THE CONTEST EVERYBODY LOSES

I have always wanted to write for a living, although I certainly can't complain about the regular paychecks and benefits that come with this less exciting job. Many of you know from bitter firsthand experience that making money writing is very difficult today. It has never been easy, of course; there's a reason Kafka was an insurance clerk, TS Eliot worked at Lloyd's of London, Vonnegut ran a Saab dealership, Harper Lee made reservations for Eastern Airlines customers, and Orwell was a cop in colonial Burma. No one will claim that writing professionally ever has been anything but risky and difficult.

Today, however, people who generate creative output for a living – this problem isn't limited to writing, of course – face the additional obstacle of changing expectations. Namely that they are expected to work for free or close to it. If you think all those writers on big name sites (Slate, HuffPo, Gawker, etc.) are being paid more than a pittance or at all for the content they generate, you are mistaken. Consumers now expect to be provided with content for free; behold the wailing and gnashing of teeth across the internet when something is put "behind a paywall" at Harper's or the NY Times. Can you believe that they actually expect us to pay for information and entertainment? That's so 20th Century.

Another more insidious type of work-for-free arrangement has become disturbingly common among people who work in art, graphic design, and web development: the "crowdsourcing" of content. Crowdsourcing is one of those horrid buzzwords crafted to sound techno-libertarian and empowering (Harness the power of collective ideas!) but in reality, media outlets use it to get for free content or services they would otherwise need to pay a professional to do. Need a new logo, or perhaps some cover art for your next issue? Paying someone is a waste of money. Just have a "contest" and legions of unemployed, publicity-seeking artists/designers will gladly produce your artwork on their own time and freely hand it over in the hopes of winning five minutes' worth of exposure and attention.

By now we have all realized that musician Amanda Palmer is probably the worst person on Earth, what with the fiasco of asking for a million bucks from her fans to record an album (I guess her multimillionaire husband couldn't finance the endeavor, nor could Palmer from her previous earnings). She followed that up with a truly reprehensible scheme to "crowdsource" the backing band for her subsequent tour, getting a group of volunteer musicians in each city on the tour to join her on stage. Compensation would consist of "beer, merchandise, and hugs", said the repugnant excuse for a human. Isn't that neat? What a great way to let the fan community take part in creating the performances, and as a total coincidence I guess she won't have to pay, feed, transport, and house any musicians throughout the tour!

This kind of explicit middle finger to people attempting to make a living writing, drawing, playing an instrument, painting, and so on can only succeed when there is a critical mass of people desperate for work and struggling to make ends meet. It's an interesting collective action problem; certainly each artist knows that submitting designs for free is hurting every artist's efforts to make a living, but the individual incentive for publicity, credentials, ("winner of the….") and attention is too strong. And of course the internet makes it remarkably fast, cheap, and easy to harness the creative talents of thousands of people with the promise of nothing more than a pat on the back. The majesty of the new economy is infinite indeed, with its myriad ways of providing things that are ostensibly free but carry great hidden costs.

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144 Responses to “THE CONTEST EVERYBODY LOSES”

  1. caroljane Says:

    Holy moly. "Winner of the.." brings to me gaggingly, that libertarian classic.
    Alongside Night, which I tried to read but really , physically could not get through and I am not being metaphorical about the gagging.I am not talking about the ideology either. The claim to fame of this thing is, it won a Prometheus Award in 1979. Guess what the award was for, — best libertarian novel. Money awarded by, guess what, libertarian businessmen, to be euphemistic about it. That of which you speak Ed, is not new.

    I had the good luck to earn my living through writing for most of my working life, sometimes even creative writing. But without the steady income of my husband and the profligacy of the irrational Canadian government it would not have been much of a living. Well actually, his income was not all that steady, he was on strike a lot of the time, but steady employment he had, heh, heh…sorry, offtopic

    Ed, thanks for saying what needs saying, as you always do. Sometimes it must be a great big pain to say it, but because you are an artist you can't help saying, and well.

  2. LD Says:

    Hey, we disagree on something once again, and once again it's some new-fangled techno-thingy.

    Jonathan Coulton released many a song for free before he built up a fanbase big enough to make a living at it. Rising above the din of others IS important when everybody has instant access to the great equalizer that is the internet.

    I'm not a libertarian but I do understand that the old ways of making money no longer apply, and thinking needs to change.

  3. zombie rotten mcdonald Says:

    As an architect, I will tell you that the "Design Competition" eliciting free work is not a recent development, and that the desperate chumps willing to line up for it have been with us for some time.

    Not to say that they are not more desperate these days, of course. People wanting to 'get their name out there' combined with people willing to work for food, combine to support the client ecosystem that comes to expect free or near-free work.

    However, crowd-sourcing is not a bad thing, or inherently unworkable. One of my favorite bands, the Mekons, has a fervent fan base that is just vocal and remunerative enough that they keep putting out albums and touring (although to be frank, knowing them, they would probably keep doing it regardless). A Milwaukee Ska-punk band, Something 2 Do, funded their most recent release through Kickstarter. Marillion, after being dumped by record labels, turned to leveraging fan support in releasing albums and financing tours.

    Again, I am a supposed creative professional, and I have nothing but scorn for people in my field who devalue the whole thing by working for free or reduced rates. They are either stupid or misguided, and either way they make it more difficult to earn a living at this.

    But your last sentence is a great payoff in this post. It's not just the new economy; I have been brought in to salvage projects that suffered from cheap or inexperienced architects, and it is not an easy thing to do; considering that I am licensed and insured, and I have to cover those bases more explicitly when I am not involved from the beginning.

    I always used to hear "O I know how I want to do the building, you just have to draw it up" only to be handed a rudimentary scrawl on graph paper with unrealistic dimensions and no consideration for structure or code. Now, I hear "I laid this out in CAD (some piece of 25 dollar crap) and it STILL doesn't accommodate codes or structure. I mean, there's a reason that professional CAD applications cost a thousand dollars or more….

    I agree that the idea of free content is pervasive and acidic. But I don't think it is a recent development, or something that came about in the digital realm.

  4. Xynzee Says:

    I keep tellin' you man. I'm not a sticker kinda guy. However, for a GnT coffee mug and I'm yours. ;)

  5. Ed W. Says:

    Re: your statement quoted below, OK, sure, but did you know that you could also not make very much money doing editing? My wife used to do copyediting for (some internet site) and apparently she made five whole American dollars for each article she edited. Five! In theory, one could burn through articles fairly rapidly, but in practice, the writing was so bad that her editing gig was more aggravating than lucrative, so she gave it up after a month.

    Also, I know internet conventional wisdom says that people won't pay for content, but I wonder how much that proposition has been tested. Maybe I'm just a complete sucker, but I am perfectly willing to pay for content I like. I have "Prime" memberships at several sites, because even my simple caveman brain understands that you get what you pay for (usually). This site doesn't have any banner ads or whatever the Google overlords are using these days, so it would appear that you're not in it for the $$$, but maybe you could do quarterly pledge drives or something to make it at least marginally worth your while, like a somewhat angry NPR. You might be surprised at whether/how much your readership is willing to support you.

    "If you think all those writers on big name sites (Slate, HuffPo, Gawker, etc.) are being paid more than a pittance or at all for the content they generate, you are mistaken."

  6. Middle Seaman Says:

    Making a living as an artist was always difficult. Van Gogh serves as a well known example. There always was a market for the few considered excellent and nothing for everyone else.

    Non payment or pennies on the dollar are way wider than in art. For two decades I augmented my academic income with money serving as an expert witness in court. It's a lengthy, stressful and contentious job. Yet, in way too many cases, the lawyer/company involved didn't want to pay in full. One ends up working for free for very rich people.

  7. Alex SL Says:

    All true, but what I always find astounding is that it works for us in science. The majority of the software tools we use were programmed by some colleague who thought "hey, would it not make my life easier if I had something that does X", wrote it and then made it public. While paid by their university or institute or whatever, of course, but for teaching or research, not for programming or coding.

    I guess that works because they know that everybody who uses it will cite the paper where they presented that tool to the scientific community, and having a paper with 500 citations is something that the dean will understand. Something like that does not work for novels or music, of course.

    While these specialized science tools would not exist if somebody did not build them for free (due to the minuscule size of the "market"), I feel a bit bad about using things like R or LibreOffice. A small voice in my head always wonders whether some programmer somewhere is unemployed because somebody else has done the same work for free. Then again, Microsoft does not seem to struggle.

  8. Tom Says:

    If you want to solve this issue: Collect evidence and report people to the police for stealing entertainment online.

  9. Rodrigo S Says:

    Ed,

    Long time reader and I love your blog but I've got to disagree with you on this one. More writers, artists, and musicians are making at least *some* money for their art, or getting exposure, than ever before. It's harder to be a mediocre professional, sure, but so what? If you're good you have more opportunity to build a franchise than you ever did when getting into those trades meant farming connections while waiting tables and hoping to get noticed by one of the people who could make your career. If you're not that good…well…at least intead of toiling in total obscurity you can acheive slightly more recognition and maybe make a little money.

    You sound like a friend of mine, who is an insurance broker, who wails about how health care exchanges are going to put him out of work because people won't need him to guide them through purchasing anymore. Sure, it sucks for him, but that's sort of missing the bigger picture.

  10. c u n d gulag Says:

    We don't value art, or artists, in this country.
    We value money.

    Now, once an artist "proves" him/her-self, and earns enough money, then, and only then, do we value them.
    The ones who don't, are considered 'losers.'

    'Money is speech,' not only in the political world, but also the world of the arts.

  11. LK Says:

    Trackback: https://plus.google.com/u/0/107223625335255206805/posts/Q8iLAvoZGED

  12. Isuxdixie Says:

    Re the insurance broker-that's pretty rich. Like a tax preparer or tax lawyer whining about simplifying the tax code

  13. deep Says:

    Ed. It's like Xynzee said. Ferchrissakes, I know you're a communist, but you got to monetize this shit. I'm sure many of us will buy a Джин и Вареники coffee mug or t-shirt.

    Even a book of your most popular posts. C'mon man. Проснись и запах перестро́йка!

  14. Johnny Sack Says:

    I generally don't begrudge people their successful scheme at making money (provided that they don't screw people over, etc.), especially if it's something like, say, acting as opposed to shipping thousands of jobs overseas. The few people at the top distort the reality for aspirants. Which is true for every profession-there are always people at the top of the income scheme-either because they're good, or some other dubious reason. Except if you idolize say, Roy Black and want to become a trial attorney, even if you don't become as good or famous as him, you can still make a decent living (or at least you used to be able to). The arts? Not so much. My knowledge of this sort of history is spotty, but at least going back to Shakespeare, patronage was how artists survived. When, before the economy crashed into the toilet, there were people with acting degrees and multiple performances under their belt waiting in line to audition for a show that doesn't pay, you know going in it's a labor of love.

