How the rise of digital content is killing an industry.

On the episode 173 of digitalSoup, my co-hosts and I have a fantastic conversation about the concept of owning vs renting our media. You know the drill, we stream music from Spotify, stream movies from Netflix, and buy nothing but digital copies of our books, games, and software. But is it killing these industries? To hear our thoughts head to digitalSoup. I bring it up because that conversation has left me thinking more about a concept I bring up in that conversation, distribution.

Traditionally, if you wanted to make a movie you had to get it picked up by a studio in order to get it out into the world. You wrote an album of music? Great, get that demo in front of a label that is willing to sign you and then put your new studio produced album out into the world.

I think those days are ending, no, I KNOW those days are ending. I believe that’s why we see so much negative talk about how digital media and streaming is killing the creative industries. There is a lot of fear mongering that “unless we do something about this, there won’t BE anymore movies or music or games or you name it.”.

But that isn’t the case.

It’s not the creatives and creativity that are dying. It’s the traditional methods of distribution available to artists that are dying. You can record your album on your computer in a home studio, release it song by song if you want right to Spotify and YouTube, promote it FOR FREE right on a multitude of social media channels, and build a loyal following that can land you that record deal, that tour, that ability to earn a living making music. ALL without needing permission from a label telling you if it’s good enough or not.

We are seeing this more and more today. Artists creating what they want to create and then learning how to best utilize the current tools we all have access to FOR FREE to distribute their art to their audience. And that should have the record labels, movies studios, and traditional distribution channels nervous.

I look at a lot of the big names in the entrepreneur and creative spaces, guys like Gary Vaynerchuk, and these people have been preaching this for years. We just haven’t been listening fully.

Personally, I don’t have huge followings on any social media outlets and most social media still feels like one giant mystery to me. But I’m starting to really see and understand how learning to really leverage these platforms is going to be the key to finding and reaching YOU, my fellow adventurer’s. Some might argue that a traditional website/blog like this is antiquated even, but I don’t think so.

Think of this. As an artist you have the ability to do all of the following with your art:

  • Have it published and reaching the world, as if it were featured in the biggest magazines and newspapers.
  • Have your message listened to by the world, as if it were an internationally syndicated radio program.
  • Have your message viewed by the world, as if it were a worldwide television program or film.

And you can do it all for next to nothing. Your website is your home, your primary distribution channel. You share content from your website that is talking about and sharing whatever your art is, out to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, wherever else you use. That is like having articles published worldwide in different newspapers and magazines. You share video content in which you answer questions, share your process, or just engage with viewers of your work. You do this via Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Vimeo, etc. and this is your own television studio and film studio. It’s mind blowing the possibilities we have as creatives.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that simple, yet it actually is. I know none of us open a Twitter account and suddenly have millions of followers. It takes a lot of work and perseverance to FIND and BUILD relationships with your audience. The real core group that connects in a big, honest, real way with your work. It costs you nothing but time. I also fully understand that when we are just doing our creative work on our own, no team of social media experts working for us, it can feel impossible to be on ALL of the different platforms out there. So don’t try to be.

Find that one to three platforms that you can truly put a focus on. Make sure those platforms click with not only YOUR creative work, but that the amazing people that your work is going to connect with are also USING that platform. No sense trying to reach your audience on Twitter when they all hang out on Facebook. But once you figure out those one to three platforms, use them as the free distribution tools that they are!

The ability that we, as creatives, have to do this on our own is truly signaling a HUGE change in the world. Unless they find a way to adapt and provide a value that we can’t possibly ignore, the traditional industry of creativity distribution is dead. Is that good or bad, well, time will tell.

But as a creative remember that YOU have all the tools you need within you and at your fingertips to be amazing RIGHT NOW.


David (Usually Dave) Szweduik is a photographer, podcaster, and all around geek from the great state of Minnesota and can be found weekly on his podcast Adventures in Creativity. There you’ll find him having conversations fueled by curiosity around the amazing world of all things creativity.

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