It takes Apple about a week to generate $3B in revenue and less than a to month to accumulate $3B in profit. Based on recent Apple trends and projected wearable trends, it’s not unreasonable to project that the combination of increased Beats Electronics revenue and “cool factor” boosts to iWatch and other Apple products will be significant. Expect to see iPads, Airbooks, AppleTV, iWatch et al in many of the places we currently see celebrities rockin Beats headphones. For the sake of this discussion let’s say Beats increases Apple revenue 1 percent a year for the next 3 years. That will pay for the acquisition – every dollar tied to Beats after that is gravy. Bargain is putting it nicely though it pales in comparison to the previous occasions when Apple(and others) had to pay little to nothing for access to “cool”. Clearly the Village will benefit. As noted in the previous post, Will.i.am has the right idea about what to do with the money and Dr. Dre/Jimmy Iovine have previously given an inner city university – USC an endownment of $70M to launch a STEAM oriented business undergraduate degree program and we can expect more. At the same time, it has to be noted that most of the money is going outside of the Village because the technology was not developed here and the majority owners are not from here. This is not new – African-Americans have not possessed the means of production for any of our great assets. Going back to the 1950’s Motown had only a small recording studio and no manufacturing or distribution capabilities. So the “cool” intellectual property had to be sold at a great discount in order to get it produced and into the market. By the time we began to get access to the means of production and distribution, technology had changed the nature of the game(again – can you say ProTools? iTunes?) so we’re right back where we started – more like DJay than we’d like to be.
A similar situation has been seen in film as this must-read Washington Post article on culture change and reparations shows. It makes the case that Gone With The Wind reached far more people than 12 Years A Slave and that it’s not even possible to achieve numbers like Roots which is still one of the most watched TV series in history. The article
looked at the 500 top-grossing movies released between 2007 and 2012, and found that of the 565 people credited as directors on those projects, just 5.8 were African-American.
Numbers like these are released every year. I have cited them constantly during my time as a professional critic. But “The Case for Reparations” provides us another way of understanding why these figures are so critically important. Even if the fight to give African-American artists more opportunities to make television, film, music, and books — and to do so with greater autonomy — succeeds, that victory comes with different rewards than might have accompanied it in the past. What are we winning if African-Americans get access to the machinery of cultural production precisely because they can attract niche audiences, and because their industries have given up on the idea that their work, or anyone else’s, might have truly mass appeal?
This is not quite the equivalent of turning a neighborhood over to prospective African-American homeowners as its property values crater, one of the dynamics Coates describes in his essay. But the idea that artists of color would gain access to the tools that might help them change our culture just as those tools become less powerful is terrible to contemplate. It may not be too late to advance the dream of reparations. But the swords and plowshares we might have used to fight the cultural battles that would make such a reconciliation possible are not what they once were.
So like post-WWII Israel, we could use some infrastructure investment. However, we can’t afford to wait on the political process. There’s enough knowledge and financial capital within the Village to make a meaningful impact – just remember to aim high!