  15. gwenhara Says:

    I don't mind crowdsourcing or Kickstarter in theory. In practice, however, what sucks is that I've backed several "successful" projects only to never see them actually happen. It's sad because a) I gave money and b) these were projects I really wanted to see come to fruition. Kickstarter doesn't guarantee that you will see the project actually happen nor do they guarantee that you'd get your money back if it doesn't happen.

    So my father-in-law sinks 100,000 into a restaurant that fails. He doesn't see the entire money refunded but he sees some. The 50$ I put into a CD project is just completely lost. I'm not sure what the stats are for Kickstarter, but I'm imagining a lot of people have been burned. As a result, I'm not keen to fund such projects anymore.

  16. gwenhara Says:

    I want to add, that 50$ is a lot of money to me. In the grand scheme of things, it might as well be 100,000$. I'm a humanities professor after all. Not like I'm making big bucks.

  17. Johnny Sack Says:

    Wow, I wasn't aware of the lack of transparency or accountability on Kickstarter. Sounded great in theory.

  18. anotherbozo Says:

    I never heard of Amanda Palmer, but this is a fascinating subject to me, a visual artist.

    c u n d gulag makes (as usual) a great point. The world's richest visual artists are also the best known: Damien Hurst and Jeff Koons. They are respected because they're powerful. (Jasper Johns and Thomas Kinkaid, a strange coupling, both used to be on that "richest" list)

    Part of me, a poor artist, enjoys the fact that they command such wealth. The millionaire collectors we often have to deal with, when they want our work, try to squeeze us for all we're worth, want us to shave our prices for them (as if a few thou really matter to them. but of course it's about Winning), get drawings thrown in gratis with larger work, etc. etc.

    A little closer to the topic, if you think pop musicians have it tough, or designers, think of "serious" composers. A classically trained composer friend wanted to put his new compositions on YouTube until I reminded him that it's easy to convert them to mp3's and steal them. Then why buy the CD he struggles to get produced commercially? Composers almost all have to teach. When they get commissions from (financially suffering) orchestras it's hardly very much unless they're already big names. Another friend achieved that, as a "composer in residence," but his piece was played once and has yet to be recorded.

    At bottom, making art is a joy, and it is indeed created without thought for compensation, with what David Foster Wallace said has the status of a "gift." But as Ed points out, someone is always willing to try to exploit and pervert that fact.

  19. Grumpygradstudent Says:

    I would like to invoke the great Weird Al as interviewed on the free podcast, WTF. Something along the lines of "it used to be that you toured to promote your records, but now you make records to promote your tour."

    I hear a lot of laments about the "state of the music business" from people who are already rich. It seems to me from my very low place on the music business totem pole that what these guys are really saying is that it's hard to GET RICH playing music today. It appears to me that one can still eek out a living playing rock/pop/country, as long as one is willing to tour pretty much constantly.

    Personally, the fact that it's now really hard for somebody to become a millionaire playing music does not strike me as a matter of pressing social concern.

    *Note: this doesn't apply to people who play weird kinds of music.

  20. ladiesbane Says:

    Anybody here old enough to remember rage for old musicians who got royally (ahem) screwed by record companies? Or feel a huge sense of liberation when artists started to sell songs direct to consumer online? I don't worry about musicians so much.

    My heart breaks for guys like Matt Bors and Dan Perkins (Tom Tomorrow), who are graphic comic artists losing income from papers who are dropping strips. Editorial comics have power in immediate circulation and can't wait for collection into paper-bound books to be relevant. But how to make a buck? Matt just crowdsourced enough funds to draw full time for a year. And it was a lot more convenient for us all than when he and Ted Rall scrounged donations for their trip to Afghanistan a few years ago. So Kickstarter = Right On in my book. No one is making you give to the panhandlers, amigo. But when it's good, it's good.

    As for free writing, I love the fact that some folks such as Robert Reich (who might be pretty well off from his day jobs) is willing to share his thoughts for free on HuffPost. I also like HuffPo for giving a national forum to people who aren't very well known. And sorry, but have you seen the people who have made tons of cash selling $1.99 e-books? I've read authors ranting about pricepoints — as in, "My book is worth more than the cost of a cup of coffee, damn it!" — but people who would never stand a chance at printed publication are making oodles of money self-publishing.

    We need to have a visionary discussion of the future of art-as-career in a universe where free replication is impossible to avoid. No artist ever gets paid what the work was worth, but if you're going to sneer at crowdsourcing, I hope you have a day job or will consider e-publishing. Do a podcast! I'd pay a couple of bucks a week for extra content.

    And get over any bashfulness about filthy lucre, too, which some of us consider to be distaste for us lower-class tradesmen. Shakespeare got to get paid, son.

  21. Johnny Sack Says:

    I happen to agree with Grumpygradstudent. The fact that it may be harder for a (good) band to become multi-millionaires like Soundgarden or Nirvana or Radiohead or even Rage (my examples might date me) is not something I give even the smallest fuck about. Making a living is what's important (and getting, uh, all those "privileges" like healthcare).

  22. Jerry Vinokurov Says:

    I think a lot of the commenters are missing the point that Ed is trying to make. Obviously I don't want to speak for him, but the way I read this post is not as a condemnation of the uses of technology to promote one's art in general. Using the Internet to promote your creative work is great! Why wouldn't you do it? The issue is places like HuffPo or Bleacher Report essentially demanding that its writers generate free content. The Amanda Palmer example is particularly egregious, because she basically asked for professionals to do free work for her; would she tour for free? I'm guessing she would not, but she expects others to do so.

    Incidentally, I would buy a джин и вареники t-shirt in a heartbeat, although it's worth noting that вареники is not "tacos," but more like "dumplings."

  23. acer Says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj5IV23g-fE

    The days of the arrogant rock-star writer are truly gone.

    I find it particularly ironic that FORBES is filling its website with self-promoting hacks working for "exposure."

  24. Tom Says:

    The contest that everybody loses – except the consumer. Access to cheap or free content is a tremendous boon to society. If content creators don't feel they are being adequately compensated for their work, they can stop creating and go get a boring job. The fact that they keep creating despite the poor pay means they get something out of it. Evidently the satisfaction that they derive from their work is sufficient compensation.

  25. Rodrigo S Says:

    @Jerry Vinokurov

    Just for the sake of discussion, are any of the outlets you mentioned forcing anyone to work for free? Don't a ton of people want to write for Slate, or HuffPo, or play backup for Amanda Palmer? If each of those outlets had to pay (or pay more), do you think most of the writers/musicians involved would get paid, or would the outlets work with a handful of professionals while the majority got no opportunity at all (this is how I understand things used to work)? Assuming there's no universe in which everyone who wants to can make a living at art, which arrangement is more fair?

  26. Jon Says:

    I didn't miss the irony of this post appearing on a website that has always been free and adamantly refuses to posts ads.

    I'd still like the opportunity to purchase a G&T pint, although I do realize that at your present scale, merch is a money losing proposition.

  27. 1douchebag Says:

    Here's an article about Steve Albini's thoughts on Amanda Palmer:
    http://stereogum.com/1151562/steve-albini-amanda-palmer-is-an-idiot/franchises/wheres-the-beef/

  28. bb in GA Says:

    The point is that the set of things that we must do (including maintaining our selves and our families at least at subsistence levels) and the set of things that we want to do (art, writing, music, pogo stick jumping across Europe,…, n-1, n) only intersect for a tiny percentage of humans.

    It seems to take almost a supernatural touch for those sets to be in union.

    To quote the Late Brother Dave Gardner:

    "Success is getting what you want…
    Happiness is wanting what you get."

    From the Comedy Album "Kick Thy Own Self"

    //bb

  29. Jimcat Says:

    I think that our friend bb has a good point.

    I like writing. I'm good at it. I made excellent money writing… when I was documenting network software for a financial firm. I've never been paid for my creative writing, but that won't stop me from writing for enjoyment. If you want to write for money, you absolutely can do so. But the law of supply and demand applies. You have to write what people are willing to pay you for.

    The Amanda Palmer case, on the other hand, is egregious to the point of hilarity if you follow the links and get to the actual amount of money involved. Let's leave Neil Gaiman out of it – based on what I've read of her personal life, Palmer's marriage to Gaiman doesn't seem like the sort in which both spouses say "what's mine is ours". But consider this: Palmer said that she asked for the volunteer musicians because she couldn't afford to spend the $35,000 that it would take to pay a touring band. Now, how much did she raise on Kickstarter to finance her album? About $1,200,000. Verb. sap. suff.

  30. Jerry Vinokurov Says:

    @Rodrigo S.

    Obviously, no one is legally obligated to work for free for HP or Slate, nor is anyone holding a gun to their heads. But this is classic race-to-the-bottomness we're talking about here. It's like saying that no one is forced to work for minimum wage either; true as far as it goes, but entirely useless when such expectations become the norm. If large outlets are able to effectively demand creative work for free, whether or not this is de jure coercion won't matter, because it will become the new standard and become de facto coercion.

    If each of those outlets had to pay (or pay more), do you think most of the writers/musicians involved would get paid, or would the outlets work with a handful of professionals while the majority got no opportunity at all (this is how I understand things used to work)? Assuming there's no universe in which everyone who wants to can make a living at art, which arrangement is more fair?

    I'm not sure how to answer this. I would think that yes, a smaller number of professionals would get paid for their work, like studio musicians used to. But I'm not sure that this is the right question, because the demands themselves work to shift expectations. There might be some transitional period during which a few people working for free are able to use that platform to vault to some level of prominence, but the end result of all of this is that once the new expectations fall into line, no one will get paid at all.

  31. komoriblue Says:

    Thanks, Ed. This post made me feel like a little less of a failure; although people mostly don't want to pay me for my work, I am occasionally hired as an assistant in situations where it would be pretty easy to find someone to do the work for free.

    Seriously, though. There are many days I wish I had continued to focus on illustration rather than switching to photography. I can't say if I will ever advance beyond the rank of 'mediocre' in either field, but at least not everyone is capable of illustration. The field of photography is so ridiculously over-saturated right now with people at all levels of ability.

    I will admit that I felt a mixture of excitement and frustration when I discovered that Indiana Public Media had pulled some of my images from my Flickr account to use in a news story. Yes, it's a little different as they are public media, and not the New York Times or something, but so many newspapers and publications are going the route of which you spoke, and using images they can access for free rather than paying someone full time, and there is no shortage of people willing to provide content to them. The excitement was short-lived, however, as nothing ever came of it, aside from being able to look back at my 15 minutes of photography fame.

  32. anadromy Says:

    A little while back I pitched a journamalism-y type piece to one of the major websites you mention above. They accepted. The piece was investigative. I had to cultivate sources, assure them that I would protect their anonymity, etc. It took several weeks to research and write. It wound up being well over 1500 words.

    They gave me 150 bucks for it. Ten cents a word. The local alt weekly pays 20–though it, of course, generates most of its content via unpaid interns.

    The state of things is fucked. Anyone trying to defend it with the by-now-hackneyed "things have changed" and "free content is a boon and if the writers don't like it they should get a real job" is an asshole. Sorry. But you are.

