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“We don’t want everything for free. We just want everything.”
March 26, 2012 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Animator & copyleft activist Nina Paley sat down with a group of teenagers and asked them how they would prefer to support the artists they liked.
posted by overeducated_alligator (67 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
By consuming her products, promoting them on social networks and blogs, and making fanart and other derivative works!
posted by Nomyte at 10:18 AM on March 26, 2012


Nothing wrong with EVERYTHING and the strange part is, we're at a point where the so-called consumer can have it. But first they need to stop thinking of themselves as consumers, particularly with regard to cultural stuff. Appreciators is a better word.

And so, to all you appreciators out there, as Ms Paley is already implying, how exactly do you want it, that everything? Because it's your call to make, your paradigm to construct -- how shall you get the all cultural stuff you desire/need without starving the creators? They don't need much. They don't need caviar, champagne, supermodels, cocaine, private jets ... but they do need food, shelter, a little freedom from despair.

The record companies won't design this paradigm, nor the movie studios, the networks, the publishing companies. It will come from the appreciators. And the creators, of course. But they're already doing their part -- the creating, that is.
posted by philip-random at 10:26 AM on March 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


A good place to start might be a society and system of government that provides basic survival needs to all of its citizens, instead of one built around an artificial concept of "employment" which only benefits the plutocratic ownership class and middlemen who profit from artificial scarcity.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:32 AM on March 26, 2012 [22 favorites]


Good quote. One of the things that frustrates me in this world is the unavailability of things I'd happily pay for. The complete Malcolm in the Middle on DVD. Schickele Mix. The hundreds of uncollected Suppressed Transmission columns. Interesting things that just aren't to be had.
posted by Zed at 10:40 AM on March 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Interesting things that just aren't to be had.
Seriously. The Tick cartoons.
posted by Glinn at 10:46 AM on March 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


The post addresses exactly what these appreciators are willing to pay money for, and most of it seems to imply an understanding of what the creator makes the most money from - custom art, merch, donate buttons, Kickstarter, "live shared experiences". There's a lot of emphasis on transparency, which is what you don't get a lot of in the "official" publishing world.

I've spent a few years selling art at anime and comic cons(custom art, merch, live shared experiences), and the teenagers I come across absolutely value access to the artist, and are happy to give money to the artists directly. I think that the age of the artist's work standing alone is coming to an end. No more art-hermits...your audience wants behind the scene blogs, your twitter responses and the occasional live appearance. I'm all for it.
posted by sawdustbear at 10:47 AM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why does it have to be one way or the other? Why can't some artists demand the copyright and protect it while others use a CC license and make money in related ways?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:52 AM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've spent a few years selling art at anime and comic cons(custom art, merch, live shared experiences), and the teenagers I come across absolutely value access to the artist, and are happy to give money to the artists directly. I think that the age of the artist's work standing alone is coming to an end. No more art-hermits...your audience wants behind the scene blogs, your twitter responses and the occasional live appearance. I'm all for it.

Yes, this is something I first heard from Art Consultants back in the early 1980s. She said artists (in this case, painters, printmakers, and other visual artists) have to market their story. She said that people don't want to buy artworks, they want to buy into you.

Sorry kids, if you don't pay for the artist's work, there won't be any artists to buy into. No artists means no access to artists.

I will note the one artist I knew personally who was making enough money off his personal artwork to live comfortably and fund his own work. He got a contract to produce thousands of monoprints. He'd produce them on his etching press, re-ink the plate after a few impressions, and just crank out tons of mostly-unique monoprints. The client was a Korean picture frame manufacturer. His monoprints were put into new frames to make them look good in the shops that sold them. When you bought a frame, you threw his print in the garbage and inserted the work you bought the frame for.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:57 AM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Johnny Gun asked: "Why can't some artists demand the copyright and protect it while others use a CC license and make money in related ways?"

Because at some point the cost of enforcing the rules of the transaction has enough negative externalities that the transaction has a negative societal value. For instance: I think you could make the case that with all of the "false positives" that pretty much anyone who runs a web site has had to deal with, the DMCA has caused far more non-productive work than it has productive work.
posted by straw at 11:02 AM on March 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Turns out most of them are manga fans, and familiar with publishers’ complaints about scanned and translated manga shared freely online. They all read them anyway....

Donate buttons – with the qualification that they want to know as much as possible about where the donation is going. They said honesty and transparency are important.


I'm guessing they missed the irony on that one.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:03 AM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


If this is what we're doing in this thread, I'm still waiting for the first (and best) season of Untalkative Bunny.


Is that what the "everything" in that quote means? Is it about this frustration of knowing these works are out there, but the stakeholders haven't released it in the format/ region/ translation that you would like?
posted by RobotHero at 11:07 AM on March 26, 2012


I have nothing to say beyond "Yay! Nina Paley!".
posted by benito.strauss at 11:08 AM on March 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sorry kids, if you don't pay for the artist's work, there won't be any artists to buy into. No artists means no access to artists.

It's not really a egg before the chicken situation here, really. The artist and their work exist simultaneously.

Teenagers pay for art. They just don't pay for it in the way publishers want them to pay for it. Fortunately, publishers are not the only way art gets sold.
posted by sawdustbear at 11:10 AM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sorry kids, if you don't pay for the artist's work, there won't be any artists to buy into.

This is utterly and demonstrably untrue. I see bands & musicians & performers all the time who don't even have CDs to sell. I see art from artists every month who've never made a dime on their artwork. I read short stories and blogs by people who've never charged for access (I'm even one of them).

