Arty Thoughts, Consumerism

Do You Devour Art?

The first time I heard a discussion on the radio about how people ‘consume’ their music, a shudder went down my spine. Since then, I heard this term applied to books, visual arts, theatre, film and TV.

Perhaps it is my earlier education in zoology, but my understanding of consumption is that something is ingested, all the nutrients absorbed and then the waste excreted. The Oxford English Dictionary adds these definitions: destroy, burn up, use up, decay, and even kill. Is this what we do to our art forms? Do we eat music, sculpture, literature and movies? If so, what do we excrete? Are we so habituated to consumerist culture that we expect a linear progression in all we experience, from resource extraction through to a useless waste product?


When something is consumed, it is broken down and has all the worth and usefulness sucked out of it. But if you listen to music, read a book, watch a film, look at a piece of artwork, it is not destroyed; it remains for others to enjoy or experience. It could be argued that some critics excrete their opinions when reviewing an art form, but apart from that, I see no reason to apply the term to the way we experience the arts. It is a symptom of a wasteful, consumerist society to regard everything as a ‘product’ from a ‘sector’ or an ‘industry’ commercialised to such an extent that there is little recognition of the nourishment it provides and an expectation that we must always remain hungry for more because our fleeting appreciation is unsatisfying.

Still Hungry

It is certainly true that the special nature of live music is undervalued by many. In recent years, I have been to several gigs where people have paid to see a band or musician but spend most of the concert having shouted conversations with their companions. In my view, this shows a dreadful lack of respect for the musicians and obliviousness to how privileged we are to have them perform for us. Some will hold up their phones to film the event, because they are not truly ‘there’, unaware or uncaring that their screens are spoiling the view for audience members behind them. Even these people don’t ‘consume’ the music because it barely registers in their lives; it’s just another fleeting, undervalued experience that must be crammed into their lives in an attempt to fill the void of dissatisfaction that ‘consumes’ their spirits in overactive, over-distracted, over-worked, over-shopped lives.

Benjamin Zephaniah & Amy True playing to a respectful audience and Musicport 2019

Of course, I believe that artists should be able to earn a living from their work, but most of those that do will earn a lot less than the ‘industry’ that represents or promotes them. Perception of authors, musicians, actors and artists incomes are distorted by the small number who earn millions. Support those attempting the independent route too. The contribution creative people give to culture and society cannot be measured in economic terms alone, but they need money for food and bills just as we all do.

Please do not ‘consume’ the arts, but take time to savour them fully and value them as the lovingly created manifestations of talented individuals.


1 thought on “Do You Devour Art?”

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