The digital revolution poses a mortal threat to the major creative industries—music, publishing, television, and the movies. The ease with which digital files can be copied and distributed has unleashed a wave of piracy with disastrous effects on revenue. Cheap, easy self-publishing is eroding the position of these gatekeepers and guardians of culture. Does this revolution herald the collapse of culture, as some commentators claim? Far from it. In Digital Renaissance, Joel Waldfogel argues that digital technology is enabling a new golden age of popular culture, a veritable digital renaissance.
By reducing the costs of production, distribution, and promotion, digital technology is democratizing access to the cultural marketplace. More books, songs, television shows, and movies are being produced than ever before. Nor does this mean a tidal wave of derivative, poorly produced kitsch; analyzing decades of production and sales data, as well as bestseller and best-of lists, Waldfogel finds that the new digital model is just as successful at producing high-quality, successful work as the old industry model, and in many cases more so. The vaunted gatekeeper role of the creative industries proves to have been largely mythical. The high costs of production have stifled creativity in industries that require ever-bigger blockbusters to cover the losses on ever-more-expensive failures.
Are we drowning in a tide of cultural silt, or living in a golden age for culture? The answers in Digital Renaissance may surprise you.
"Digital Renaissance should be consulted by any regulator or legislator being solicited by a forlorn media mogul looking to protect a traditional business from disruptive market forces."—Jonathan A. Knee, New York Times DealBook
"The title of his compelling new book—Digital Renaissance—betrays his optimistic thesis, which he backs up with some creative data-sleuthing. . . . Waldfogel’s book offers reassurance to those who fear that the new regime of ones and zeros is undermining cultural production. But his assessment will be far less comforting to denizens of the traditional cultural-industrial complex, not to mention the cultural pessimists bewailing its decline. . . . The big winners in this renaissance, aside from Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and similar platforms, appear to be the outsiders who couldn’t get past the gatekeepers of old, and consumers of culture, who get much more for less."—Daniel Akst, Strategy+Business
"The internet . . . has given consumers around the world access to an unimaginable trove of music, movies, television shows and books, all at the touch of a button. But it sometimes seems as if the deluge is watering down popular culture. . . . Joel Waldfogel begs to disagree. In Digital Renaissance, he argues that we not only have more reading, viewing and listening material than ever before, but it’s better. And he’s got data to back that up. Boy does he have data."—Amanda Gomez, Reuters
“Is it the best of times or the worst of times for the entertainment industry? It depends on whether you ask the producers or the consumers. Distilling knowledge gleaned from years of research, Joel Waldfogel digs into this question with gusto and comes up with a definitive answer for all.”—Hal R. Varian, Chief Economist, Google
“Digital Renaissance provides a useful counterpoint to much of the doom and gloom commonly expressed in the popular media about the impact of digitization on culture. Joel Waldfogel is a leading authority on the subject, and this book will spark quite a debate.”—Catherine Tucker, MIT Sloan School of Management
“This is a seriously fun book. Fun because it is about entertainment and it is entertaining. Serious because it looks carefully at data. And the news is good: we are in a digital renaissance not a digital dark age.”—David K. Levine, European University Institute
"Itself a cornucopia of data and evidence on digitization in the creative industries, Digital Renaissance provides a valuable record of the outpouring of cultural production in recent years."—Ruth Towse, Bournemouth University
“Digital Renaissance makes a real contribution to the economics of the Internet and the economics of art and culture.”—Tyler Cowen, George Mason University
"The effect of the digital economy on film, music, and the arts is something about which everybody has an opinion and almost nobody has any evidence. Into this heated debate comes Joel Waldfogel, whose lucid, fascinating, and witty evidence-based account of how digital technology is transforming our cultural lives should be read by anyone who cares about the future of our society."—Paul Seabright, author of The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life