I happily pay for stuff that I like, but pretending that "art" only exists because people are willing to pay for it ignores an awful lot of great stuff, and denigrates the work of people who aren't in it to make a buck.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:11 AM on March 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


Sorry kids, if you don't pay for the artist's work, there won't be any artists to buy into

If no one pays for any artist's work, of course commercial artists won't exist. But that's not what most or all of these kids are doing. The Hunger Games just took the third spot in highest grossing opening weekends of all time, and will probably make a lot more in DVD sales and whatnot, with a core audience made up mainly of teenagers. A given kid has $X of dollars they can spend on entertainment, same as it ever was, and content creators have to compete for that finite amount of money. The fact that kids also have free access to more entertainment content than they could ever experience in a lifetime certainly changes the dynamics of the industry, but it doesn't suddenly mean that kids are going to stop spending money.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:11 AM on March 26, 2012


They don't need caviar, champagne, supermodels, cocaine, private jets

But the Media Corporation executives do.

if you don't pay for the artist's work, there won't be any artists to buy into

No Michael Bay! No Kanye West! No Scott Adams! No Snooki!
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:21 AM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


They don't need much. They don't need caviar, champagne, supermodels, cocaine, private jets ... but they do need food, shelter, a little freedom from despair.

Food, shelter & health care-- not just for oneself but for a family -- isn't "not much." It's a rather enormous amount of money.

I get angry because I see arguments from free culture advocates, and they seem to be reframing what being an artist will mean. "Bands don't need to sell CDs, they'll just make money by touring!" The consequence of that is that only musicians who can or want to tour are permitted to make a living. No more finely-crafted studio albums with skilled session musicians, because the market won't allow for it. Bummer.

"Artists will make a few dollars here and there from donations and custom drawings!" The consequence of that is that only people who can afford that kind of unreliable income, which can't consistently pay for rent, much less for health insurance for one's spouse or children. That means fewer voices able to express themselves. It means a narrowing of the field.

This narrowing bothers me a lot, and I can't stand to see it glossed over.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 11:44 AM on March 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


Just linking to the Sitayana out of appreciation.
posted by infini at 11:51 AM on March 26, 2012


infini, FYI, it's linked in the OP.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 11:54 AM on March 26, 2012


but pretending that "art" only exists because people are willing to pay for it ignores an awful lot of great stuff, and denigrates the work of people who aren't in it to make a buck.

Your "in it to make a buck" characterization, I think, denigrates the attitudes of artists who expect, like everybody else in the world, to be compensated for their time, labor, and talent.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 11:55 AM on March 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I happily pay for stuff that I like, but pretending that "art" only exists because people are willing to pay for it ignores an awful lot of great stuff, and denigrates the work of people who aren't in it to make a buck.

Art can come from many sources. But if you aren't working for money, you're an amateur, not an artist. "Artist" is a job title, not a role.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:15 PM on March 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Art can come from many sources. But if you aren't working for money, you're an amateur, not an artist. "Artist" is a job title, not a role.

This is an utterly ridiculous statement that isn't backed up by any standard English dictionary or common English usage; to define "artist" in such a way that it excludes, among others, a 16-year-old who draws stunning portraits in a class, is to define it out of usefulness.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:28 PM on March 26, 2012 [18 favorites]


But if you aren't working for money, you're an amateur, not an artist. "Artist" is a job title, not a role.

Well, Van Gogh went his entire lifetime, did he not, without selling more than one painting? The problem with 'amateur' and 'professional' designations are that they connote things about skill that aren't necessarily true.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 12:31 PM on March 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


They don't need caviar, champagne, supermodels, cocaine, private jets

The hell I don't...but that's why I keep my finance job.
posted by malocchio at 12:34 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am very interested in paying money to support artists (and I do). I am very uninterested in paying money to support a bloated infrastructure of middlemen.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:40 PM on March 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


Sing Or Swim: "But if you aren't working for money, you're an amateur, not an artist."

If money is the only thing motivating people to make art, then live theatre would have died a long time ago.

That's not to say that we shouldn't support our artists -- quite the contrary -- but this particular argument against "kids these days" is complete bullshit. If we're talking about musicians, it's worth recognizing that, for 99% of all musicians, studio recordings are now promotional tools, rather than cash cows. Unless you're Madonna, you're not making your bread and butter off of record sales, and it's unrealistic to expect that model to return anytime soon (or pretend like it ever really existed, or was a great thing in the first place).

All that aside, the "amateur" vs "pro" thing is a muddled and completely meaningless distinction in 2012. If I put an ad at the top of my blog to help cover my hosting costs, am I all of the sudden a professional blogger? Are Olympic athletes automatically disqualified if they don't have day jobs? Why does that distinction matter at all?
posted by schmod at 12:53 PM on March 26, 2012


This thing where artists (across all disciplines) believe that since they are talented and work hard making good stuff, the consequence is that the world suddenly and magically owes them a living, is increasingly mind-blowing to me.

I honestly don't know where it comes from.

Prior to the internet, there were some old business models that used to sort-of work, from which a few people made a lot of money and though which many if not most artists got completely screwed over on a routine basis.

Now those models are either dead or dying, and good riddance.

Neither then, nor now, was anyone - no matter how talented and no matter how good their stuff was - magically owed a living. Some people got lucky and worked the old system in their favour. Most didn't. Talent and producing good work had very little to do with that.

We've got a new system now, which totally levels the playing field and creates more opportunities for more artists than ever before across every discipline there is and then some. No-one has quite figured it all out yet, and yes, there are losers - those who benefited from the previous system and haven't figured out the new one yet. But there are many more winners - every artist who was permanently and forever locked out of the old model.