    Good writing, especially good journalism is hard fucking work. Really hard and the crap that's getting passed off in most places is substandard precisely because most people who would be doing good work have moved into PR and other terrible, soulless fields because it's the only way they can make a decent living. Trying to argue that this is somehow a GOOD thing? See above. Asshole.

  33. SeaTea Says:

    To me the fault lies in the consumer. If you're so fucking tone-deaf that you can't tell the difference between a tight band of well-rehearsed, seasoned professional musicians and a bunch of hacks who've never met before they set foot on stage to back up some cheap-ass singer? You deserve what you get to consume.

    The optimist in me likes to think that the cream will always rise to the top and that people will always recognize "better" from "mediocre" and pay for that difference. The success of so much crap over quality beats that sentiment out of me time and again.

  34. Andrew Says:

    "Jonathan Coulton released many a song for free before he built up a fanbase big enough to make a living at it. Rising above the din of others IS important when everybody has instant access to the great equalizer that is the internet."

    I think it's different when the artist is producing their body of work for themselves and promoting themselves, and when an artist is actively asking other people to produce *for* them, *for free*, under the guise of a contest or with only the promise of publicity.

    Coulton would not be nearly so awesome if his "Thing a Week" albums consisted of him asking netizens for songs that he would then curate, compile, and give away for free.

  35. Jimcat Says:

    To anadromy's comments above: you can call me an asshole if you like, but I'm an asshole who got his bills paid while writing what someone was offering me money to write. You're allowed not to like the system as it is, but I'm afraid I'm a little unclear on how calling people assholes is going to change it.

  36. mothra Says:

    Don't a ton of people want to write for Slate, or HuffPo, or play backup for Amanda Palmer?

    Of course they do. But I am willing to bet they'd like to get paid to do so as well. Slate and HuffPo make money off of advertisement. Why can't they pay their writers? I am guessing Amanda Palmer charged people for the privilege of coming to listen to her and her "crowdsourced" musicians–why should she keep all of the profit?

    Also, by the way, as far as I know, Ed has never asked anyone to write for his blog for free. Or for money.

  37. mel in oregon Says:

    sorry, but i don't feel sorry for you, or other professionals that make less than they think they should. for one thing, you aren't nearly as well informed as you pretend. but to be balanced, i catch a little tv when getting ready for work. some of the sports shows are so silly, it's beyond belief. arguing over if some coach was fired unfairly because of being black. that aint important, the guy was making over a million a year. or tune in the political channels where they worry about a woman in the house of reps not getting on a good committee. so what, you don't get to the house of representatives unless you are very well off financially, & have extremely good connections. hard to feel sorry for any wealthy person, when at least 150 million americans are having a horrible time financially. not to mention 2 billion people on this planet go to bed hungry every night.

  38. negative 1 Says:

    I really like this website, and generally agree with everything Ed says, but I REALLY hate this argument.
    Almost everyone you meet in life is a frustrated artist in some way. Probably more than half of them still do their art, for free, with hope of recognition only. Lord knows I do — and here's the thing. I didn't become an accountant because the work was awesome. I did it because I'd get paid. The reason I get paid is because no one would do this sh#t for free, because it's not fun or spiritually rewarding.
    Conversely, no one will ever read a word I write, because it's not that good. But I would kill for an audience, the same as everyone else. The argument you are advancing however is this – some people's situation is different because they're so much more talented. BS. No one is. Professional artists are demographically from higher income households because failing at a career doesn't carry as much risk for someone with a fall back. If you have a family to raise and no one else to pay the rent – bye bye option to delay a career by 5 years. That means that income, past and present, is effectively a barrier to entry into the production of art. However you're making the argument that those who aren't worried about the income side of it are somehow the ones who aren't concerned with art?
    The word for that effect is called psychic income – I get no recognition in my job, but I do get paid pretty well so I therefore value recognition a lot more than money. However, the same effect is why non-profits can still find workers despite paying peanuts. So if you're really against it, go to your local women's shelter, find their bookkeeper, and berate him/her for dragging down the pay scale. Until then, realize that with less barriers for entry more people provide art, and art is better – the rest is just whining that your job sucks, but saying you somehow deserve better than the rest of us.

  39. deep Says:

    @anadromy,

    What do you propose we do about it? Some kind of taxpayer-funded operation where writers are paid a living wage regardless of the quality or utility of their work?

  40. acer Says:

    @Jimcat

    This isn't Palmer's first offense, either:

    http://chunklet.com/index.cfm?section=blogs&ID=116&mode=comments

    We can quibble over the details. But the overall point seems to be that whether or not you've accepted the New Economic realities for artists, Palmer comes off like an entitled rich-kid twit exploiting her public, and her antics are particularly hard to stomach for artists grinding away in obscurity.

  41. Rodrigo S Says:

    @Jerry Vinokurov:

    "If large outlets are able to effectively demand creative work for free, whether or not this is de jure coercion won't matter, because it will become the new standard and become de facto coercion."

    I think there's another way of looking at it.

    A lot of writers who work for Slate or HuffPo or the like have other things going on – speaking engagements, consultancies, their own blogs, etc. Working for bigger sites sends a lot of traffic/attention their way that otherwise would be hard to get, so it's worth publishing even if they're not getting paid much. Ditto for people who are just starting out – the outlets instantly deliver them big audiences they otherwise couldn't get, which they can then figure out how to monitize. Established writers with big audiences (ie: a personal brand) have more bargaining power than you think, and once someone is bringing in the page views they can negotiate for a larger chunk of the revenue, or make money selling e-books promoted by their internet fame, etc.

    I think it's worth considering that the way writing at least is monetized may have changed but that people are still getting paid. Heck, if you can convince 1,000 people to send you $5 / month to get your monthly newsletter / novella of the month / pic of the month you've got a tidy little income, and that's easier to do than it ever was. So how relevant is it that content aggregators are not the ones signing the front of the check?

    I think the same things apply to other creative pursuits. You're less likely to be able to hand someone a and get a check, but there are other ways to make money and (imo) more than you'd get doing work for hire (if you're good).

    "There might be some transitional period during which a few people working for free are able to use that platform to vault to some level of prominence, but the end result of all of this is that once the new expectations fall into line, no one will get paid at all."

    I don't know. Not everyone who wants to play backup for Amanda Palmer is going to get that opportunity, nor everyone who wants to write for Slate, or who wants their art on a famous website, etc. Those are scarce opportunities that confer distinction, and that's why people are willing to do them for free (or, they're huge fans and think it's awesome.). I have to believe that fame is worth something when they DO want to get paid, and will always be worth something because in today's environment peoples' attention is about the scarcest resource there is.

    I think that especially in creative fields, obscurity is a much bigger problem than exploitation. If you have an audience and a little business sense you can make money. If you don't have an audience your hard work will be for nothing.

  42. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Rodrigo S,

    "More writers, artists, and musicians are making at least *some* money for their art, or getting exposure, than ever before."

    As someone who has spent much of his adult life as a professional musician I can state that while this is nominally true, it is somewhat of a devil's bargain. There is a lot more "music" accessible through the medium of the internet, but the vast majority of it is crap that generates no income whatsoever for its perpetrators. For those few musicians who do achieve a franchise, "income" is often laughable, it is simply a statistical fact that the average income for full-time professional musicians has been nosediving for quite some time now. When I started playing professionally in the early 70s, it was accepted practise to hire bands for a week or more at various types of venues (bars, clubs, strip joints etc.) for a wage. By the end of the 70s, I was averaging between $350 to $450 a week (more on the road) and was making more money playing music than most of my age-cohort friends who had real jobs. We thought it would go on forever. We were wrong.

    What happened was that the music industry did what every other industry did at the end of the 20th century; they downsized and outsourced. Why pay a band a wage as employees when you can make them "independent contractors" playing for the door. Suddenly your "business plan" becomes driving around the country sleeping in your van playing for beer money.

    @Johnnysack/Grumpygradstudent:

    "I happen to agree with Grumpygradstudent. The fact that it may be harder for a (good) band to become multi-millionaires like Soundgarden or Nirvana or Radiohead or even Rage (my examples might date me) is not something I give even the smallest fuck about. Making a living is what's important (and getting, uh, all those "privileges" like healthcare)."

    Apparently you've mistaken MTV for the music business, rather like insisting that because Bill Gates is a multi-bazzllionaire, all those laid-off or underpaid programmers in silicone valley are just a bunch of whiners. The world of professional musicians is much, much bigger than you apparently think it is and consists of more that highly paid "famous" rock bands. And even there, some of these people probably don't make nearly as much money as you think they do. By the time that enormous performance fee has had 15% lopped off the top before taxes by the booking agent, another 30% or so by the management company, wages for roadies, tech, and sound, and whatever the record company is clawing back out of the 'advances' that seemed so generous when they signed that usurious record contract (because the truly 'creative' people in the record business are the accountants) there's often not much left for the "talent."

    In 40 years in the music business, I've made money in a lot of different ways, almost none of them viable anymore. Clubs? You're working for the door. Theater pit work? Mostly canned music now, with rare exceptions. Studio work? I used to play of advertising jingles, which was a nice piece of change. That's almost all done by computers now. Movie soundtracks? Almost never use live instruments anymore. In fact "live" music in general is something most people have very limited experience with. Most chin-scratching articles on "the music business" don't even mention it, and when you ask people if they listen to a lot of music and they respond in the affirmative, it's a safe bet that they mean their I-Pod. Music (recorded music) is now a "personal consumable," like Mars bars. Except if you steal a Mars bar, you might actually get arrested.

    Live performance of music has been a dead end since before the internet. Symphony orchestras, which used to employ musicians through a year round wage with benefits, now (with the exception of really major orchestras like the NY Phil) pay "independent contractors" on a per service basis. So if you're going to the symphony in Memphis, or New Orleans, or Denver, those people you're listening to, who've sacrificed a childhood to practice and study and spent tens of thousands of adult hours perfecting their craft, are probably without health insurance.

    All of these processes pre-date the internet, so I'm not making a case that file-sharing has destroyed the music business for musicians (the "business" part of music always seems to make out fine, somehow. I mean, so far I've never seen a major record exec, or Spotify CEO, with a day job), but what it has done is destroy the only real shot most musicians have of making SERIOUS money, the hit record. As pointed out above, you used to tour to promote your record. Record companies often even underwrote those tours (while charging that expense against the artists furure royalties, of course) so bands got to ride around in a nice bus and bust up luxury hotel rooms (both of which ultimately came out of their own pockets). Now you make a record (at your own expense) so you can sleep in your van and play for beer money.

    What file-sharing and the internet HAVE done is conspire with all these other factors to make a life in music, as a full-time, professional musician, a near impossibility. And as in any other profession, if you can't make a living at it, it becomes dominated by amateurs and trust-fund babies. For musicians, working every night in front of an audience is how you hone your craft. Think of the Beatles grinding it out night after night in Rheeperbahn bars, or James Brown doing it to death on the chitlin circuit. And remember that those opportunities are no longer available, next time you wonder why so much music sucks nowdays.

