x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Free Ride: Assessing the impact of the internet

Robert Levine considers five core culture industries in turn - music, newspapers, movies, television and books - assessing the impact of the internet, and in particular Google, on each.

"The future isn't what it used to be," writes Robert Levine in the closing pages of his timely and enjoyable collection of essays on the current state of the "culture business".

This confusing term is a small blot on an otherwise remarkable and engaging landscape. In Free Ride, Levine, a former executive editor at Billboard, considers five core culture industries in turn - music, newspapers, movies, television and books - assessing the impact of the internet, and in particular Google's penetration, on each.

Understandably, he paints a largely, although not wholly, negative picture of the lost opportunities online: "The internet has brought forth many wonders," he writes, "[and] has been an impressive engine of economic growth ... but the companies that fund those cultural products have never been in worse shape."

Levine unfolds this misshapenness in great detail, from the newspapers struggling to survive in today's content-is-free world, to the devastating effect piracy continues to have on margins in the music and film industries. To his credit, Levine insists the future of the culture business is not yet completely lost to the internet.