At no point in any of this does anyone get to be owed a living just because they are talented.
posted by motty at 12:55 PM on March 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am very interested in paying money to support artists (and I do). I am very uninterested in paying money to support a bloated infrastructure of middlemen.

Ten thousand downloads worldwide of a single song at ten cents per download. If that went directly to the artist, that would be damned good pay for something that took maybe a week to write, practice, record.

What's the artist's share of an iTunes dollar?
posted by philip-random at 12:57 PM on March 26, 2012


Sing Or Swim: "But if you aren't working for money, you're an amateur, not an artist."

Please don't attribute that quote to me... I was replying to that remark, not resembling it.

This thing where artists (across all disciplines) believe that since they are talented and work hard making good stuff, the consequence is that the world suddenly and magically owes them a living

I think that's on par with the thing where people on the internet believe that the world suddenly and magically owes them free music and movies...
posted by Sing Or Swim at 1:02 PM on March 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


This thing where artists (across all disciplines) believe that since they are talented and work hard making good stuff, the consequence is that the world suddenly and magically owes them a living, is increasingly mind-blowing to me.

Has this actually been said, anywhere, by any artist? If so, I would love to see an example.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 1:02 PM on March 26, 2012


Ten thousand downloads worldwide of a single song at ten cents per download. If that went directly to the artist, that would be damned good pay for something that took maybe a week to write, practice, record.

Say what? A week?!? I suppose it would, the 3 times that that has ever happened.
posted by bongo_x at 1:03 PM on March 26, 2012


bloated infrastructure of middlemen

Bloated? How bloated can they be before you justify your copyright infringement? People have complained about Kickstarter's 5% as being "excessive" and yet glad seem to hold touring as some panacea, which is a damn laugh considering what the venue takes, for essentially owning property. Pure rents. And that's not even beginning with the mother of all bloated, pustulent, middlemen cum swearword that is Ticketmaster.

This is also assumming that all art comes pure, direct from the artist's head, like mountain spring water. Editors don't do anything of course. Publicity can easily be done by having a twitter account and putting up youtube videos. Which we can get someone's kid brother to edit.

This doesn't even begin to cover mediums that actually are centered around large groups of people. Film editors, sound crew, lighters, gaffers, soundtrack scorers, effects dudes are not inexpensive, and rarely do highly skilled people with little to no creative input work for kudos, publicity, or to be a part of something bigger. Especially when they can get perfectly good pay making commercials for the powers that be.

magically owes them a living

They don't want a living, they'd just like to set terms and allow the public to take it or leave it. Whether you think that's valid or not, most people toil in obscurity, and see enough examples of people who spend their entire creative careers in said obscurity, to banish any illusions that being an artist equals making a living.
posted by zabuni at 1:05 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Say what? A week?!? I suppose it would, the 3 times that that has ever happened.

Are you not aware of Chinese indie music mills? They're capable of producing thousands of acoustic cover versions of Adele's "Someone Like You" every single day for a fraction of what it would cost to produce in the U.S.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 1:07 PM on March 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


At no point in any of this does anyone get to be owed a living just because they are talented.

You miss the point by a pretty wide margin.

The complaint is not that creatives think they are owed a living, but rather that if they put out something for consideration and others pick it up, the creative types are entitled to compensation. It's a market place. Artists offer, consumers take it or leave it, but each side has input on the price. (Time is on the consumers' side, by the way - eventually music and books and movies all get remaindered or into libraries.)

"Appreciators" in the new paradigm seem to think that they shold be able to take and maybe pay, maybe not. And if you the artist don't like it, well, it's, like, your responsibility to figure out some way of getting money out of the "appreciator."

Which, morally at least, is crap.

damned good pay for something that took maybe a week to write, practice, record.

And how many years of lessons and practice and training? "maybe a week". Please.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:09 PM on March 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ten thousand downloads worldwide of a single song at ten cents per download. If that went directly to the artist, that would be damned good pay for something that took maybe a week to write, practice, record.

Say what? A week?!? I suppose it would, the 3 times that that has ever happened.


Not per week. Per all time. Write and record and upload one song a week that ten thousand folks worldwide like enough to download (and send a dime your way) and you gross fifty grand a year (assuming you take a couple of weeks off at some point).

I was only trying to point out how modest one's ambitions could be if we had an effective, efficient means of getting reward directly from audience to artist. Obviously, there is always going to be some overhead involved that has to be accounted for (the infrastructure of the internet for instance, not to mention the artist's own costs, the other musicians who may contributed etc) ... but even so, remove the bloated middle and making an honest living creating beautiful stuff to share with your fellow humans (at very little cost to them) is not an impossible dream.
posted by philip-random at 1:14 PM on March 26, 2012


damned good pay for something that took maybe a week to write, practice, record.

And how many years of lessons and practice and training? "maybe a week". Please.


I'm a writer, been at it seriously for more than three decades. If I could pull in a thousand bucks a week for my continued troubles (ie: putting valid words to page), I'd be a very, very happy man.
posted by philip-random at 1:16 PM on March 26, 2012


Ten thousand downloads worldwide of a single song at ten cents per download. If that went directly to the artist, that would be damned good pay for something that took maybe a week to write, practice, record.

Write and record and upload one song a week that ten thousand folks worldwide like enough to download (and send a dime your way) and you gross fifty grand a year (assuming you take a couple of weeks off at some point).

10,000 downloads at $.10/download comes to a grand total of $1000. I find it hard to believe a single person can create a track, write a song and record vocals, etc in a week. 10,000 people are not going to pay for someone singing a cover on a ukelele.

