Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise, the National Arts Index is a real game changer. By widening the frame to look at music royalties, movie screens, and personal creative practice, Americans for the Arts has basically said to the nonprofit fine arts, “You’re now one of many; part of a sector but not the be-all and end-all.” This new reality, coming at us from the premier US cultural advocacy organization, will have profound implications for policy actors and community leaders all over the country. Do we pursue policies to help out record companies undermined by interenet sales of singles and non-paying file sharing? What’s our position on extending artist and record-label performance royalties from the digital realm into terrestrial radio? How do we connect with the boom in social dancing, as documented by the Wolf-Brown California study?
Well, I for one think we do care about all these things and more. Now that we’re talking about the entire cultural sector, and not just about the nonprofits, we’ve got a fighting chance at creating a policy arena important enough to get the attention of big-time Administration and congressional players. Americans for the Arts has decided to care about public policy as it affects all of America’s expressive life, and to me that’s a great thing. Now we need to move on to think about how Fair Use, the overall intellectual property environment, trade in movies and TV shows, and mergers in the arts industries shape the ways art gets created, distributed, and consumed.
So this a very important beginning. Maybe we have a chance to build a mechanism that will positively connect expressive life with mainstream public policy for the next fifty years.
And how about Arthur Brooks! His comments about our overbuilt nonprofit sector and the limits of demands for public funding (and much more) were right on target. I noticed an evil gleam in his eye as he, as head of American Enterprise Institute, was proudly displaying his “Mister Marketplace” persona, but it will be very, very hard for any in the arts community to counter his arguments.