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Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  272 ratings  ·  55 reviews
When artists and artisans can’t make a living, the health of America’s culture is at risk

Change is no stranger to us in the twenty-first century. We must constantly adjust to an evolving world, to transformation and innovation. But for many thousands of creative artists, a torrent of recent changes has made it all but impossible to earn a living. A persistent economic rec
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 13th 2015 by Yale University Press
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Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book should have a giant alarm clock on the cover. It is time for the creative class--and the middle class--to WAKE UP and notice what is happening. Not just to mourn the loss of creative jobs (as opposed to 'opportunities for exposure' i.e. working for free) but to realize that the whole middle class is disappearing down the drain, and think about why. The book makes (again and again) the interesting point of the link between the fate of the middle class as a whole and the fate of the 'cre ...more
Trent Hill
Jan 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book that addresses a troubling side effect of the Internet-driven economy: the hollowing out of the complex economic structures, be they in music, film, or literature, that allowed artists and would-be artists to sustain (or at least imagine) actual careers creating art.

In a series of case studies, Timberg argues that commercial entities like bookstores, video stores, and record shops, as well as newspapers and magazines who provided arts coverage, weren’t just generic midd
This book is a bit hard for me to review, because part of it seems like cogent, important analysis of the state of the arts world and part of it is Old Man Yells at Cloud. Also, the two parts are hopelessly mixed up among each other, so getting value out of Culture Crash requires wading through the occasion random digression about graphic arts in the middle of the architecture section or complaint about postmodernism.

The major point is that globalization destroys the creation of culture as a su
Steve Erickson
Nov 09, 2020 rated it liked it
CULTURE CRASH gets so much right that its lapses are all the more disappointing. Timberg's early chapters do a great job of analyzing the difficulty of making a living as a journalist, musician or architect in the 21st century, tracing this to the fact that the Internet cheapened these trades and the 2008 recession. But his idea of valuable culture is a very specific one, formed by indie rock and classical music. Timberg celebrates the record store clerk as an alternative to the corporate algori ...more
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Timberg's basic point is that the contemporary society is killing off middle-brow culture--the creative class--and in the process is destroying the very thing that makes society flourish. His idea of the creative class is related to Richard Florida's. Florida's book, which I haven't read but I've read about, argues that the creative class is key to the success of a city. For him, "creative class" means essentially anyone who creates--this includes then not just artists, musicians, and writers bu ...more
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Culture Crash turns out to be much more than a polemic, although it is not quite a complete manifesto. Scott Timberg is motivated by, yet manages to transcend, the considerable personal pain of a journalist who lost his job and then his house as a consequence of the kinds of changes he analyzes in this book. His research is extensive, as evidenced in both the main text and the excellent bibliographic essay. Timberg dedicates individual chapters to specific fields such as architecture, independen ...more
Anne Marie
Apr 09, 2015 rated it liked it
The book is a mix of insightful observations and (as a fellow book club member pointed out) "old man yells at cloud." At times, the book lacks structure. His opinions and his definition of what art and culture is makes the author seems out of touch. Ironically, never actually directly defines what creative work is exactly, and the reader will just eventually figure it out after reading through the entire book.

However, it was an interesting read, and was great fodder for our book club.
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
James Lanier, who has been skeptical about the great freeing benefits of the Internet economy, sees the reporting on the new paradigm driven by unlikely Horatio Alger stories. 'There are a few success stories,' he said, 'that create a false sense of hope.' Because Radiohead can offer its record free of charge, he argued, doesn't mean that bands below the superstar level can.  Similarly, the death of Apple visionary Steve Jobs uncorked various rants about the value of mavericks and how you can ge
Todd N
Apr 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Is it a bad thing that sneering record store clerks across the land have been replaced by basket analysis algorithms on e-commerce sites that helpfully announce "people who bought this also bought that"? Probably it isn't, though I should admit that I was a once sneering record store clerk myself.

In this book we learn that even though life is no picnic for STEM jobs, it's way crappier for people in the creative fields like architects, writers for free weeklies, musicians, buggy whip manufacturer
Oliver Brackenbury
Jun 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This arrived in my reading queue at the same time as my first novel was released. Fearing a healthy injection of liquid doom at precisely the wrong time, I put it aside for a couple of days. Opening it with trepidation, I was almost immediately put at ease by the opening chapter - which was not the recitation of Sad Facts & Numbers as I'd expected it to be.

Scott Timburg wisely opens with a description of not only when things worked better for the creative class in recent times, but HOW they work
Russell Lay
Timberg commences his journey by, as William Buckley once said, 'standing athwart history yelling 'Stop'".

Timberg is one of many in the so-called creative class who apparently lost his job in the Great Recession, and apparently, he believes the closing of music stores, the reduction of journalists (or what he considers to be 'true' journalists), the fact critics of music, cinema and books 'sold out' and embraced pop culture (Taylor Swift vs. some unknown guy all the critics used to rave about, b
Sandra Ross
Jan 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Well-written and substantive look at how the creative class (writers, musicians, artists, etc.) in the U.S. has been crushed by a convergence of forces over the last twenty years that escalated into a fast freefall in the 21st century and is now on the verge of disappearing altogether leaving the hacks and wannabes to take over and produce garbage that has no resemblance to anything truly creative and truly relevant.