For the sake of argument, though, lets say the band is one singer/songwriter and one producer. So that's $500 each. Not terrible...assuming they can produce a song every single week that garners 10,000 or more downloads. Taking "a couple weeks off" is an extreme understatement - this hypothetical band will burn out long before they can afford to take a vacation. This is not simply a matter of creating something once a week and putting it on a blog. You're livelihood depends on making something thousands of people will keep buying week-in and week-out.

Are you not aware of Chinese indie music mills? They're capable of producing thousands of acoustic cover versions of Adele's "Someone Like You" every single day for a fraction of what it would cost to produce in the U.S.

10,000 people are not going pay for knockoffs of current hit songs. Also, I imagine the artists people we are arguing about do not fall under the "music mill" category.
posted by bittermensch at 1:23 PM on March 26, 2012


I find it hard to believe a single person can create a track, write a song and record vocals, etc in a week.

I don't.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:37 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


10,000 downloads at $.10/download comes to a grand total of $1000. I find it hard to believe a single person can create a track, write a song and record vocals, etc in a week. 10,000 people are not going to pay for someone singing a cover on a ukelele.

Back when I had a band we wrote and recorded a fifties pop pastiche in an afternoon. I wrote this on the bus home one night on my ipod.

And come on - ten cents is functionally identical to zero cents to almost any first world citizen. And once you have an audience who likes your stuff they are very willing to pay much more than that.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:41 PM on March 26, 2012


The consequence of that is that only people who can afford that kind of unreliable income, which can't consistently pay for rent, much less for health insurance for one's spouse or children. That means fewer voices able to express themselves.

I think that's been the reality all along for the majority of artists. Most of us got by back then, and still do now, on day jobs, well-employed partners, generous relatives or friends, public assistance, or credit cards and crossed fingers. Sometimes there are good years and we don't need that extra support for a while. Sometimes not.

The difference is now it is easier, not harder, to express ourselves* during lean times.

*or rather, to get our work heard or seen by someone who might pay for it.
posted by pernoctalian at 1:42 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The simplest solution is for entertainment media to stop targeting teenagers and young adults, who are tech-savvy, media-hungry, but often less able to pay, and instead target listeners who are middle-aged or older, often less tech-savvy and more stable financially.

Teenagers won't pay for extremely expensive shows like The Game of Thrones or Mad Men? Devote more attention to good old standbys like As Time Goes By, Dynasty, and Dallas. Let the young ones be happy with their one-man bands and stick-figure webcomic artists.

I am not even completely sarcastic.
posted by Nomyte at 1:44 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


overeducated_alligator: I see arguments from free culture advocates, and they seem to be reframing what being an artist will mean. "Bands don't need to sell CDs, they'll just make money by touring!" The consequence of that is that only musicians who can or want to tour are permitted to make a living. No more finely-crafted studio albums with skilled session musicians, because the market won't allow for it.

I find this argument interesting, because it was not that long ago (in the grand scheme of things) when the only way to make a living as an artist was to play in front of real, live people. If our ability to record music has opened up a market, and our ability to distribute music has closed it down...it's hard to moralize about an artist's "right" to make a living in a way that didn't exist a hundred years ago.
posted by catalytics at 1:47 PM on March 26, 2012


"Appreciators" in the new paradigm seem to think that they shold be able to take and maybe pay, maybe not. And if you the artist don't like it, well, it's, like, your responsibility to figure out some way of getting money out of the "appreciator."

Which, morally at least, is crap.


Why exactly is there a big moral difference between the two business models? NPR, for example, runs as a non-profit on donation and grants, and no subscription or per use fees are required to listen to it. Part of the reason why terrestrial radio doesn't charge per listen or by subscription is that it was technically impossible to enforce those sorts of things. It's taken for granted that if you produce a radio show and broadcast it, it's out there for anyone to grab, so the business model options are narrowed down to those that don't involve getting paid by every single listener every single time. Also, the whole concept of an artist getting paid by every single person who uses their work is a lot newer than a lot of other systems that don't involve being able to do that (such as patronage). Most of the current media business models are from an era where physically making and shipping copies was both a good way to distribute content and one of the most expensive aspects of industry, whereas we are currently living in a new era where content can be copied and distributed at virtually no cost. I have no idea if that will overall make it better to be an artist today than in previous years, but on a technological level it's pretty obvious that if you put out digital content that can be easily copied and shared it's effectively a lot more like broadcasting radio waves than putting out a CD on a store shelf.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:50 PM on March 26, 2012


I find this argument interesting, because it was not that long ago (in the grand scheme of things) when the only way to make a living as an artist was to play in front of real, live people. If our ability to record music has opened up a market, and our ability to distribute music has closed it down...it's hard to moralize about an artist's "right" to make a living in a way that didn't exist a hundred years ago.

Yeah, and there was a time when the only way to make a living as a painter was to have a wealthy royal patron. I know times change. But sometimes particular economic arrangements allow for certain types of art to be produced which weren't possible under other arrangements.

Some of my personal favorite art/music works were the product of a business model which is dying. Yeah, them's the breaks. I get it. It's just too bad, and I wonder if there isn't some way to preserve these species instead of just Panglossing over the whole affair the way many free culture activists do.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:58 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Something almost invariably elided during these discussions is the aspect of age, and its effect on the kinds of currency available:

Basically, when you're young, it's perfectly reasonable to labor for, and be paid in, various forms of Social Credit: couches on which to crash, high-fives from random strangers, fun hook-ups with random strangers, the sound of one's name echoing across the room, the sight of one's name on the page or the screen, the knowledge that the subculture you've joined knows and loves you.

The older you get, though, the less important Social Credit is, and the more you really do need to take your praise in shekels, if you want to keep producing whatever you're being acclaimed for-- that, or you need to divide your time between art and the morning commute to Day Job City.

