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Leading Cultural Economist Tyler Cowen speaks

Comments by Tyler Cowen about what's ahead for culture

Author of Creative Destruction and other books about cultural economics, Tyler Cowen was keynote speaker at a Boston conference attended by Jason Smith at the weekend.

No frost in Boston at this time of year. The heat during the 15th Annual Conference of the Association of Cultural Economists International has been that steady kind of summertime sultry that keeps the airconditioners working full time. Dry.

Dry, dry, dry. Economics conferences can be a bit like that, too, with regression analyses going on in huddled corners every time you seem to turn your back. But these cultural economists gathered in Boston have been on the whole a lively, colourful and influential bunch from alll over the world, meeting to share best practice about the science of calibrating the value of art and culture.

Keynote speaker Tyler Cowen talked about the cultural revolution that’s going on with the emergence of the Facebook and other social media, Second Life and other virtual worlds, and new gadgets like iPhones and the Kindle—an electronic book from Amazon. The impacts of these tools on consumption of creative products such as songs and books and movies is significant.

Economics in this space is also very different to traditional forms, shifting the money-making part of the value-chain away from the original artists towards the software/hardware gadget makers. You pay hundreds of dollars for an iPod but only cents for a song to play on it, or finding it for free. Songwriters don’t get as much of the pie as they did under former or traditional distribution systems such as record shops. (Records—remember them?). Songwriters may well say that things havent really changed much at all … most of the song sale silver still ends up in the pockets of someone else.

Watch out for the Kindle. Only a few weeks back Amazon launched its own wireless electronic book and the first 125,000 e-books. After searching the Amazon site, you pay your money and the book wirelessly downloads to your Kindle.

Listen to the attached soundfile for Tyler Cowen’s prediction of where things are going for the creative future. Times they are a-changing—Bob Dylan would approve.