The Digital Jester

Submitted by Peter Åstedt

The new artist will be a stripper playing quirky songs? I’m following the different channels where artists are discovered, right now it’s mainly Tiktok. The trend now is that all the creators online are mainly forced to get their income from patrons in different forms and ways.

I was scrolling through my Tiktok and all the time it was a very beautiful model-like woman doing different videos. In several cases, they even did movies where they actually complained that to get followers and likes you had to show more skin, which they did in many creative ways.  Guess with this new trend a brilliant artist like Shane MacGowan doesn’t stand a chance. 

As much as I Iike the new digital trend where the artists can use tools to get closer to their audience it is nagging me that are we just creating the digital version of a jester or even worse a digital beggar.

We maybe have to learn from history. Patrons are nothing new. The old master painters had to have a patron to even survive. We wouldn’t have paintings like “Mona Lisa” or the “Last Supper” if it wasn’t a patron that had paid Leonardo Da Vinci to paint them. At the same time, the patron also decided the motive. It’s a reason why we have so many portraits of wealthy people or religious motives from this era. This was the main thing, to make a portrait and the trend then also portraits that maybe wasn’t that look-a-like rather a trend of what you should look like. In a certain era, you just got chubby people looking like cherubs. Maybe also a reason why the art didn’t develop that fast back then. As an artist you were in the hands of the patron, to make them happy with the art they decided. There was not really much artistic freedom.  

On the music artist side back then you were a jester. You might have a handicap that makes it impossible to do heavy work. Instead, they dressed you in funny clothes and you were running around just being funny in the court. In one way you were lucky, you rather did bad jokes like a twenty-first-century stand-up comedian than starve. At the same time, you had to be funny, if you were you could be kicked out in a moment if you said the wrong joke or wasn’t the funniest jester around.

In a reality, the new creator will be downsized to be a digital beggar. The porn industry is already there. The porn industry usually also set the trends, they are early adaptors and explorers. Here you can see phenomena like Only Fans, where everything goes out on that people give you digital gifts. That has now spread to Tiktok. In a way, a digital begging market, do the jokes that I like I will give you some coins. On the other hand, I actually saw a beggar, not long ago, with an Izettle since people don’t have cash and just cards. So that industry is also getting digitalized.

If we going to learn from our history is that the patron system makes art streamlined. You will do art that is trendy and in demand maybe not so controversial. You are not doing art for the sake of doing art. The digital problem as I can see it is also that the new patrons are not one person. Back in the old days some of the patrons were interested in art. They let the artist they paid for doing new things. Today the patron will be a mass of ordinary people, screaming out different opinions that really don’t matter. The rabble won’t be a good judge of new art, you just saw these outside the Capitolium not long ago. You saw them at the Coliseum ages ago. The artist will be forced to just follow the big mass to be able to make a living. Writing songs that would please the masses. Here you go, you need a young female artist with big boobs, and the lesser clothes the better. Playing easy, quirky songs about drinking beer and if a quirky dance can be added then it’s perfect. Or a nice-looking guy with a bad boy attitude that has to be proven streetwise for the riff-raff to go along. 

Of course, the music industry has always tried to get songs to the big masses. At the same time, it has also been new thinking. In that world, you could do a mistake and try new stuff. In the new world, you are in an instant force into what the masses want. 

I guess this is the reason why we got the result that the audience is still in a very high percentage listening to music that came out in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90s. The hits of today are doomed to be done by the digital jester pleasing the patron in from of the masses.

I guess I can quote Jello Biafra and Dead Kennedys from “Pull My Strings” – “But there’s just one problem, Is my cock big enough, Is my brain small enough, For you to make me a star, Give me a toot, I’ll sell you my soul, Pull my strings and I’ll go far.”

Editor’s Note: Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 35 years. He has started record labels, distribution systems, and publishing companies. Peter also runs several major showcase festivals and is an advisor for INES and co-founder of MusicHelp/Discover Sensation. He has worked with the Top Ten most streamed songs and had music on both the Olympics and Super Bowl. Peter has currently taken up the seat of Station Manager of Cashbox Radio, working with MD, PD and station owner, Sandy Graham. In 2021, he worked as the European Consultant for Heal the Earth – An Earth Day Celebration. His latest venture is a new Showcase Festival in Sweden, Future Echoes Peter is a Managing Partner and Editor of the newly launched Record World International.