Teenage appreciation, which teenagers are ever so glad to offer, really is sufficient payment... but only to other teenagers. And since different works of art have different timelines and life-cycles (some things take days to gestate and hours to produce, and can be functionally displaced by something similar in an equal amount of time; other things take months or years, and may not actually ever be displaced), different payments have to be exacted for them, if it's to be worthwhile for their producer to keep cranking them out.
posted by darth_tedious at 1:59 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing they missed the irony on that one.

Yeah, that's some quality lack of self-awareness right there. We demand honesty! And we demonstrate our commitment to honesty by pirating your shit!
posted by Justinian at 2:09 PM on March 26, 2012


Has this actually been said, anywhere, by any artist? If so, I would love to see an example.

It comes up pretty much every time this discussion happens. See for example the comments in the blog entry linked above.

I think that's on par with the thing where people on the internet believe that the world suddenly and magically owes them free music and movies...

Not really. When the marginal cost of reproducing a thing drops to zero, the intrinsic value drops to zero. This is the basic economic fact of anything capable of being represented digitally, whether it's music, movies or anything.

So it isn't that the world magically owes people free music and movies and such, it's just that the intrinsic value of the files containing that stuff is now zero.

In order to get people to pay for those files, you have to put value in by other means.
posted by motty at 2:22 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find it hard to believe a single person can create a track, write a song and record vocals, etc in a week.

>>I don't.


I knew someone would use Jonathan Coulton as a counter example. I don't see his song/week challenge as a reasonable model for making a living. It was an amazing achievement, extraordinary in a way most people probably couldn't accomplish. Further, it doesn't really apply to the argument that anyone can reliable produce and sell thousands upon thousands of songs every week and sustain a living that way. Again, this isn't just releasing a song for free and giving the option of a paid download (AKA a donation). This is releasing a weekly song that requires using a credit card in order to listen.

Regardless, the creative game seems to break down into the two options:

1) The artist is capable of publishing a massive volume of work at a low enough price until they have a fanbase willing to support them. Low enough price may have to mean "free" unless you really can create an incredibly high quality product day-in, day-out. The internet has driven price of content to $0. Look at those teenagers in the article: all of them download manga illegally (and considering they are 15-17, I doubt they're reading Shintaro Kago or anything that can only be found on pirate sites). All of the venues they cite to support artists already exist. I'm not blaming them - I don't Paypal a few bucks to every webcomic I read. This is just how the internet has shaped things.

2) Someone else is willing to support your work. The internet has made this less and less reliable. Kickstarter may be the grassroots version of this that lets artists make a living without worry about whether their next song/webcomic/whatever is a hit. Seems to me, though, that a large proportion of successful long term creative Kickstarter projects ("fund my album/webcomic/videogame" not "fund my iPhone app") already had a massive fan base to support them.
posted by bittermensch at 2:22 PM on March 26, 2012


Teenagers won't pay for extremely expensive shows like The Game of Thrones or Mad Men? Devote more attention to good old standbys like As Time Goes By, Dynasty, and Dallas. Let the young ones be happy with their one-man bands and stick-figure webcomic artists.

I had a much more sarcastic reply to a comment above that mirrored yours, except it was more about aiming to late 20's early 30's demographics through kickstarter. The teenages in question aren't customers, asking them what they would pay for is irrelevant, since they won't pay for squat. They're maybe product. Perhaps you can sell some advertising for tennis shoes and fast food to go along with your song.

You can see it in the kickstarters that are successful. Fund a sequel to wasteland, fund a new point and click adventure game by the same people who made the monkey island games. Make a solid iphone stand. It's all Gen X bourgeoises. Even Nina Paley's work: Sita Sings the Blues:

Sita Sings the Blues is a musical, animated personal interpretation of the Indian epic the Ramayana. The aspect of the story that I focus on is the relationship between Sita and Rama, who are gods incarnated as human beings, and even they can't make their marriage work.

And then there's my story. I'm just an ordinary human, who also can't make her marriage work. And the way that it fails is uncannily similar to the way Rama and Sita's [relationship fails]. Inexplicable yet so familiar. And the question that I asked and the question people still ask is, "Why"? Why did Rama reject Sita? Why did my husband reject me?


To hell with these kids, at least in making an effort towards giving them media kind of way. Sell things to people who have the money and the morals to throw a dollar in the hat. Perhaps when they have jobs and wish to recapture their lost youth you can squeeze them.
posted by zabuni at 2:45 PM on March 26, 2012


All of the venues they cite to support artists already exist

Which is part of the reason why the entertainment industry isn't dying like so many people keep saying it will. Teenagers can and do spend money on stuff, even if they also illegally download other stuff.

The artist is capable of publishing a massive volume of work at a low enough price until they have a fanbase willing to support them. Low enough price may have to mean "free" unless you really can create an incredibly high quality product day-in, day-out

How many artists start getting paid for their work as soon as they start making it? In the old days an artist might work on a demo tape or portfolio or manuscript on their own dime in the hope that it would eventually get them past the gatekeepers who decide what gets published. Most of the time they failed on their first attempt or just failed in general and never turned it into a career. Today all of that stuff that never saw the light of day gets published online, and if people end up liking it they become fans before the point that they would have even seen the content in the old system.

Seems to me, though, that a large proportion of successful long term creative Kickstarter projects ("fund my album/webcomic/videogame" not "fund my iPhone app") already had a massive fan base to support them.

