Digression. The Tubes and The Channels Ruined my Smart. And my Day.

You’re not paying for this. Whether you care or not, whether you like it or not. You’re not paying for the contents here and for these words you’re reading. And it’s not just this poky motoring site either, it’s everything. Today, you’ve listened to music you haven’t paid for on YouTube, read articles you haven’t paid for on Twitter and seen trailers or videos or what-have-you that didn’t cost you a penny on Facebook. And you’re not alone. We all do it.

I drive a lot, and so I listen to the radio a lot and I have favourite channels. In England, it’s BBC1 and Radio 1xtra, in France it’s NRJ whenever I can find it and in Italy, my country, it’s Radio 105.

Well, today I’ve heard the news. And it’s a parable of contradiction, stupidity and a very very doubtful future for us, because Radio 105 has just hired a YouTuber. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Jay-Z has invested a hundred and seventy million billion money on Tidal, a streaming service similar to Spotify. So let’s start with the good news. The American rapper has stated that while water it’s free and people are willing to pay $6 for a bottle, nobody wants to pay for music. Something that everyone everywhere consumes every day. He has a point.

I’ve been saying for years, and I’m definitely not alone at this, that the internet is slowly but inevitably killing everything that’s got even remotely to do with art. These days everyone is a writer, everyone is a chef, everyone is a musician, everyone is an actor, everyone is a photographer. This is why, two years ago, I’ve accepted an offer from a paper, I repeat PAPER, car magazine that pays me a pitiful wage to write car reviews. I’ve done it because I believe that credibility comes before money and so, if you’re writing about cars, some experience on a paper magazine is mandatory. In the same way that if you want to make music, live concerts and radio plays are more important than views on YouTube, because views are, when all is said and done, easier to get.

Unfortunately, as with everything, money is king. And money comes from ads, and ads come with numbers, not quality.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many videos made of (and by) pure genius; I’ve seen amazing singers and incredible drummers and guitarists, astounding entertainers that deserve more recognition. But that’s only the minority and this particular YouTuber dude that’s been hired by Radio 105, someone who simply uploads videos of his silly face talking about banal and trivial stuff (and the web is full of them), has more than 600k subscribers. Jay-Z’s official YouTube channel has just around 200k.

Whatever else you may think of Rap music, the “Brooklyn Boy” has won 48 accolades, including 21 Grammy awards, he has gone platinum more times than I can be bothered to mention and has made millions. Therefore, the talent is there. Yet, an idiot with a camera has more views and subscribers than he does.

This of course, makes no real difference to Jay-Z, but it means that in the future, there aren’t going to be any next-gen quality musicians or writers or actors.

I’m afraid that within a century or so, we’ll have run out of quality artists. There’s never going to be another Michael Caine or another Elvis Presley or another J.D. Salinger because what’s the point? Why bother?

I’m going to leave you with a fact. The music video of “Happy”, the 27th most viewed video on YouTube, has 600M views and yet Pharrell Williams reportedly only made $3,000 in royalties. Meanwhile, top imbeciles that upload videos of people slapping each other or falling over can total up to $4 per 1,000 views.

You do the math.

So, if you want to make good music or good films or good journalism you have to face the fact that you’re going to be ripped off by the advertisers and that scares me. But this is not what I dread the most. What I really dread is a time when excellent musicians like Arctic Monkeys and great writers like Lee Child will stop doing what they do, because there’s some utter cretin on the internet that is already steering everyone’s attention.

Sorry, I’ve wasted your time. Normal service will be resumed in the next few days with a road test of the Mini 4-door.


None of this has anything to do with the new Smart I’ve driven this week, which is surprisingly good.


words: Alessandro Renesis / Ale S.

picture: Smart Italia

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