  43. Grumpygradstudent Says:

    You're misinterpreting my comment. I'm talking specifically about touring musicians. Road musicians. People who grind it out. That, indeed, was my very point. I know people who make their living that way. It's hard, and they have to tour constantly, and they have to actually be good, but they pay their bills and then some.

    And as I pointed out in my comment, my point was relegated to music that broad swaths of people like to listen to. I agree that non-pop music genres have a much harder time. I have a friend with a ph.d. in baroque bassoon performance. If it weren't for his partner who has a day job, he'd be living under the poverty line.

    And my point also shouldn't be construed to mean that I think it's just as viable for other sorts of art. Obviously people who can't draw a crowd with their art don't have the option to tour.

  44. Isuxdixie Says:

    I agree with Rodrigo again. I'm not unaware of the realities of the music business, although it's not my area. I have the utmost sympathy for a touring band eking it out, not the elites of the system bemoaning the new music model, because it distorts the conversation and doesn't hurt them nearly as much as those less wealthy. And even if I overstate the income of people like Chris Cornell, and even though a large chunk is taken in by miscellaneous fees peculiar to the industry, they're still very well off, past the point they're entitled to complain, and not the people I sympathize with.

  45. Isuxdixie Says:

    By the way, I don't know why I'm using Chris Cornell as an example. By all accounts he's a decent guy and not a prima donna. In case anyone thought I disliked him.

  46. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Rodrigo, In reading your response to Jerry V., I'm noticing something very interesting, in that you seem to positing an "entrepreneurial" approach to art, something which I'm seeing more often in left-leaning discussions on this subject, and which I suspect is the area where liberalism and libertarianism meet. Because the truth is, most people on the left would never advocate an independent, entrepreneurial model for, say, english profs. But they have no trouble advocating it for artists.

    The truth is, I rather enjoyed being a freelance musician in my 20s, because there was plenty of work. One gig just seemed to lead to another, and I could always count on the phone ringing for something. Plus I was doing most of this work in Canada, where I had guaranteed healthcare, and a pension through the musicians union. I now live in the United States where, as a self-employed freelancer I have a choice between no health insurance at all, or a useless "private plan" with usurious premiums. And we all know what's happened to unions in this country, so there goes the AFM pension.

    What I'm saying is, it's unrealistic to expect people to take the kind of risks we demand of freelancers in America, regardless of what they do. And the fact that we refuse to pay artists fairly for their efforts (including benefits and health care) speaks very loudly to how little we truly value what they do. We unhesitatingly shell out hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for internet service, software, computers etc. but 90 cents on i-tunes for a track is too much? Or we offer up some bullshit rationalization about how "nirvana is rich already"? Puhleaze.

    I like to reverse the paradigm, myself. The day I see a musician playing music as a "day job" so he can practise dentistry for free is the day I'll accept these kinds of arguments.

  47. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Grumpygradstudent,

    "I know people who make their living that way. It's hard, and they have to tour constantly, and they have to actually be good, but they pay their bills and then some"

    Some people do do this, and as you point out, it's hard. It's also not a viable long term career. I'm guessing the people you're speaking of are either in their 20s or, possibly, their early-to-mid thirties. I'd bet serious money that, in ten years, they won't still be doing this, and that they'll be out of "professional" music.

    So, what we wind up with is a model similar to professional basketball, where a very, very small percentage of players truly "strike it rich" and have significant careers, and these "successes" are used as bait to lure in all the other schmucks who'll play for a few years, never make any real money, and then find themselves tossed aside at age 30 with no marketable skills wondering what the hell happened. Surely you're not suggesting this is a GOOD thing?

  48. Grumpygradstudent Says:

    Yes, they are young. And they have no children. I admit it would be very hard to do that sort of grinding for an entire career.

  49. Rodrigo S Says:

    @mothra:

    "Of course they do. But I am willing to bet they'd like to get paid to do so as well. Slate and HuffPo
    make money off of advertisement. Why can't they pay their writers?"

    Actually, I think I was wrong and Slate does pay its writers. Though quickly googling a few names reveals them to be accomplished individuals in their own rite, many of whome have other careers. Here's a discussion of how HuffPo works: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/10/huffington-post-bloggers_n_821446.html

    It seems that they pay their writers, and allow a ton of people to blog on their site.

    tl:dr – I was wrong about how both HuffPo and Slate work.

    "I am guessing Amanda Palmer charged people for the privilege of coming to listen to her and her "crowdsourced" musicians–why should she keep all of the profit?"

    Why shouldn't she? She's lending her fame to musicians who themselves seem to think the exposure is worth more than playing her show for one night. The arrangement seems to work for everybody except possibly the hypothetical group she might have paid $35k to tour with her, and this way a bunch of bands get some benefit instead of just the one. Do you know their business better than they do?

  50. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Grumpygradstudent,

    "Personally, the fact that it's now really hard for somebody to become a millionaire playing music does not strike me as a matter of pressing social concern"

    Agreed. You'll notice I'm not complaining about not being a millionaire, I'm complaining about the fact that people in general, while often professing to really really love music and listen to tons of it, in fact don't value it any more highly that the water that comes out of their kitchen faucet, ie it's just "there." And this is in large part due to a social paradigm built up in the ppost-napster era that says music should be "free."

    Well, it's not free to the people who produce it. Instruments, training, studio fees, pressing costs ettc. all cost real money, so the question for the working musician becomes, how do we monetize what we do? I don't claim to have any earth shaking answers here, I'm just trying to clarify the argument.

    It would appear from this and oother discussions that the consensus is that "artists," be they writers, painters musicians etc. are indeed vital to a civilized society, yet we unhesitately demand that they live within an entrepreneurial free-market paradigm so brutal that Ayn Rand would be appalled by it. I find that very curious and not a little depressing.

    "It appears to me that one can still eek out a living playing rock/pop/country, as long as one is willing to tour pretty much constantly."

    It would appear so, for a very small group of people willing to put up with life-stresses and work lloads and financial insecurity of a truly frightening scale. But at the risk of going all grandpa Simpson on you, I have to say it didn't used to be this bad. Being a full time misician was far from easy 40 years ago, but there was way more work, it paid better, and there was less insecurity. Of course that was true in most other areas of American employment 40 years ago as well.

  51. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Rodrigo S.

    "Why shouldn't she? She's lending her fame to musicians who themselves seem to think the exposure is worth more than playing her show for one night. The arrangement seems to work for everybody except possibly the hypothetical group she might have paid $35k to tour with her, and this way a bunch of bands get some benefit instead of just the one.

    Ah yes, a classic "job creator" argument.

    Do you know their business better than they do?"

    After 40 years, I think I'm pretty up on business practises in the industry, and this little gem is appallingly exploitative and skeevy even by industry standards, and believe me, that's setting the bar pretty low.

  52. negative 1 Says:

    @One Dissillusioned Guy
    "Well, it's not free to the people who produce it. Instruments, training, studio fees, pressing costs ettc. all cost real money, so the question for the working musician becomes, how do we monetize what we do? I don't claim to have any earth shaking answers here, I'm just trying to clarify the argument."
    The argument is whether or not you would still do it if there were no way to monetize it. That leads to the following being somewhat of a fallacy: "It would appear from this and oother discussions that the consensus is that "artists," be they writers, painters musicians etc. are indeed vital to a civilized society". I would argue that all we are saying is that art is vital, not that it is somehow vital that one person be precluded from all other activities to make it, when virtually EVERYONE makes it for free.
    Besides, let's say I agree with you — how do we pick who gets to be an artist then? The market is to vulgar, fine, what else? We're all somehow supposed to just view genius and immediately form a consensus around its existance, and agree that the person making the work is so innately talented that left alone they will repeat the same level of proficiency?

  53. Sarah Says:

    What slays me is the way many consumers will make demands on writers and other artists because their output isn't coming out as fast as they would like. This is bad enough for authors who actually sell their writing (bear in mind that all writers can't be J.K. Rowling), but bloggers and other writers who make much or all of their content available for free get these complaints too. Neil Gaiman (who is married to Amanda Palmer, as pointed out above, and which is highly ironic) wrote a piece about the way many readers have entitlement issues about their favorite authors.

  54. Rodrigo S Says:

    @One Dissillusioned Guy:

    It's not so much that I'm advocating an entrepreneurial mindset for artists specifically (though a lot of people do, and I agree it's kind of weird), it's that I think that building a practice instead of having a job is the only thing that can provide real stability. Otherwise you're just working for the man, and working for the man will always be a shitty deal.

    "What I'm saying is, it's unrealistic to expect people to take the kind of risks we demand of freelancers in America, regardless of what they do. And the fact that we refuse to pay artists fairly for their efforts (including benefits and health care) speaks very loudly to how little we truly value what they do."

    I guess I would answer that more artists than ever are crowding into the game in some shape or form, so it's hard to see how they're not being paid fairly. When I think of unfair pay, I think of 600,000 semi-skilled manufacturing jobs unfilled because anyone who can get the skills for modern manufacturing laughs at the idea of starting at $10/hour without benefits. I don't think of "can't get in the door to get a gig because of the asses crammed in the foyer ahead of me". It may not be for everybody, and I definitely think the health insurance situation in the U.S is utter bullshit and stops a lot of people from going freelance, but it's not unfair just because it's harder to make a living on the lower wrungs of the professional ladder.

  55. Rodrigo S Says:

    @One Dissillusioned Guy

    "After 40 years, I think I'm pretty up on business practises in the industry, and this little gem is appallingly exploitative and skeevy even by industry standards, and believe me, that's setting the bar pretty low."

    I think all the bands who will get to play with Amanda Palmer who would NOT have gotten to do that if she'd hired just one would also give you a slightly different definition of exploitation, and would probably not be very grateful if she decided to "do the right thing" and just hire one for the tour. Would it be better if she symbolically paid each band $850 (assuming there are 40 bands, and staying within the hypothetical 35k budget)?

  56. Jerry Vinokurov Says:

    @Rodrigo S:

    A lot of writers who work for Slate or HuffPo or the like have other things going on – speaking engagements, consultancies, their own blogs, etc.

    I suspect that the number of people who have speaking engagements is pretty small. Those aren't the people it's necessary to worry about.

    Working for bigger sites sends a lot of traffic/attention their way that otherwise would be hard to get, so it's worth publishing even if they're not getting paid much. Ditto for people who are just starting out – the outlets instantly deliver them big audiences they otherwise couldn't get, which they can then figure out how to monitize.

    But this is an argument that can just as easily be extrapolated to any profession! Witness the pervasive use of unpaid interns in the legal profession. You could just as well say, "well, they're acquiring useful skills." Well, yes, they are, but that's a fundamentally unfair situation, because they're performing actual labor which they should be compensated for.

