Progress can breed a lot of dodos. Now that we have personalised playlists, who needs Radio DJ's to anticipate our needs? We all have camera-phones, so who needs a Wedding Photographer to catch the moment? With DIY Wills, who needs a Lawyer? Who needs Editors and Publishers when you can self-edit and self-publish? Who needs delivery-men and taxi drivers with driverless cars?
None of these professions is as doomed as the dodo (never underestimate people's resourcefulness to survive) but the specialist shine of the creative professional seems to be fading. A hundred years ago it happened to those who underwent years of apprenticeship to hand-craft cars, albeit at prices that few could afford. Henry Ford's revolution in mass production had no use for such people and so the car was liberated from the wealthy and went on to empower millions. As prices fell, so expectations rose. But the shadow cast by this leap was a vision of an impersonal world that was dominated by the standardised, the cheap and the commercial, with no place for individual and independent expression.
As certain media and creative industries become more mainstream, or democratised, or liberated, so it becomes harder to earn an individual and independent living from them. Increasingly habituated to having services and products provided for free (talk about a 'something for nothing culture') we shy away from giving a professional an incentive by paying them the necessary fee for a quality job. You might as well expect a flower to bloom whilst refusing it water. It might be increasingly hard to differentiate between professional work and that of a talented amateur, but who will know or care if the quality suffers from doing the job ourselves, when the bar of quality descends further into the devalued and uninspired depths of 'that'll do'?
When did professionalism, experience, artistry, craft and quality lose our respect? Have they been bracketed together with the word 'elitist'? Perhaps not – we doubtless still respect such things in themselves and the people who have them. Professionals are, after all, just amateurs who didn't quit. We just seem to balk at paying them more than just compliments for their time and effort, for some reason. A climate where loyalty is too high a price is one that no Professional can adapt themselves to. There will always be niche markets who will keep paying for individual and personalised services, but the majority of us may ultimately wake up to a world where everything is free and find that we are poorer for it. You can only get back what you put in, after all.