It's a sobering book. I knew a lot of what the author talked about already, but
Zach Finkelstein
Feb 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another angle on inequality: the hollowing out of the middle class and it's effect on the culture industry. The loss of middlebrow culture - Leonard Bernstein on the cover of Time Magazine, record store clerks and independent bookstores as footsoldiers of taste- in the internet age and the rise of the winner-take-all - Adele selling 60% of all albums in 2015. It's not a data-driven book. It's a powerful (anecdotal) counterargument to the technocracy and that big data is the answer for everything ...more
May 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Like music, magazines, non-blockbuster movies, books, newspapers? Wondering why they're all disappearing with alarming speed? Read the morbid story of how technology and structural economic changes are emptying out the middle class and taking with it many of the creative professions with it.

Highly recommended.
Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, readup
Reads well and makes an important case for seeing the arts as a public good and a middle class economic issue. Minus one star for the winky winky cultural references, which I can see as unavoidable for this book but still give me unpleasant undergrad flashbacks.
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
YouTube has the platform to take us back in time, so let’s reverse our lives nearly 27 years and revisit 1988. We’re standing on an airport tarmac in Salt Lake City on an October day that is gorgeously sunny. Low brown mountains fill parts of the landscape as the private airplane named “Hystouria #1” warms up for a flight to Portland, Oregon. At times during the amateurishly shot video its propellers spin madly and the engine screams at a fevered pitch.

As the young and famous rock band waits pat
Zachary Owen
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Scott Timberg's (RIP) Culture Crash is a dense grab bag of ideas, including political theory and concepts which may have gone over my head. I do, however, find that the general premise that the infrastructure for creative people is crumbling to be true. Timberg has plenty of hard numbers and examples to back up his case.

Americans have an illusion that artists are successful because most of the ones we see in the press are megastars. But the truth is most artists, whether they be writers, musicia
Jaksone Wallbank
Dec 19, 2019 rated it liked it
This sort of stuff fascinates me. I like to analyze potential problems and Scott Timberg lays a great foundation for doing that. Throughout the book he outlines the things that he has observed as a journalist and the way he perceives it going. I think that the book is affected by his perspective, his reporter side comes out a lot and that means it does take a while to get into, but once he starts rolling it's fine. Unfortunately he doesn't really start rolling until two-thirds of the way through ...more
Apr 19, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a journalistic account of the decline of the culture business - defined rather broadly to include a number of cultural areas (music, fine arts, dance, architecture, theater) and the broader supporting infrastructure that has in the past supported them. The key claim is that the culture sector, while never thriving, has declined sharply since the turn of the millenium and even more sharply since the financial crisis of 2008, and has yet to even begin much of a recovery. The culprits inclu ...more
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must read for anyone concerned about the direction of our country, or the world, for that matter. The writer is awesome. The writer is also gone to the world, an untimely passing after offering us this incredible insight into our world. Timberg wrote this book with an empassioned voice and deep understanding of our culture and our people. I wish he was here to help us through what has happened in the five years since this publication. His insight would most likely be dark, but one ...more
Jul 28, 2019 rated it liked it
It was well-researched, a reason why I chose to rate it as high as I did. But VERY formulaic, so much so it could easily put a person to sleep.

The basic structure goes like this...

The author writes about the origins of a creative sector. How it rose & thrived. The challenges it faced & how they were overcome. & then the current challenges it faces as well as how it was effected in the economic crash of late 2008.

That's all well & good but the author never tries to address people are trying to fi
Mar 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Easy read, paints a compelling picture of how "middle-brow" art and the attendant post-war culture boom in the US dried up after going strong for about a half-century.

The best point he makes is that the bohemian and the bourgeoisie essentially inhabit the same socioeconomic class and have the same aspirations and goals.

Bit of a bummer, frankly; it's been 5 years since he wrote it, and all the problems identified are just getting worse.
Robert Alger
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Timberg is an engaging writer and clearly is well-versed in American culture across a broad timeline. The ideas presented in the book are food for thought for everyone in an increasingly globalized, monetized, and commercialized world. As one review on the back cover notes, the book is not a data-rich analysis, but rather a compelling narrative of the middle-class creatives in America.
Holly Wrench
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This feels like one of the most important and meaningful books I’ve read in a long time and has given me soooo much food for thought. It covers all aspects of the arts, music, poetry, literature, painting, and comments on trends in journalism, the consumer culture, political agendas etc. Would 100% recommend it to anyone and everyone.
Aug 23, 2019 rated it liked it
As much as I enjoyed Culture Crash, and agreed with a significant portion of Timberg's argument, I didn't completely connect with the examples he used to illustrate his points. The first couple of chapters seem disjointed from the rest of the book, in my opinion, but overall it was a solid, impassioned read. ...more
Ben Serviss
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Want to be even more depressed about modern times? Still, the points raised here about the benefits of a vibrant culture and creative class are very good, and in exchange for feeling even more terrible about the world, you get a clearer idea of how we got here and how we could possible fix it.
Aug 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Some good things to say but got bogged down in the middle by his own cleverness.
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Informative, scathing, depressing. But a worthy read if you want to understand how US culture got so narrow and shallow. Mental Health Warning: the author killed himself.
Aug 08, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
A rather unremarkable nobody decrying the good old days when "the Creatives" were ordained after a couple of years of hazing by a bureaucrat appointed by the king. ...more
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
An informative look at the creative world that has been pushed aside, marginalized, recreated and molded (and essentially lost for now) because of the boom in the use of the internet as a replacement platform rather than another avenue, plus the death of jobs and people like music stores/movie rentals/store clerks, critics, libraries/librarians, and that ilk that spread culture.

There is ample evidence that Timberg is well-researched not only in his narrative for each chapter, but his biographic
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LA-based arts/ culture writer; author of CULTURE CRASH: The Killing of the Creative Class. Timberg's stories have appeared in The New York Times, Salon and Los Angeles magazine, and he was an LA Times staff writer for six years. ...more

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