    The problem with arguing that people should accept payment in something other than money is that it really is a race to the bottom. You end up in situations where the non-monetary "compensation" has been normalized, and now who are you, college graduate with a degree in electrical engineering, to think you have the right to be compensated for your labor? This isn't something that's going to affect just artists, it's something that trickles down to all sectors.

    Established writers with big audiences (ie: a personal brand) have more bargaining power than you think, and once someone is bringing in the page views they can negotiate for a larger chunk of the revenue, or make money selling e-books promoted by their internet fame, etc.

    Yes, but established writers are a small part of the overall distribution. You can't bet on the tail; those are people who are succeeding anyway. So let's say that out of the large stable of writers who work for little or nothing for an organization like HP, a few rise to the top. What happens to the rest of them? They continue getting nothing. That's a system that endorses the success of the few at the price of the failure of the many.

    I think it's worth considering that the way writing at least is monetized may have changed but that people are still getting paid. Heck, if you can convince 1,000 people to send you $5 / month to get your monthly newsletter / novella of the month / pic of the month you've got a tidy little income, and that's easier to do than it ever was. So how relevant is it that content aggregators are not the ones signing the front of the check?

    Can you provide any examples of this happening? If it were that easy, I don't think we'd be having this discussion.

    Not everyone who wants to play backup for Amanda Palmer is going to get that opportunity, nor everyone who wants to write for Slate, or who wants their art on a famous website, etc. Those are scarce opportunities that confer distinction, and that's why people are willing to do them for free (or, they're huge fans and think it's awesome.). I have to believe that fame is worth something when they DO want to get paid, and will always be worth something because in today's environment peoples' attention is about the scarcest resource there is.

    But that's the whole problem! The scarcity of such positions means that a lot of people are going to be willing to work effectively for free on the outside chance that they're going to land such a spot. This creates a very obvious Prisoners' Dilemma-type scenario, where everyone is defecting. That might be a good thing for an individual defector, if they make it big, but it's clearly a negative-payoff situation for society in aggregate, precisely owing to this dynamic.

    I think that especially in creative fields, obscurity is a much bigger problem than exploitation. If you have an audience and a little business sense you can make money. If you don't have an audience your hard work will be for nothing.

  57. Jerry Vinokurov Says:

    Bah! The last paragraph in my response was from Rodrigo, but I forgot to delete it in my reply. Whoops.

  58. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Rodrigo S.

    "I don't think of "can't get in the door to get a gig because of the asses crammed in the foyer ahead of me"."

    Actually, there are often a LOT of asses crammed in the foyer ahead of you. Most of them belong to kids raised on "American Idol," which posits that "talent" is something inbred which needs no development but only "discovery." These are generally people with minimal musical skills who will work for literally nothing, just "exposure," and since the greater American public have been largely raised on corporatized crap "music" shoved at them everyday for free, this actually works.

    "When I think of unfair pay, I think of 600,000 semi-skilled manufacturing jobs unfilled because anyone who can get the skills for modern manufacturing laughs at the idea of starting at $10/hour without benefits."

    I'm not sure if people are exactly "laughing" at the idea but yeah, if you're highly skilled, it doesn't seem unreasonable to me that you might want to be properly commensurated for the effort you've put into yourself (see my opening paragraph). And frankly, if all this bullshit about "the markets" were really true, those jobs wouldn't be unfilled. The way it's SUPPOSED to work in the supply-and-demand universe is that when supply is down, the price goes up. The fact that this isn't happening is curious, don't you think?

    "I think all the bands who will get to play with Amanda Palmer who would NOT have gotten to do that if she'd hired just one would also give you a slightly different definition of exploitation, and would probably not be very grateful if she decided to "do the right thing" and just hire one for the tour. Would it be better if she symbolically paid each band $850 (assuming there are 40 bands, and staying within the hypothetical 35k budget)?"

    Like many people, you have a fundemental misunderstanding of how the world of professional music works. When, say, Beyonce mounts a tour, she doesn't go out and hire a "band" to back her up. Rather an ensemble is contracted from the pool of professional musicians that make their living in this and many other ways, usually based out of major music centers like NYC and Los Angeles. Back in the day, that pool consisted of some of the finest players in the country, many of whom spent their lives in the studios doing freelance album work (about the most lucrative gig in the business then) for the major labels, and would never have dreamed of going out on the road (that was for second tier players, like me). Because so much of this kind of work has dried up (read "is done by machines now") you'll often see some really heavy players in the touring bands of major artists. Doug Wimbish, the current bassist in the Rolling Stones, is a good example. Believe it or not, even though he's a "member" of a "world famous rock band," he doesn't make enough money touring with the stones once every five years to sit around on his ass the rest of the time, and lo and behold, when Aretha Franklin played New Orleans rrecently, there he was in the "core" group (I was contracted, along with a number of local auxillary horn and string players, for that one gig only).

    Which brings us to my second point, that of quality. I'm assuming this woman had a "core" rhythm section for the whole tour, if not, dress rehearsals must have really been a nightmare. I did read that she used local string players. When I travelled with Motown acts in the 80s, they hired string players from local symphonies, and thus got highly trained musicians who could read flyshit. What Palmer wound up with, at least here in New Orleans (a friend attended the gig) was a bunch of half-assed amateur would-be rock stars who couldn't play their way out of a paper bag. Because, as you point out with your "skilled labor" paradigm, no trained professional is going to work for nothing but the dubious and illusory benefit of "exposure" with this woman. I guarantee you not one person remembers or cares who did that gig with her, outside of the friends and family of those who did. This kind of "exposure" has no discenable value in the real-world music business. None.

    I honestly do not understand why any professional musician would "organize" a tour this way. Any additional money/savings would, to me, be vastly outbalanced by the huge drag of working with half-assed players with minimal rehearsal time. It would be a huge drag and many perfomances would be an utter shambles. But then, from what I've heard of Palmer's "music," it would be hard to tell.

  59. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    Once you sift through all this extraneous detail though you have exactly the same paradigm extant in America at large over the last 30 years; a massive transfer of wealth to the very top percentile. The music business (or the writing business, or the visual art business) has undergone an identical transformation as that of the country. The wealth at the very top has multiplied manyfold, and everyone else is either stalled out or sinking. The only difference is, you very seldom get liberal/progressive types defending this state of affairs in general, but you often find they're perfectly okay with it in the arts.

  60. Rodrigo S Says:

    @One Dissillusioned Guy

    "The way it's SUPPOSED to work in the supply-and-demand universe is that when supply is down, the price goes up. The fact that this isn't happening is curious, don't you think?"

    I think it's a process that is working itself out. Employers will bitch and moan and try to make do while short staffed and then eventually pay anyway.

    It's cool to read about how the music business works – I didn't know a lot of that. If it turns out that crowd sourcing your backup musicians is a really bad idea, I imagine it'll be back to business as usual for the next gig (or maybe she'll just go away).

  61. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Roderigo S.

    "Would it be better if she symbolically paid each band $850"

    I apologize for beating this to death, but this fundemental misconception of how the real music business actually functions is a particular pet peeve of mine. In particular because this kind of practise ("crowdsourcing" sidemusicians) has the potential to directly affect one of my own sources of income. I guess the equivalent would be a hard-copy magazine like, say "Time," or maybe on a more artistic/lit level, the "Oxford American," suddenly deciding to stop paying their contrbutors with money, instead opting for "hugs" and "exposure." I suppose it's possible, or even likely, that'd you'd get some good writing this way, but I'd feel a bit funny laying out my hard earned money to read people who did it for free, in the same way as when I buy a (not inexpensive) concert ticket I don't think it's too much to ask that actual professional musicians be involved in the performance.

    But let's do it your way and say, just for the sake of argument, that there are benefits beyond the monetary attached to this type of "exposure." What would they be, exactly? Would Mr. Big Time Music Mogul attend the show, see the local wankers sawing aawy in futility at Amanda's underrehearsed tunes and say, "gee, I bet when these guys aren't busy fucking up somebody elses music with their crappy musical skills, they've got some really killer original stuff to play?" Does that sound about right?

    Cause I assure you, if they had the skills to come in and read down somebody else's music cold and perform it perfectly with one short rehearsal, they'd already be on several contractors "first call" list. Here's how it works:

    Artist arrives in town the day of the performance, with musical director and (sometimes, but not always) "core" rhythm section in tow. Musicians hired by a local contractor arrive at the venue for a one or two hour rehearsal (which often doubles as a sound check) to read through the artists arrangements. The MD will rehearse any trouble spots briefly, but you are expected to get the music off the page and into the listers ears pretty much perfectly the first pass. If you fuck up, well…the people who contract these things have a very low tolerance for musical mistakes (as do artists and their MDs) and you will not be called back, possibly ever. For this you will receive union scale or the equivalent. This varies according to jurisdiction, but it's usually around $150 for a two hour call, plus another $150 for the actual performance.

    This isn't George Paul John and Ringo, nor is it an indie rock band "touring" in their van and billetting with fans. It's how professional musicians make (some) of their income. It takes a very high skill level to cut these kinds of gigs, and the people who do are usually conservatory trained, or some kind of ad hoc equivalent. The fact that Amanda Palmer would entrust her "music" to amateurs in this way speaks volumes about how llittle value she places on it. The fact that she could easily hire professionals bespeaks of either a pathological cheapness or a complete contempt for her audience. Or both.

  62. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Roderigo,

    "I think it's a process that is working itself out. Employers will bitch and moan and try to make do while short staffed and then eventually pay anyway"

    Or they'll simply change the rules. We had an excellent example of this here after Katrina, when debris-removal contractors complained that Americans "would do" the hard, dirty work of cleaning up after the federal flood. And they won't, not for $30 a day, anyway. Theoretically, this massive labor shortage should have driven wages up. Instead, the feds relaxed labor laws to allows thousands of "gust workers" (mostly from latin America, but some from as far away as China) to come in and work for sub-minimum wages. Cool, huh?

  63. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    Sorry, that should read "Americans WOULDN'T do"

  64. Nick Says:

    So, it looks to me like you are wrong on the facts about Amanda Palmer's actions and intentions. First important point is that she has a permanent, paid band. Second is read this link, she recognised and responded to this issue months back by paying everyone and giving some explanation of the ideas behind her original intent.

    http://www.amandapalmer.net/blog/20120919/

  65. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    Ach, and "guest workers," not "gust workers"

  66. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Nick,

    It looks more to me like she tried to save some money through underhanded means, got caught in a huge stink, and then furiously backpedalled. And is probably royally pissed off right now at having had to shell out the same money to amateurs that she could have paid to professionals in the first place, who would have done a better job with less hassle.

    I'm actually not totally unsympathetic, because the cost of touring with large ensembles continues to go through the roof, particularly since record companies long ago ceased underwriting some or all of an artists touring costs. But trying to rationalize this sort of thing as some kind of hippy-trippy rock-out-with-the-fans party is something that would have got you burned at the stake by Abbie Hoffman-led Yippies at Woodstock. I hope young people haven't gotten THAT gullible.

