College is marketed as the way to a brighter future, and for the most part, that is true. However, this future is intensely tied to the way society perceives a student’s potential career choices.
Firstly, we must get some sweeping tenets out of the way. When I say “capitalism is killing art,” I mean that capitalism does not value art and the creative as a worthy pursuit. The pursuit of liberal arts like art, history, music, literature, etc. when viewed from a capitalist lens is only as valuable as its ability to generate profit.
American society places a high value on certain degrees and career paths and removes value in others. If you look at Pittsburg State specifically, there is a reason why the Kelce College of Business is due for a remodel while other buildings on campus suffered from air circulation outages or failing infrastructure earlier this semester. The reason is money. Business degrees generate more cogs in the capitalist economy and these alumni donate more money. This is not a critique of Pitt State; it’s merely a critique of the system we find ourselves in.
For the most part, art exists because human society exists. “Capitalism is killing art” is a phrase that refers to art’s place in popular society and economy. It does not have anything to do with the actual place of art or its value in the lens of human society. The rub comes when capitalism works its way into the production and reproduction of art.
We can look at Spotify as a prime example of these ideas. Spotify notoriously underpays artists that exist on their platform, and they get away with it because Spotify has dominated the music streaming scene. Artists flock to Spotify because it’s the only way they can get their music out there in a convenient fashion. If you only have your music on YouTube, that’s a way to get little traffic on your art. If you have your music on Spotify, you are much more likely to get your audience to listen to it (although you must cultivate that audience, but that’s a separate issue).
So, how does capitalism “kill art?” Capitalism’s goal is to extract as much profit from the working class as possible. That is not an opinion. That is a fact of the economic system we live in. Many artists, regardless of their medium, are not working for a regular employer in the way a barista or a cashier is. That is why capitalism kills art. Artists often seek out commissions to support themselves and, depending on the area they live in or their general savviness in terms of marketing, the ability to receive commissions can vary widely. Capitalism in turn forces artists to seek out alternate forms of income generation or even give up their art entirely.
The way we combat this is by patronizing the artists around us. If you have a friend who is an artist, offer to pay them for making you something or performing for you. It could mean the difference between starving and a warm meal for your artistic friends.