Is Original Content Necessary for Success?

12 November 2015,   By ,   0 Comments


In a digital age where we are bombarded with a sea of content, it is harder than ever for an artist to stand out. Over the last decade, the internet has also created a heightened sense of instant gratification that consumers expect for just about everything. Originality takes time and money. For most creatives, those are luxuries they just don’t have. Fans and followers to not want to wait more than a week for the next new post, new song, new tutorial video, etc. How is it possible to keep up especially when there are successful creatives that are re-appropriating content from others. I feel like everywhere I look, there’s another remake of an old movie, or cover song of some classic artist. I found a great article that touches on this and really brings this issue to the forefront. Let us know you’re take on it in the comments below.

Is Originality Overrated?

The ease of reappropriating via digital media has changed our attitudes to originality. American photographer Richard Prince had captured the art world’s attention by recycling Instagram screenshots as his own art. He is one of many artists crowd-sourcing ideas from Instagram and claiming them as artworks.

Filmmakers and musicians are under particular pressure to recycle material. TV networks embrace adapted projects because the costly medium benefits from green lighting proven concepts with pre-existing fan bases. ‘You’re bringing an in-built audience to a project,’ said Bell.

Similarly, audiences find comfort in the familiarity of cover songs. Singer-songwriter Nadine Budge said sharing a well-known song is a bonding experience: ‘It’s inclusive. It invites people to join in.’

Unlike other art forms, music copyright allows live musicians to cover one another’s songs. No other art form allows such regurgitation. ‘You’re not going to go out and “cover” somebody else’s stand-up comedy routine,’ Budge said.

But even musicians’ covers depend on the artists’ capacity to bring something new to the work. When The Stetson Family included Bob Dylan’s Billy on their recent album True North – they’re not trying to imitate, ‘we’re trying to interpret’.

There’s an undeniable weight of expectation that comes with interpretation of any great artwork. Audience members often approach Budge after gigs, to offer their critique of a cover song. ‘That’s why you have to add your own voice to it – because it’s going to be scrutinised a lot more [than an original].’

‘You can’t replicate the original, there’s no point, so you just do it your own way,’ she said. ‘Forget that you’re doing a tribute, you’re just singing great songs by this great woman,’ she said.


In fact, imitation is a pervasive and practical learning tool. Film and television lecturer Sandra Sciberras said studying and referencing others’ work is ‘crucial’ in all art forms. ‘As a teaching tool, there’s nothing better than dissecting a film and talking about why we believe a filmmaker’s made certain choices,’ she said.

Sciberras, who supervises Master of Film and Television students at the Victorian College of the Arts, pointed out the intangibility of originality. In cinema, she said, imitation is everywhere: ‘In every film, I see influences from the past.’

VCA students regularly reinterpret the techniques and tropes of established filmmakers in the creation of their own films. Explicit homage isn’t common, but student films often carry a ‘similar tone’ to that of their favourite directors. ‘It becomes a process of finding your own voice as a filmmaker,’ Sciberras said.

Ultimately, though, most artists will dream of creating work that is neither adaptation nor homage.

‘As much as I might be influenced by others I actually don’t want to sound like anyone else,’ said Budge, who plays occasional covers but mostly sings original work.

‘Writers will always be attracted to telling their own stories,’ said Bell, who adds that nothing excites an audience like a truly original work that makes them ‘feel like they’ve discovered something’.

No matter how many homages she sees, Sciberras agrees that the drive to originality is profound. As each annual cohort of student filmmakers graduates, no two resulting films are ever fully alike. She believes every artwork is uniquely imbued with the artist’s voice: ‘Who they are as human beings, as people, I can see that in the work. That to me is original”.


This article was originally published on Arts Hub

Author: Phoebe

You can read the full article here.

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