Let Them Eat Each Other

How do you sell products to a generation that doesn’t buy anything? As the Internet generation transitions into the workforce, we’re faced with the consequences of a rebellion many of us didn’t realize we were fighting.

We grew up being able to get music, movies, news and other media for free, whenever we wanted. Despite efforts by the music industry and others to push back, we’ve been able to successfully disrupt the system. Media executives have been virtually powerless to stop the creative, yet frugal youth.

In a sense, we are in a similar position to the freed slaves of the Haitian Revolution. We’ve used economic protest to take some power from the wealthy gatekeepers. However, these wealthy forces have found ways to retaliate and punish us for our newly found control.

In the case of Haitians, imperial powers like the French and U.S. imposed sanctions and/or refused to recognize them.

Our generation is facing massive unemployment and outsourcing of jobs.

One result has been an embrace of the arts, not just for fun but to help pay the bills and establish a career.

We are finding creativity and following our passions because we don’t have a stable alternative.

Whether you’re a writer, comic, poet, musician, etc., getting paid is a struggle. Most of us don’t have the mass marketing or distribution to reach all the people who might truly appreciate our product.

Not to mention, we’re a part of a piracy generation.

When I was at the University of Oregon, there were plenty of students with means who practiced urban scavenging, or freeganism, which is a yuppy word for dumpster diving.

How do we expect our peers to buy our art when they don’t even buy food?

It will only get worse when we become the establishment.

The next generation is only going to be crazier. Their schools are losing art and music programs due to budget cuts while the kids are being exposed to new technology without a context for creativity.

Our generation’s embrace of the arts will mean nothing if we’re marketing to youth consumers who couldn’t care less.

So how do we stave off this downward spiral?

We have to adapt our products to the needs of our communities and expand programs to teach youth the value of smart consumerism.

Young people are dying to express themselves in creative ways. We need more community art and recording studios as well as writing spaces. Perhaps if more of us get immersed in the media we consume then more people will understand the value of supporting it.

Also, people like to see benefits of their consumption. If we tie our businesses into our communities then it will motivate people to spend. There’s much more incentive to spend an extra dollar on a sandwich if the money is kicked back to your son or daughter’s school rather than some executive’s pocket in Chicago.

Reinvesting more money in the community also gives local businesses a better opportunity to hire residents. There’s a market for youth expression but people need money to support it in the first place.

Most importantly, young people need to be involved in decision making. We weren’t involved in the media decision making process and we responded by taking whatever we wanted. Once we become the establishment we will see the same happen to us if we don’t show the youth their proper respect.

Our generation revolutionized the media industry but if we’re not careful we’ll kill ourselves before we get the chance to reap the benefits.

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