  67. Nick Says:

    @Disillusioned – "hippy-trippy rock-out-with-the-fans party" … I'm guessing you don't pay much attention to how Amanda Palmer works? As far as I can see, her entire schtick is rocking out with the fans. Whether that is ninja-gigging acoustic concerts in libraries (Which she did when she was last in Australia, there was one for example in the Melbourne Central library, unpaid, unadvertised, and awesome), or signboarding karaoke rather than cancelling a concert when she lost her voice. The fans don't just accept it, they want it. The degree of fan participation and interaction between A(F)P and her fanbase is nothing like what I have seen from any other act. Unique.

    Also, with the crowdsourced musicians. Her band, the 'Grand Theft Orchestra', is paid, full time. They are all the people she needs to play concerts. By crowdsourcing more, whether paid or not, she is doing something she doesn't need to do, and getting fans/friends/aspiring musicians exposure and airtime. There was no saving money option, that would have involved not adding unneeded extra musicians. There was, I agree, a huge stink. I'm not convinced that it was justified, but I think its a fair and honest reaction from her to respond as she did. Seems poor to argue that she is 'probably royally pissed' and so on… What grounds do you have for thinking that?

  68. Rodrigo S Says:

    @Jerry Vinokurov:

    Are unpaid internships still a thing? I've worked in a couple of fortune 500 companies (financial firms, not law firms) in the last five years and they both had policies that they wouldn't do unpaid internships. FWIW, shepherding the interns was such a pain in the ass that they should have paid us instead of the other way around. =P But that aside, the reason law firms can get away with it (or were getting away with it) is because law schools turn out waaaaaay more grads than there are open positions.

    I don't think electrical engineering is a field where you're ever going to find people working for free. In general, jobs that are not callings, that require specialized skills and where quality is important, are not going to get done by volunteers.

    I think a lot of people are just not good enough at art/music/writing/etc to make a living at it. You write:

    "You can't bet on the tail; those are people who are succeeding anyway. So let's say that out of the large stable of writers who work for little or nothing for an organization like HP, a few rise to the top. What happens to the rest of them? They continue getting nothing. That's a system that endorses the success of the few at the price of the failure of the many."

    Before any writer hits it, they're unknown just like everyone else. There isn't "a system" per se that is keeping people down or is for some reason taking from the unsuccessful to give to the successful. The ones who have whatever it takes to get an audience draw revenue and get themselves paid. The ones who don't, don't. It's not egalitarian but in that sense it's fair. It's only gotten more fair since self promotion and self publishing became viable things.

    As far as examples of people doing it, go to Smashwords and browse around. Or check out the $3 or less ebooks on Amazon and see which authors have a bunch of titles. Or check out Deviant Art. That's not even counting newsletters with niche audiences. There are a bunch that cater to sophisticated investors (disclaimer: because the analysis/perspective are useful, not because it's art).

    It's not that it's easy to build an audience, but there's nobody holding you back from doing it. The point of working for free sometimes is that it can help you along with that, not that you're going to do it all the time or forever or anything. It's one opportunity, not your whole career, and you're free not to participate if you don't think it's worth it for you.

  69. Johnny Sack Says:

    So do we further subsidize art? And how? I'm a firm believer (call me a moocher, entitled human) that everyone is entitled to FDR's Second Bill of Rights (in theory, since they haven't been formally recognized as such, things like Medicare notwithstanding): housing, healthcare, education, social security, and employment for anyone willing and able to work and at a living wage.

    And as to the last bit, I think that maybe we should subsidize artists. We should definitely have some sort of mandated right to employment at a living wage (via constitutional amendment if I had my way). I believe everyone is entitled to a living. But I have never believed that everyone is entitled to a living doing whatever they want to do. If that were the case, then I'd like to file a complaint.

  70. Southern Beale Says:

    God, THANK YOU THANK YOU for this post, Ed. As a writer I can't tell you how much this is my life.

    What's funny is that 20 years ago or so, someone would say, "I can't pay but you get exposure" and that MIGHT have meant something. Today people say that and I just want to laugh. Any asshole can put up a blog and get "exposure."

    But lord, go to Craigslist and read the writing/editing listings, they are full of people wanting shit for free, or nearly free. And then I wrote about this dick corporate move by Time Inc. back in 2009. I swear to God if it's not being dicked around on your pay, it's being dicked around on your pay.

    Freelancing sucks, but no one is hiring writers these days so all I can do is pass up the content mills and try to write for people who pay a modicum above sweatshop wages.

  71. Johnny Sack Says:

    So then, to jump off of Rodrigo's last comment. We should subsidize artists and such (how I don't know, but I'm not against it in principle) to the extent that we value art, not that we believe that people are entitled to make a living with their art (note well I believe you're entitled to a living, just not at whatever you want to do).

    And I'm not a libertarian, but I believe in the free market when it comes to ideas. We should maybe try to level the playing field, help struggling artists get more exposure. But if art is critically and commercially rejected it, the marketplace of ideas rejected it (just like the marketplace of ideas rejects crackpot theories (with notable exceptions, such as supply side economics, but I think people are coming around).

    Note that I don't literally believe in that, there can definitely be important works that are not popular or accepted by the elite critics, but I think it's an illustrative idea-if you're bad at being a lawyer or a doctor or engineer or electrician, I don't think anyone would argue that you're entitled to keep doing those things if you suck and can't get licensed-find another line of work. Why should art be any different? If that's the case, I went to law school when my goal of becoming a screenwriter and novelist didn't pan out. Maybe I should drop what I'm doing and get some sort of hypothetical artist subsidy in this alternate universe.

  72. Nick Says:

    @JohnnySack – Some places get closer than others. For example, NZ has this http://www.artistdevelopment.co.nz/pace.php It is a welfare system for artists, operating in conjunction with the normal welfare schemes, but with a different set of requirements in order to recognise that artists will often have their ability to practice their art curtailed by being forced into any employment on offer.

  73. Southern Beale Says:

    @Grumpgradstudent:

    You know, I work in the music business. I don't know too many artists who do what they do to be millionaires. In fact, I can't think of anyone. They DO want to be able to pay their rent, feed themselves and their families, and just earn a fucking living. Which, with everyone expecting shit for free, is pretty fucking impossible to do.

  74. Johnny Sack Says:

    Maybe to counteract this struggle and work for free in the hopes of making it to the very small percent of elite (musicians, actors, what have you), we can give federal subsidies to some such people. But for a limited amount of time-the subsidy counteracts the unfair and degrading working for free expectation on the off chance you catch a break. But it ain't a free ride forever, and if you don't make it, you don't make it. Find another occupation and pursue your art on the side.

  75. Johnny Sack Says:

    @ Nick-interesting system. I don't know if the U.S. ever has or ever will be a country that values art/artists enough to do that though.

  76. Grumpygradstudent Says:

    Well, the laments I've read have come from guys like Billy Corigan and John Mellencamp, and their definition of making a living is clearly different than mine. I'm glad to get some insider perspective here from folks who are more in the trenches though.

  77. Mel Says:

    Is this post is a joke?
    "…Amanda Palmer is probably the worst person on Earth, what with the fiasco of asking for a million bucks from her fans to record an album…"

    Basic economics: exchanging money for goods and services.
    In AP's Kickstarter case people who wanted to hear and own her upcoming album paid her money and in return received concert tickets, LPs, electronic downloads of her album (or whatever it was they wanted to pay for) at a reduced rate and with the knowledge that their pledges allowed Amanda and her (paid) band to record said album without having to sign up with a record company that would not allow her to do unpaid "ninja" gigs.

    This is not rocket science, it's capitalism.

  78. Southern Beale Says:

    I wonder how to solve this problem, not just for musicians but writers like me, photographers like my sister, everyone in the creative field. What if there were a tax or surcharge levied on everyone's ISP, make it 10 cents or something small and painless. Would that help? How would that get distributed back to the creators? Songwriters have BMI and ASCAP and SEASAC but there isn't anything comparable for writers or photographers or artists.

    Anyone have any ideas?

  79. eau Says:

    You know that bit in "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang", where Kilmer breaks it to Downey, jr that he was only ever brought on board to knock a couple million off Brad Pitt's appearance fee?

    That, but with instruments.

    For the written word version of the story, check out what Amazon is doing to those "self-published" ebook authors who sold all those millions of Kindles by offering free copies of their work (spoiler: Amazon is fucking them over, hard).

    See also: Internships, "work experience", "volunteer positions". No, not a new phenomenon.

  80. Mike N. Says:

    I always feel that "adjunct professorships" are the crowdsourcing of the academic world. The return on investment is awful for the participant, but there's some imagined promise of greater rewards (beyond the paltry salary) that simply doesn't exist.

  81. Southern Beale Says:

    I'm less inclined to support some kind of NEA-On-Steroids program for artists like they have in Canada and Scandinavia just because I've seen how that works and it's not good. It does tend to support a lot of crap. It just does, sorry but it's the truth. I'd rather there be some kind of regulatory/copyright law/intellectual property changes allowing artists and other creators to OWN their work. But I'm afraid the cat's been let out of the bag and the Ownership Society isn't likely to give up their free lunch.

  82. Rodrigo S Says:

    @Southern Beale:

    While you're levying surcharges, don't forget to tack on a cent or two for Economists.

  83. sticklr Says:

    Mike N:

    Yes. Adjunct professors are the crack cocaine of higher education (disclosure: I'm a tenured history professor). We use them when we have to in our department, but the university pays the lowest stipend in our metropolitan area, and it's frankly terrible for everyone – students, the regular faculty, and the adjuncts.

    There's an argument to be made for the flexibility this allows (regular faculty gets a sabbatical semester, gets cancer, resigns and goes somewhere else), but the conditions are wretched. No office or a shared cubicle hellhole, adjunct on campus two days a week (and probably teaching three or four other classes elsewhere), wretched quality control, and on and on. But there's lots of humanities PhDs out there so the system runs on its own nefarious self-generating momentum.

    Colleges and universities that use adjuncts are playing with crack: easy to start, damned hard to stop. And everybody loses if it gets out of hand.

  84. Johnny Sack Says:

    @Southern Beale: That was always something my neighbor (a guitar/piano teacher who derived a great majority of his income from teaching and thus was usually home a lot-with degrees from Berklee and Frost by the way, really kickass musician) would vent to me and my parents about growing up. The music industry and how it takes a big wet bite out of your ass as a musician (publishing is no different), and how prior to Led Zeppelin or something it was virtually unheard of for a band to leverage its popularity a record company with demands and threaten to walk, etc. I wonder if that sort of thing is becoming less problematic thanks to the supposed (I don't know firsthand) decline of the traditional publishing/recording models. I'm not faux-chin stroking, just really curious.

  85. acer Says:

    Parting note. Ed: I hope you become rich from your writing. Just don't ever sign on with Freethought Blogs. Boy, does that place suck shit compared to this.

