Crushed between the gears in the Culture of Free

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 3:00 pm by George Smith

Bill Blunden points us to an interesting review of Scott Timberg’s Culture Crash at the Financial Times.

It’s behind a registration (not pay) wall so for those who don’t want to go through with that I’ll summarize a bit of it. The general theme and arguments are not unfamiliar. They also need saying more and more.

Timberg, a music journalist got what he says was his dream job when the LA Times hired him in features/arts.

Unfortunately, this was during the time of Sam Zell’s ownership.

Zell, as I’ve noted here, looted the newspaper and Tribune — the parent company, was driven into bankruptcy (since emerged). Under Zell’s direction it went through a series of crippling lay-offs.

One of my best friends, now deceased, took an early buy-out and retirement as a result of the chaos and acrimony, this despite being greatly valued by his co-workers.

Timberg lost his job in these ritualized firings. Eventually, he had to sell his home.

“Have you ever wondered how life looks at the front line of ‘disruption’ ”? asks the Financial Times reviewer in the first sentence.

It really sucks hard is the obvious answer, disruption being the buzz word describing one facet of inequality in the country where everyone is worked against everyone else while the owners of all things atomize what is paid for work (in this case, that of the creative class) in a downward spiral until there’s no making a living.

It was never easy in music, journalism or the other segments addressed in Timberg’s “creative class.” But the Internet revolution has been with us awhile now so quite a lot of observational data’s in on how liberating it’s been to compensation and creativity.

And that trend has been universally bad for the livelihoods of the majority. It has very obviously been a catastrophe for journalism.


“In 1982, Timberg says, the top 1 per cent of musicians earned 26 per cent of concert revenues. But in 2003, ‘the proportion earned by the top 1 per cent had more than doubled, to 56 per cent’.

“Similarly, in 1986, 29 artists produced 31 top hits. But in a period of almost five years to September 2012, ‘there were only 66 number-one songs, and nearly half of them were turned out by just six artists — Katy Perry, Rihanna, Flo Rida, Black Eyed Peas, Adele and Lady Gaga’.”

It’s not all tech driven. Some of it the result of general trends in the economy of the US for the last four decades reaching full bloom. Or rancidity, depending on where you’ve stood with regards to it.

The Financial Times grants Culture Crash a very good review. It makes me curious about the book. (And if Scott Timberg sees this, through Google, I’d welcome a review copy. Heck, presumably he’s still in southern California.)

The review, again, is here.


  1. anonymous coward said,

    February 16, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    If you paste an FT link into Bing and then click through the return, you’re authorized to read the article without registration. Just so you know.

  2. George Smith said,

    February 17, 2015 at 11:04 am

    Readers thank you for the tip!