I had no idea. 20 years ago I came out of university and moved into a job. I spent the next ten years as an employee. Earned my wage. Spent my wage. Simple.
About ten years ago I got myself out of that world and set myself up in my own little business. As a self-employed management consultant, there have been financial ups and downs but by and large I reckon we've come out on top. And certainly the benefits of working for myself have outweighed being 'tied to The Man'.
In the last couple of years I've tweaked the direction of my business to include a greater proportion of what I love to do most: writing. I do corporate writing mostly, or at least what you might call 'commercial' writing, and while it doesn't pay as well as a lot of consulting work, it is comfortable enough.
As I've written more and more, I've also started spreading my creative wings, writing and pitching feature articles, profiles, opinion pieces and the like. In doing so I've entered the world of what we can broadly call the 'creatives' and discovered that ... I had no idea.
A large part of the joy of living the lucky life in a lucky country in lucky times is the ability to consume a never-ending diet of creative fare. Living at the top of Maslow's pyramid, we can stimulate our senses with writing, music, cinema, visual art, dance, theatre ... the list is endless. We can do this at any level we choose, from the mass produced to the obscure and experimental. So plentiful is this creative banquet that much of the time we dine on it without realising what we are doing.
What tends to be overlooked by the majority - and certainly was by me - is that this feast is created for us by largely by people who do because they love it. People who work from role to role, book to book, gig to gig, feeding themselves on the relatively meagre scraps passed to them along the creative food chain. Some, of course, get some luck (for that's what it is, mostly) and become megastars. For most, though, a creative career means sacrificing any chance of living the sort of life economists tell us we deserve.
There is, of course, little new about this. Even in ancient times the people who created the most real value for their society weren't the ones who made the money. And my guess is that most of those who create art wouldn't really be interested in a corporate CEO's megabucks. All they want is enough money to let them keep creating without worrying about where the rent is going to come from.
Will anything change as we move from 'old media' to 'new media'? The early signs aren't encouraging. It would be nice to think that Rupert Murdoch's intention to charge for online news, because new media "has not made content free", reflects an intention to recompense his creators more generously. But I doubt it. His goal is to get his old world back, even if it needs to be dressed up in new world clothes.
But the world of new media does offer some hope, albeit fuzzy in form at present. The ability to publish and distribute independently and at low cost is a glimmer for the creatives, if not for the big old media players who used to represent them.
What might the media world look like in the end? I have no idea. But I hope to be part of it and hope that my fellow creatives and I can be fairly rewarded for our efforts.