  86. acer Says:

    Not that there's anything wrong with actually sucking shit.

  87. Isuxdixie Says:

    Yeah Ed. If you sell out, just don't…become a libertarian. :P

  88. Southern Beale Says:

    @Johnny Sack:

    Well, record labels are hurting big time right now. I know, cry me a river, I'm not saying we should feel sorry for them. But their entire distribution model has been upended. File sharing and all that, the genie has been let out of the bottle and there's no looking back. And all they can do is stupid shit like arrest some 12 year old for sending her BFF a song over the e-mail.

    Musicians and artists always made their big money off of touring. And that's still true. Record sales and radio airplay were how you got your name and music out there so you could sell tickets to the tour.

    I live in Nashville, I have a lot of friends who are songwriters. There is still money in publishing. There is an industry infrastructure set up to collect that money, to enforce those copyrights, to protect the creators. I have a friend who co-wrote a song recorded by an obscure group that released one album and was seen no more — she's still getting residuals. A co-write on one song recorded by a failed band on a label no longer in existence. Amazing.

    There's nothing like it any other creative field, and that's because the mechanism was set up long ago. ASCAP was created in the early days of New York live theater, before music was recorded. It copyrighted sheet music, originally. BMI was created in the early days of radio. In both cases the technology drove the copyright. In both cases the technology drove the copyright enforcement.

    Well, we've got a big technological change now and I expect the copyright will follow. But it's going to be broader, it has to. This isn't just a problem for musicians and writers. It's a problem for programmers, gamers, you name it. Hell, the copyright issue related to the pharmaceutical industry is a big monstrous issue.

    We live in interesting times. Meanwhile, little bugs like me just want to get paid. Sigh.

  89. robo Says:

    One of the disturbing threads running through this conversation is the attitude of some posters that goes something like this: "Yeah, it sucks for them, but my job sucks too and I wish I could (write/perform/whatever) so get over your hurt feelings and suck it up."

    The lack of empathy for workers in other jobs (e.g., the cushy life of teachers who get the whole summer off!), is justified because (y)our own jobs suck knobs, and it is depressing the shit right out of me. It is, of course, a feature of the system, and makes us all desperate enough to accept whatever skimpy deal somebody offers us. And we rightly feel screwed, but rather than hating on the people who serve us a shit sandwich, we insist that everybody else should shut up and enjoy the turds.

    As the Great Pierce put it last week (where he is actually getting paid, and deservedly so!):

    "We are inculcating in our lives an acceptance of serfdom. We are investing in our economy a foundation of outright sociopathy. This seems like it should be a matter of some concern."

    Alas.

  90. Rodrigo S Says:

    @Southern Beale

    "Anyone have any ideas?"

    Draw more fans and leverage them to make money? That seems a lot more straight-forward than trying to shake people down with copyright claims. Where do you publish? Point me over there and you might gain one right now.

  91. walk Says:

    The internet has simply made some markets more efficient. The supply and demand for "art" is quickly equalized these daysand those that think they are "talented" or have something of value to offer the masses simply lose. And it is a great thing.

  92. steven popkes Says:

    I'm in a curious position. I've been a professional SF writer for close to thirty years. Mostly short stories and a couple of novels. I knew starting out that this was no way to make a living. When I started out the average wage of a pro was less than 5k a year, including Stephen King and other like personages. I reconciled myself to that and became a software engineer. I entered my version of the writer's life without any attachment to more than a token payment.

    Trouble is that token payment has gone from a nickel to a dime a word to pretty much zero. I still get published in paying venues but those venues are drying up fast.

    The arts, like labor and consumables, are becoming commoditized. If the difference between novel A and novel B is merely price the producer mechanism drives price to the bottom. We've seen that time and again. The arts cannot afford to compete on the sole basis of price.

    The problem is that the value added to a given product in the form of selection, editing and production has been devalued, causing competition on the basis of price.

    I think we've been sold a bill of goods.

    I recently purchased the Minus collection by Ryan Armand– (http://www.kiwisbybeat.com/minus.html) as a book. It's reproduction and beauty is far greater than can be appreciated on line. Yet I have heard people arguing "why buy the book when the material is on line for free." Again, competition based on price.

    Even our language about the internet is bogus. We talk about "going" to a site or "visiting" a foreign country via the net when we've done nothing more than move our hand and click the mouse between cheeto bites to see pictures that someone chose for us to see.

    We are approaching a point where we have exchanged the experience of art for the illusion of the art-experience just like we've exchange the actual for the illusion in so many other things.

  93. walk Says:

    And as a follow-up, before the internet, any exposure an "artist" had implied value. Magazines, news papers, music halls, museums. The channels (supply) were restricted. Not any more. Relative value is quickly discerned. And so is price.

  94. anadromy Says:

    I know this thread is probably stale by now but I will respond to the people who responded to me anyway.

    I was not saying I had any solutions to the problem. I don't. I was simply saying that anyone who tries to defend the way things are now IS AN ASSHOLE. I stand by that sentiment.

    Have a nice day.

  95. walk Says:

    And let's face it. We all get paid what we are worth. Our marginal product of labor. And that comes as a severe blow to some egos. But every minute of every hour of ever day, people look, and some find, those willing to pay us more for our services.

    There are some exceptions. For example, someone who's services are worth, let's say, $6.50 an hour. They actually get nothing. They are unemployed by law.

  96. Rodrigo S Says:

    @walk

    In no case is someone going to get paid more than their marginal product for very long, but in most cases people are getting less, with the difference going to whatever enterprise they're working for. The degree of "less" depends on a lot of things. Your marginal product depends on a lot of things, too, many of which relate to the position you're occupying instead of to your personal traits. The only time you regularly get paid your so-called marginal product is when you're self employed, and your marginal product of labor is by tautology whatever you happen to get paid. It's way too simplistic to say "people get paid what they're worth so if your pay sucks you probably do, too".

    What I would agree with is that if you don't think you're being paid what you're worth you should look to negotiate a better deal or find another employer, because recognition is probably not going to fall in your lap. It's also worth asking yourelf if your skills might be worth more doing something else.

  97. Southern Beale Says:

    @anadromy:

    Co-sign that. And no, we are NOT all paid what we're worth. Not by a long shot. We're paid by what the market will bear. And when you have content mills outsourcing stuff to unpaid interns or people in India (yes, it really happens), good work is not compensated fairly.

    Anadromy, I do think it will get better. But people like you and me need to find another way to earn a living because at the present moment, writing ain't it.

  98. walk Says:

    Of course you are paid what you're worth. It is EXACTLY what the market will bear. By what measure is that otherwise valued? By YOU? Of course not.

    Obviously there is friction invloved. Someone/firm 2000 miles away may be looking for you and your services and to pay you more than you are currently making. That will always be the case.

  99. dollared Says:

    Walk,

    I don't have a dog in the overall content-for-free fight, but I have to point out how simplistic and just plain wrong you are when you say "Of course you are paid what you are worth."

    Just. Plain. Wrong. I source talent for a living, and I can tell you that most people are mispriced. Period. The doers get paid anywhere from 1% to 70% of the value of their work, and the middlemen – brokers, middle managers – get another variably huge slice of the value of the work. And finally, of course, the owners/shareholders get the profit on the work, and that profit can be wildly variable as well. Pricing of labor is an incredibly inexact science, and it is a product of a huge series of environmental conditions, including public policy and corporate lobbying. It is not an accident that labor's share of the gross profits of US Corporations is at an all time low, while hours worked per worker and worker productivity are at an all time high.

    Your Bless the Invisible Hand It Determines All BS is just that.

  100. walk Says:

    Dollared,

    Yep, as a software developer, I have dealt with "talent sourcers" all my life. And they, as you admit to, take part of the value of my work. Sometimes more, sometimes less. But as long as I agree to the offer, in that particular case, I am getting what I am worth as is the "sourcer" and all other ancillary parties.

  101. Tymothi Loving Says:

    She asked for 100,000 dollars, not a million, to record the album. When she wound up getting that much more money, she did personalized superdeluxe packages for her supporters. How any of that was a "fiasco" is unclear to me. Especially in the context: In a post complaining about musicians not being paid, it's a fiasco because…she got paid? That makes no sense. And yes, she did go back and pay the people who played for her, the vast majority of whom, if you believe what they actually tweeted/posted about it, were not doing it for "exposure" but for a chance to play on stage with one of their favorite artists, and were not, for the most part, professional musicians themselves and would likely never have had the opportunity. And of course, as mentioned earlier in the thread, she was already paying several musicians on the tour. But yeah, you're right, that makes her the worst person in the world. Might I suggest some basic research next time?

  102. Tymothi Loving Says:

    Also, just to point out, the kickstarter wasn't to record the album, it was to promote it, publish it and tour on it, and she has the album in digital format on her website as "pay what you want" for download, including for free. Yes, truly a reprehensible human being.

  103. Rodrigo S Says:

    Checked out her album and fwiw it's not bad.

  104. ladiesbane Says:

    Let me add that this is a problem of different parts. Regarding free sites for news, let me compare "free online content" to the television broadcasts of my childhood. Believe it or not, there was a time when it was free to watch TV, kids. We put up with advertisements so that content was sponsored without viewer payment. This is a model I am comfortable with.

    If your town has a free weekly magazine that sells ad space to support circulation, you might be comfortable with it, too. They might pay a pittance for you to write a movie review, or they might not. It's always been around. And it's not a bad thing.

    Again, one small segment of the problem. But complaining that consumers want free news is misleading, in the same way that it is when Republicans complain that women want "free birth control." Zero copay prescription drugs (whether birth control or statins) still cost money, and that money comes from premiums rather than consumer copay. We still pay, but not at the point of service. Capisce?

  105. Arslan Says:

    "Of course you are paid what you're worth. It is EXACTLY what the market will bear. By what measure is that otherwise valued? By YOU? Of course not."

    Incorrect. The worker must necessarily be paid significantly less than the product he or she made, otherwise there is no point in hiring them.

    Also I want to thank One Disillusioned Guy for his intriguing explanations of the music business and I hope to see more in the future.

    As for me, I'm glad I didn't get sucked into the trap of free-lance writing. I actually do some editing, proofreading, or dubbing/VO from time to time but I get paid quite well for it as I live abroad.

    I am most concerned with the flood of crap writing that has appeared since this this trend became the norm. For example, look how many articles are "The top (Arbitrarily-chosen number) crazy things you didn't notice about (Pop culture icon)." Then you have shitty political articles on liberal sites like Addicting Info that tell you shit many of us have known for years. Ditto with Alternet, but they make it even better and divide every article into 6 pages or so.

  106. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Southern Beale,

    "Musicians and artists always made their big money off of touring. And that's still true. Record sales and radio airplay were how you got your name and music out there so you could sell tickets to the tour. "

    Sorry, but this is absolutely not true. Up until about 30 years ago, the really big money for recording acts was in record ssales, to the extent that labels would either partially or totally underwrite touring costs in the interest of selling even MORE records. The truly deep revenue stream was publishing (I know "royalty artists," guys who had hits performing and recording their own material) who've been living entirely off publishing money for decades. JohnPhillips was receiving upwards of $100,000 a year in publishing money off of Mamas and Papas hits in the 80s, even though he hadn't sung in public for years.