The album/webcomic are tough for non-fans to support because it's difficult to describe what would make a good album or webcomic in a proposal. For video games it's very possible though, the FTL dev team recently raised hundreds of thousands of dollars more than their goal even though they were completely unknown before that.
posted by burnmp3s at 3:06 PM on March 26, 2012


Why exactly is there a big moral difference between the two business models?
burnmp3s

You honestly don't see the "big moral difference"? philip-random's comment that you quoted perfectly expresses the issue here:

"Appreciators" in the new paradigm seem to think that they should be able to take and maybe pay, maybe not. And if you the artist don't like it, well, it's, like, your responsibility to figure out some way of getting money out of the "appreciator."

Your comment actually helps illustrate the problem:

Part of the reason why terrestrial radio doesn't charge per listen or by subscription is that it was technically impossible to enforce those sorts of things. It's taken for granted that if you produce a radio show and broadcast it, it's out there for anyone to grab, so the business model options are narrowed down to those that don't involve getting paid by every single listener every single time.

The justification for use of the artist's work, whether in radio as you note or online, is a purely practical one: I will take what you have made and enjoy it because you can't stop me. If you want compensation, find some way to entice me to pay you or I will continue to use your creations whether you like it or not.

That's it. The absolute core of all these arguments, and it's always struck me as an odd one. "I will take this because you can't prevent me from doing so" is a strange defense of one's behavior. You might say the world has changed to make it so, so artists should have to change as well, but that doesn't make it right.

So it isn't that the world magically owes people free music and movies and such, it's just that the intrinsic value of the files containing that stuff is now zero.
motty

This is wrong. It's not the "files containing the stuff" people want, it's the "stuff" itself. People do value the creations themselves, and demand to have them for free. It's an odd proposition that someone should give you something they made on terms you find acceptable, or you're just going to take it anyway. Shouldn't it be that if you don't find the price of the "files" or creation or however you put it acceptable, you don't consume it?
posted by Sangermaine at 3:16 PM on March 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


>it's just that the intrinsic value of the files containing that stuff is now zero.

If their value was zero, nobody would want them; nobody would be downloading the stuff. The whole problem is that the value is no longer the same thing as the price. Nobody's obliged to pay the actual value of the stuff, because even the people who want it and enjoy it can take it for nothing.

If you're a musician or an artist whose work is being passed around on the internet, you've lost the power to decide what people should pay for your labor. Why is that okay? If we were talking about taking away the right to unionize and strike, everybody would be appalled that we were depriving people of the bargaining power that makes it possible to exchange your time and labor for a fair price.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 3:52 PM on March 26, 2012


This is wrong. It's not the "files containing the stuff" people want, it's the "stuff" itself.

But they're the same thing now. And the files can be reproduced infinitely at zero cost, and therefore have an intrinsic value of zero. This is very basic and not difficult to understand.

Value, such as it is, is no longer present in the things themselves, but in the relationships that people have with the things and with their creators.

Sure, people do value certain creations, and they want to have them and as such unless they are genuinely crooks, which most people aren't, they want also to pay (something reasonable) for them - but the attempted imposition of artificial scarcity in a world of zero scarcity skews things so that more often than not it's just an awful lot easier and better to download the thing for free.

If their value was zero, nobody would want them; nobody would be downloading the stuff

Man, basic economics is really hard, isn't it. Imagine there was an infinite supply of strawberries on every street corner. It never ran out - you could just go to the end of the road and get your fresh strawberries, 24/7, 365 days a year. Would people stop liking and wanting strawberries?

No.
posted by motty at 3:59 PM on March 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


The justification for use of the artist's work, whether in radio as you note or online, is a purely practical one: I will take what you have made and enjoy it because you can't stop me

My position is more, why are you trying to stop them? Why go down the dead end route of trying to get every single person to pay when it's pretty much impossible to do and is unnecessary for making money and being successful? The television industry hated VCRs when they came out, was it morally wrong for people to use them anyway? Would the television industry be in better shape today if they had successfully banned them?
posted by burnmp3s at 4:09 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


My position is more, why are you trying to stop them? Why go down the dead end route of trying to get every single person to pay when it's pretty much impossible to do and is unnecessary for making money and being successful?

But that's not relevant. Who cares why they want to stop them? Even if it's a boneheaded choice, isn't it their choice to make? You're conflating two different questions here, which I think is the cause of most troubles in these debates:

1. Is it right for people to take artistic creations for free?

2. Is it a smart move for artists to not to adapt to the changing environment?

If an artist or creator wants to handle their work in a way that harms themselves, then they harm themselves. How does that make it okay to just take their work?

Would the television industry be in better shape today if they had successfully banned them?

Maybe, but that doesn't address the issue of whether people should be helping themselves to those TV programs because the producers have no practical way to stop them.

motty

I think the problem is to many people, myself and Sing or Swim included, price and value aren't the same thing. The cost of acquiring a work is now zero, but the value of the work is not zero. And it doesn't therefore justify simply taking the work because there are now zero practical barriers and no way for the creator to prevent it even if the creator wanted to do so.
posted by Sangermaine at 4:17 PM on March 26, 2012


You honestly don't see the "big moral difference"? philip-random's comment that you quoted perfectly expresses the issue here:

"Appreciators" in the new paradigm seem to think that they should be able to take and maybe pay, maybe not. And if you the artist don't like it, well, it's, like, your responsibility to figure out some way of getting money out of the "appreciator."


I didn't say that. IndigoJones did. I would never bring up the "M" word in a discussion such as this. All morality is personal and thus kind of useless in any argument.
posted by philip-random at 4:25 PM on March 26, 2012


I stand by it too, and I absolutely do not agree that all morality is personal. It's social. If it were not, we could trash all laws right now.

Files can be reproduced infinitely at zero cost, and therefore have an intrinsic value of zero. This is very basic and not difficult to understand.

