The Era of the Artist — By Ricky Ray Butler (CEO, BEN)
Art has always acted as a time capsule for capturing the human experience. It’s an incredibly powerful driver of culture, and fleshes out our understanding of history with emotionally driven context. I would argue that today’s content ecosystem and the way it operates is reflective of a new era of art — one in which artists and creators are continually finding new ways to express what it means to be human in the digital age.
Perhaps this seems dramatic, but stick with me: how many Michelangelos do you think went undiscovered during the Italian Renaissance? The answer is probably more than you can count. Centralized power has always dictated who was given the opportunity to develop their talents, allowing their art to flourish and go down in history. But today, art is in the hands of the people. Technological advancements in entertainment and media have lowered the barriers to entry and placed the potential for global exposure at everyone’s fingertips. As a result, the way in which artists and creators are able to express themselves has increased exponentially.
If you open Netflix, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Spotify or Disney+ today, you’re flooded with the discovery of art. Sure, it’s not art by traditional definition. It encompasses more than just painting, dance, and music. It also includes generational expressions through memes (yes, memes), influencer content, and short- and long-form video. When we look back on this period of time, these new age art forms will serve as a way to understand how digital culture directly influenced our capacity to learn, create, and interact with one another.
That said, decentralization — or the transfer of power from a few dominant entities, to creators and niche platforms — is just beginning. We’ve already seen the first wave of decentralization in production and distribution, where TV and film studios and record labels are no longer the sole gatekeepers for entertainment production, and major networks and music stores are no longer the gatekeepers for distribution. The next wave will focus on further breaking down the obstacles between content creation and consumption through AI and machine learning and platforms catered to niche genres. And the success of the art produced in these times will be determined by the technology underpinning discovery.
AI in the age of endless art
As decentralization continues to sweep across streaming, television, film, music, and social media, AI will become the compass that guides audiences, brands and creators through the ecosystem. Traditional methods of navigating content ecosystems simply aren’t sustainable or scalable for the rate of content creation; we need technology that can capture and digest the nuance of content in real time. That’s where AI comes in — it can mimic a human’s ability to understand content that primarily consists of unstructured data like audio, images, and text. That kind of technology is what dictates everything from the level of personalization audiences encounter, to a brand’s ability to truly understand and make optimized decisions about what advertising opportunities to invest in. BEN actually started out as an influencer marketing and product placement agency, but we quickly realized there was no way our team could keep up with the growing rate of content creation and distribution — we needed to leverage our deep repository of entertainment data and evolve into an AI company in order remain effective and the industry leader. That realization is continuing to drive the entertainment ecosystem forward.
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