwriting, recording and gigging. Although I’ll always upload videos, it is these disciplines that I’ll focus on most.

An association with certain sites can be a novelty. I was always conscious of the assumption that I was a YouTube musician, and it’s a stigma I was always eager to shake off. One can’t help but wonder, is there a difference between a YouTube musician and a real musician? Are those who grow their music online simply not taken as seriously? It’s a tricky one, and definitely something for aspiring musicians to think about.

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