It's a sophistic argument, usually pulled out along with its smart-ass buddy, "I wouldn't pay for it anyway so what difference if I don't pay for it?" Often followed by "I won't pay but I spread the word to people who maybe are more generous and will pay."

The problem is that the work itself does indeed have a value, certainly to the person who created it. That's why they put a price on it rather than just giving it away. And in a transaction between two people of good faith, a deal would be struck. Or not. But if not, under scenario A the "appreciator' even if he doesn't get the Piece of Art, gets to keep his money.

For him to sidestep the creator and the deal on offer between two people of good faith, to take the Piece of Art and keep all his money, well, the consumer is benefiting just fine from that transaction, while the creator is out the time and effort he put into it.

And under such circs, expecting someone else (struggling family, rich patron, secondary crap day job) to provide the care and feeding of the artist is pretty shabby.

Arguably even immoral.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:48 PM on March 26, 2012


... price and value aren't the same thing. The cost of acquiring a work is now zero, but the value of the work is not zero. And it doesn't therefore justify simply taking the work because there are now zero practical barriers and no way for the creator to prevent it even if the creator wanted to do so.

I'm glad you've accepted that the market price for the thing is zero, given that it can be reproduced infinitely, and that nevertheless the value can be considered separately.

I don't agree that the value of the work is not zero. The value of the work is sometimes zero and sometimes more - it's entirely dependent on the relationship you have with the artist. Value at this point becomes entirely subjective.

Consider a classical music nut who refuses to listen to any piece of music composed after 1900. What, to them, is the value of an Iron Maiden mp3? I would suggest zero. Consider a metaller who cannot stand any other kind of music. What, to them, is the value of an mp3 of Beethoven's Fifth? Also zero.

Consider me. I'm a full-time musician, sweating blood and tears trying to make a go of it here in London, which is a stupid hard city to try and make a living as a musician. What is the value of my latest album on mp3, the one that took me four years to finish, which I released last year? That's an extremely important question, especially to me, and one which I have spent a lot of energy thinking about.

My - extremely serious - answer is, I don't know, value here is subjective, you tell me what you think the value is. If I demand £10 up front for each download, will there be more or less downloads than if I ask people to name their own price, including possibly zero? My own experience is that setting a price - any price - dramatically reduces the volume of downloads. The ones who know my music, have some relationship to it, will pay. The ones who don't? Let them have it.

At the stage I'm at, I need to let people choose their own price, including free. The amount of people who still choose to pay is incredible to me and I'm very grateful for it - I broke even on the album, though I'm not emigrating to Bermuda any time soon, nor yet able to give up the function band gigs / busking etc.

That's just me, just one guy, making his own decisions about his own stuff. I'm not suggesting that all artists should go the same road - what works for me for now may not work for someone else.

There are far more worthy artistic causes than my own. Artists who were struggling under the old system (how many albums never recouped? Most of them) and who never made much then and still aren't. They have far bigger fanbases than perhaps I ever will. What of the value of their stuff?

It's still subjective. If you're a fan of Artist X, of course you are morally obliged to try and support them. This is the era of micro-patronage. Don't you dare download an album made by people you love and not recompense the artist as and when you can. That's basic. No arguments against that from me.

But an album by someone you've never heard of? There's no reason why you should pay for it. It's free now. After you've listened to it and fallen in love with it (if you don't, they've lost nothing), only then does it have value to you, and only then should you - and if you are honest and you can, you will - start playing your role as micro-patron, maybe buying a T-shirt, maybe buying the album you already have, definitely spending some money on the next one.

Thing is, there are deeper and dirtier things going on, and this is the root cause of my advocacy for the idea that 'free is inevitable, accept it, work with it, make it work for you.'

The only reason I'm in a position to have a music career at all - making and releasing my own stuff as I see fit on my own terms - is because there exists a free and open internet and there exists such a thing as a general purpose computer. I wouldn't have been able to make or distribute my music without these things.

But there are those - extremely rich and powerful people - who are working hard, right now, to take away both. They want to go back to the days of high barrier to entry for creation and for distribution. That's what they used to have, and that's what, with the free internet and with the general purpose computer, they have lost. And they're trying to turn the clock back. That's what SOPA / PIPA was about, that's what ACTA is about, and there is worse to come.

That's the bottom line in this fight. Either we have a free and open internet, and we have general purpose computers that we get to control - along with that comes the fact that digital files have no more intrinsic value than the subjective value we put on them and that artists will need to acknowledge the micro-patronage system in order to survive - or we lose the internet, we lose the general purpose computers, and we go back to the old system where large corporations act as sole gatekeepers and price-setters for art.

As I see it, going back to the old way does not benefit artists, does not benefit art, and does not benefit the general public.

Here's Lessig on 'recognising the fight we're in'. Long but worth it.

The speech in that video was given last Saturday at ORGCon in London. I was there, and it's amazing that I am able to share a copy with you now. Isn't that incredible? You want to take that away? Really? To serve who?
posted by motty at 5:47 PM on March 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


The problem is that the work itself does indeed have a value, certainly to the person who created it. That's why they put a price on it rather than just giving it away. And in a transaction between two people of good faith, a deal would be struck.

And the amount agreed on would not necessarily be what the creator demanded. Or more to the point, the monetary value of any given item is exactly what someone eventually pays for it, no more, no less. So the price tag on those shoes I've been looking at may say $150 (and indeed somebody may pay that amount for them), but it might also be the case, if I wait long enough, the price might magically change to $90 (ie: a sale). So it is with an album of music these days. The price tag may say $15 at Walmart, but guess what? I can get the same exact sounds (less some packaging) for free, and it's easier to get it for free. I don't even have to leave the room.

