The New York Times Magazine: The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t

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In the history of the modern culture industry, few years loom as large as 1999. That was the year that the file-sharing network Napster appeared and more or less singlehandedly upended the music industry: not just the actual business of creating and distributing recordings, but also expectations about what those recordings were worth. In the years that followed, the digital economy profoundly changed how we watch, read and listen to artists’ work, and a grim conventional wisdom took hold: The Internet might have been great for consumers, but for the arts – a financially precarious business in the best of times – it was a death sentence.
Is this actually true? We put the question to Steven Johnson, who dove deep into the data, attempting to quantify the creative economy of both the pre- and post-Napster era, and came away with some surprising answers. The picture Johnson paints for us in this week’s cover story is of a landscape of artistic employment that has been irrevocably transformed, but not necessarily for the worse.
Radical transformation is also the theme of two other articles in this week’s magazine. Gary Rivlin visits a black-owned bank that helped build New Orleans’s black middle class, only to see its efforts washed away by Hurricane Katrina. And Sam Anderson and the photographer Stephen Wilkes contemplate what thawing relations between the United States and Cuba will mean for the Cuban baseball players that have defected to play in the American professional leagues.
Elsewhere in print and online, Teju Cole visits Brazil in search of the origins of an enigmatic photograph, Vinson Cunningham considers whether African-American art can ever truly be free from racial politics and Bernie Sanders gets prickly over questions about his hair.
Happy reading,
Jake Silverstein
Editor in Chief

Illustration by Andrew Rae
The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t
In the digital economy, it was supposed to be impossible to make money by making art. Instead, creative careers are thriving – but in complicated and unexpected ways.


Bernie Sanders

Stephen Voss for The New York Times
The presidential candidate on socialism, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s hair.

Alden J. McDonald Jr., president of Liberty Bank, near its New Orleans East headquarters.

Dave Woody for The New York Times
One black-owned bank helped build the city’s African-American middle class – until the hurricane destroyed much more than their homes.

Richard Wright in Paris in the 1950s.

Dominique Berretty/Gamma-Rapho, via Getty Images

Can Black Art Ever Escape the Politics of Race?

Richard Wright, Chris Rock and the enduring dilemma of African-American artists.

On Photography
René Burri's original photo from São Paulo in 1960.

René Burri/Magnum Photos

Shadows in São Paulo

Obsessed with an image of four men on a rooftop in Brazil, the author went on a quest to find its origins.

Illustration by Christoph Niemann
Abstract Sunday Blog
Dante at the Beach
In the midway of this his summer life, he found himself on a sunny shore, astray.


From left to right: Alex Guerrero, defected in 2013; Kendrys Morales, defected in 2004; Yasmani Grandal, emigrated in 1999; Odrisamer Despaigne, defected in 2013; Yasiel Puig, defected in 2012; Yonder Alonso, emigrated in 1997.

Stephen Wilkes for The New York Times
The next generation of the country’s athlete-émigrés most likely will be ordinary rookies instead of runaways. But these major-league players got here the hard way.

Burmese tamarind-shallot ''tofu'' salad.

Grant Cornett for The New York Times
Learning to make tohu thoke, a Burmese tamarind-shallot ”tofu” salad.

First Words

Illustration by Matt Dorfman. The Sydney Morning Herald, via Getty Images.

The Unwelcome Return of ‘Illegals’

Using the term to describe undocumented immigrants implies that they are less than human and undeserving of fair treatment.


Illustration by Radio

How to Be Naked in Public

Practice at home. Steel your nerves before disrobing.

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