Arguably even immoral.

well, when you put arguably in front of it, it kind of works. It's thus arguably moral to take any compressed file of cultural product you can get your hands on and share it for free with as many people as possible, if your morality tells you that getting the word out (sharing the beauty) is more important than rewarding the man/woman who created that product.
posted by philip-random at 6:04 PM on March 26, 2012


Yes, lots of people are willing to work for free to chase a dream when they’re very young. Doing it forever is not realistic. What motty describes is basically the political far Right’s message/con job; everyone work for practically nothing with the (delusional) hope that they might strike it rich. Point to a few who were successful as an example. Even though most everyone can see the system is broken, let’s just pay attention to the rare instances where things work and act like it applies across the board. Basically running everything like a lottery system.
posted by bongo_x at 6:07 PM on March 26, 2012


That's interesting, bongo_x, and also kind of hilarious, especially the bit about accusing me of having fallen for a far Right message.

Explain to me again, more clearly, why artists are magically owed a living for their work?

I am one, and I dearly wish it were the case that we were, but I don't believe it is. I like to think my music is pretty ok. WHY AM I NOT RICH LIKE MICK JAGGER AND BEYONCE? Lucky that I'm not doing it for the money, otherwise I'd be pretty screwed.

Making money from art is and has always been a lottery. But the new lottery - the one with the unlimited free international distribution via the open internet and the pretty damn good tools available at home via general purpose computing - that one strikes me as a whole lot better than the old lottery, where you had to go and suck corporate cock in order to even get a foot in the door, and also a whole lot better than the one proposed by the vested interests of the old way who want to lock the internet down and take the general purpose computers away.

What we've got now strikes me as a whole lot more democratic and, dare I say it, left wing, also.
posted by motty at 6:26 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


>>But the new lottery - the one with the unlimited free international distribution via the open internet and the pretty damn good tools available at home via general purpose computing.... [is] a whole lot better than the one proposed by the vested interests of the old way who want to lock the internet down and take the general purpose computers away

Distribution networks, rights-restriction legislation, rights-restriction technologies, promotional practices, cultural practices, and creative tools are all very different, not-necessarily-linked things, and many permutations are possible... particularly when it comes to the technology involved, which, by definition, is always evolving.

>Explain to me again, more clearly, why artists are magically owed a living for their work?

I doubt anyone in this discussion is making that argument.

Rather than being "owed a living", what I, at least, am arguing is that a creator has the right to set a contract: Price P for Good G.

Can someone else choose to violate that pricing contract?

Yep.

But in so doing, that someone else should accept that what he/she is doing is theft.

Does technology make it trivially easy to duplicate, share, and acquire copyrighted work?

Sure.

However, making something easier doesn't make it increasingly moral; if it did, killing someone with a chainsaw would be morally superior to killing someone with a fist.
posted by darth_tedious at 7:55 PM on March 26, 2012


You know, you can say that people should pay for the art they consume. And I'd agree with you. So now what? What's the plan? Besides wagging fingers at copyright violators.
posted by Zed at 8:35 PM on March 26, 2012


That's interesting, bongo_x, and also kind of hilarious, especially the bit about accusing me of having fallen for a far Right message.

I’m not accusing you of anything, I’m saying that knowingly or not, you’re spreading the same kind of idea. We’re all being conned. We’ve all been talked in to repeatedly giving things up for "opportunity", an intern based economy.

You know, you can say that people should pay for the art they consume. And I'd agree with you. So now what? What's the plan? Besides wagging fingers at copyright violators.

I think that horse is out of the barn. I think it’s very likely that the future is lots and lots of "pretty good", for free or cheap. I think we’re entering the time of abundant mediocrity and enthusiastic amateurs.
posted by bongo_x at 8:55 PM on March 26, 2012


>So now what? What's the plan?

I'm not saying that any good solutions are on the horizon, let alone that I know of any approaches that guarantee success.

In any case, if just-effective-enough-to-deter-casual-sharing DRM technology, along with a moderately fast, moderately effective system for killing specific sharing nodes, doesn't develop soon, I would guess that the odds of really messy network and pipe controls being instituted will dramatically increase.

Ultimately, I expect either an unregulated, lively arms-race eco-system of rapidly evolving DRM and cracking, like that of the virus/anti-virus world... or rare, capricious, PR- and demonstration-oriented, legislation-backed, politically-influenced, high-profile government crackdowns, in the style of the Drug War.

One of these general outcomes seems vastly preferable to the other, but either is possible.
posted by darth_tedious at 9:08 PM on March 26, 2012


I work for a phone company. Please accept my expert opinion that the work I do is quite important. Yet you have increasingly been choosing skype and its ilk over my charge per minute calls. Can we please change the law to protect me, otherwise there will be no communication left!
Oh, and also, I have noticed when I do some work I get paid, but I would really like it if I continued to get paid for that piece of work throughout my entire life. And could you also send cheques to my descendants for another 75 years. KTHKSBYE.
posted by bystander at 5:27 AM on March 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I didn't check out Madonna or Game of Thrones or Mad Men as a result of this thread, but I did listen to a few of motty's songs.
I didn't send him any money - but I don't think I stole from him either. We traded a bit of my attention and bandwidth for a tiny fraction of a big investment of effort on his part.
As an artist, he seems very competent, and no doubt has an audience. Yet, he doesn't have a mega-global-record deal, or any particular benefit from copyright laws. And still he is producing great quality work.
I guess he wishes he could flick a switch once he has 500,000 fans and only charge them after that, but it seems he is succeeding in a copyright imperfect reality.
Shock. What if most artists could.
posted by bystander at 6:00 AM on March 27, 2012


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