    Napster of course totally upended this model, along with the rest of the record company based business paradigm. I know what I'm describing seems like science fiction here in the brave new digital world of the 20th century, but that's really how it used to work. The Rolling Stones aren't rich because they tour, their tours are absurdley expensive travelling circus productions. The money comes from publishing and it's many ancillary benefits; licensing, new use fees, etc.

  107. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Southern Beale,

    "There is still money in publishing."

    Sorry, didn't read your whole post. You're obviously up on the mechanics of this, although god knows most people aren't.

    I still stand by my other assertions though. The "record so you can generate an audience to tour to because touring is where the money is" is a fairly recent develepment. From the late 60s (when big-production-value "rock tours" became the norm), to the early 90s, approximately, touring was often a money-losing proposition for acts with hits, and was actually subsidized by labels. Of course, they charged those expenses against artists future royalties. THAT hasn't changed.

  108. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    Living in Nashville though, I can see why you'd assume twas ever thus. Country artists have always been low-flying propositions, manning their own merch tables and travelling by bus. I'm talking big money rock and roll, where, for a few decades at least, even mid-level hacks like REO Speedwagon felt entitled to a plane. And are now spending their twilight years playing county fairs right alongside the country guys, and wondering what happened to all the money lol.

  109. bb in GA Says:

    There was a culture clash back in the 90s when corporate subsidies came to rock 'n roll touring bands. I seem to remember the Black Crowes lead singer dissing the corporate sponsor (Miller Lite?) in terms of "This ain't Rock 'n Roll having the blankety blank suits in this blah blah – Sex, drugs, ROCK 'n ROLL!" or something like that.

    I think it was a multiple act tour and the Crowes got bounced back to Atlanta over that by the 'suits.'

    //bb

  110. Rodrigo S Says:

    @ODG:

    You keep blaming Napster, but file sharing is only a small part (some would argue not a part. I{m not sure I buy that) of why it's harder to sell records than it used to be. Among other things I think have been more important:

    The costs of production and distribution have plummeted due to new technology, and that has brought more people into the game than there ever were before. It's a crowded field and the majors have less of a piece of it.

    It turned out that people mostly prefer buying singles to albums, so the composition of purchases has changed. No more selling 2 good songs and a bunch of filler for $20.

    There are tons of free-ish ways to consume music that didn't exist before – Spotify, Pandora, Last.fm, Youtube, etc.

    There's also all the music people already own – a massive catalog that has been recorded since, say, the 1970's that is still hanging around and competing with new music.

    There are also many more entertainment options on which people can spend their money than there were back in the day.

    It's easy to beat up on file sharers for getting something for nothing, but I think that's a convenient way to avoid acknowledging all the other ways the industry and peoples's media consumption have changed.

  111. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Rodrigo,

    I'm not blaming Napster ecxlusively, but you have to admit that a paradigm shift from "saving up my allowance for a month so I can buy the "Animals Greatest Hits" album on sale at the drugstore for $2.98" to "I can has all teh music in the world for freeee" is pretty radical.

    What filesharing has done is completely upend the business model extant from the very beginning of recorded music's history at the start of the 20th century, while almost totally de-monetizing what was once a source of real wealth for musicians (yeah I know the majors screwed a lot of people too, but at least they didn't steal ALL of it. Napster was like being robbed and having the shit kicked out of you by Columbia records, then having Napster come along and steal the watch off your bleeding wrist).

    Yes there's a lot moore options now, but for me that's all part of the paradigm shift. "Music" used to be a treat, and real, live performance was considered far superior to the "canned" recorded version. Now live performance is nonexistant for most people, and recorded music is ubiquitous, like air. John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" was a seminal recording that literally changed my life (there was a period when I listened to it in it's entirety every day). Now it's downloadable "information" and even a lot of students in jazz performance programs lack the patience to listen to it all the way through. They just click through to the next download.

  112. Rodrigo S Says:

    Yeah, there has definitely been a paradigm shift. And I think you're right that recorded music is not as valuable as it once was, not just because of piracy but because almost everything is available on demand everywhere.

    I think it's not as bad as all that, though. When recorded music became a thing, people complained that it was killing opportunities for live musicians (and it was) and taking the soul out of music (probably wasn't). What followed was a transformation of the music business that resulted in greater creative output than any other period. This new transition is undermining the old model, but it's also creating opportunities for artists who embrace it and learn how to work it. For all that it's harder to sell a record these days, the music scene is more vibrant than it ever was and there are more musicians than there ever were.

    It's also worth thinking about what the impact of file sharing has really been. All the research I've read suggests piracy vastly inflates the perceived demand for music. That is to say, if people suddenly all had to pay, almost no illegal downloads would turn into sales. And there's evidence that at least some piracy (not a lot, but it's a thing) leads to sales further down the line by people who want the back catalog, want to support the artist, etc. My gut tells me that in a world without piracy the more famous acts would sell a little more music, and a lot of lesser-known acts would become even less well known and sell nothing.

    A pirate is, at least, a fan. You might not sell him a record but if you have his attention you might sell him something else. Before the feds took down Megaupload, they were even doing deals with some artists to pay them according to the traffic and subscriptions their material drove to the site. I think deals like that will become more common as more artists come into their own in the current paradigm (though it would help if the DOJ carried less water for the majors).

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  114. Mackeyser Says:

    @eau

    What's the deal with the Amazon ebook self publishers? I don't know the reference.
    Can you or someone link a reference or at least break that down? The spoiler didn't help in that I pretty much got that Amazon would do that.

    Pretty much figured they wouldn't turn the "self publishing milieu into a 'goddamned piazza' " (and who said "You've Got Mail" wasn't quottable?)

    @ One Dissillusioned Guy

    Loving everything you've posted in this thread. Former multimedia engineer. Best friend has many industry connections (now friends) including musicians who've had #1 hits and been at the top. No point in name dropping, but you'd probably know them or know of them. Keep preachin' brother.

    The NFL couldn't be the NFL without College Football. MLB couldn't be Major League Baseball without its farm system.

    And yet, the music industry has systematically dismantled its developmental "league" and wondered…sincerely WONDERED why the Pro game has suffered. Why there aren't any Jimi Hendrixes? Why aren't there any Jimmy Pages? James Browns? Beatles? Stevie Wonders? Billy Joels? And don't even get me started about the total lack of the Jim Croces and Don MacLeans and folks like them. I remember Gene Simmons saying before they went back out on tour (this was when they first reformed) saying they reformed KISS and did it because "everyone else out there just sucks" or something to that effect.

    I pay for all my music and encourage everyone I know to do the same. I'm disheartened by those who think music is for free.

    The thing to worry about when it comes to "artists getting paid" which is a noble goal, is to make sure the medicine doesn't kill. By that I mean microtransactions. Pay-to-view, clickable content will boom then bust. Worse, it'll be like porn in the early days of the internet (I owned an internet consulting business in 1997 and since there were NO banks that had merchant accounts that allowed one to just put in your CC and the only websites that were making actual money were porn sites, I had to visit them and then call them and ask each one "how do I pay you?" so I could then apply that model to my non-porn clients). It was ugly stuff. I don't enjoy porn (really), but the model is VERY indicative of what's going on now in the general content arena.

    At first, with the porn model, there was the boom of free stuff. Like now. Then, as the sites found ways to make money in this digital frontier, the premium content was gated. Some was on a subscription basis. Others on a 'per use' basis. The point is that the content was gated behind monetary walls SOLELY at the discretion of the providers.

    This may seem like no big deal when applied to porn, but now it's fully coming at us for both music AND news. And that's a HUGE deal. Thomas Jefferson once said, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilizati

  115. Mackeyser Says:

    This may seem like no big deal when applied to porn, but now it's fully coming at us for both music AND news. And that's a HUGE deal. Thomas Jefferson once said, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilizati­on, it expects what never was and never will be." If we put microtransactions on information acquisition, the problems that stem from that are legion. We can't iTunes our way to being better citizens.

    Anyway, artists need to get paid. I'm ALL for that. I'm just hoping for a model that doesn't become a "media" model that includes all "content" that includes News and then makes it harder to simply stay informed as a Citizen (of wherever).

  116. ZDG Says:

    I would just like to point out that Amanda Palmer didn't ask for a million dollars. She asked for 100,000. People /gave her/ a million because she has a large fanbase. And at what point in any marriage would it be okay for you to ask your spouse for such a large sum of money? They're both artists who rose to fame via the old-school venues you are so romanticizing, and they do their art in the same solitude they did before. AND, in response to the outcry that her grand theft orchestra request received, she changed the project so that they could pay the volunteer musicians. If you absolutely have to blame your pointless "the internet is changing things for the worse" rant on someone, at least do your fucking research beforehand.

  117. jon Says:

    It really does come down to "What should customers do?"

    I love music and try to support it. But sometimes "theft" isn't theft. If I own the LP and want it on my computer, I can buy a piece of equipment and transfer the content on my own. Or I could go to the library and check it out and burn it to my hard drive. Either way, the artist doesn't get a new sale. I can say I paid taxes to the library which then paid the producer, but I am fooling myself if I think my contribution is equal to what I get out of it. (And don't libraries fuck with the notion of capitalism anyway? And isn't it weird that most of the people who check out books are middle class white women? Meanwhile, the computers are being used by minority children who are downloading music and games to their flashdrives and other devices.)

    I've contributed to some Kickstarter things here and there, mostly friends' bands and such when I had extra money. The DIY thing is good, up to a point, as is the corporate manager model. Ani Difranco is probably the more successful version of what Amanda Palmer did, and Ani didn't have the baggage of being somewhat famous before she just became successful (or whatever she really is.) Part of me is happy that bands of my youth are touring to make money, because I wanted to see them (being able to see James in Tucson was something I never expected, seeing their CDs for sale at one of the few local record stores was also unexpected, even at $7.99.) I did recently buy Songs of Couch and Consultation from Ms Katie Lee herself, and it was a delight to get a 1957 recording on CD even at $25. But I had the album, bought at a yard sale, and wanted to thank her. So I did.

    I also have about a month's listening on my iTunes. Some was my CD collection, some is stuff I got online, most is legit, some isn't, and as long as I don't "share" it seems to be no problem. Free samples on most musician websites could fill most hard drives, while samples on record label sites could fill another. Maybe not always the latest and greatest, but it's not hard to not steal and still get a walloping amount of stuff for free.

    It's too easy to be cheap, stay under the radar, and not contribute a dime to the industry. Then again, that's true with books, software, and everything else. I guess the customer can buy as much as he can afford to, and I try to do that. But I'm fucking lucky to have disposable income. Do I think those without money are insufficiently entitled to entertainment? That's heading in a new direction, and I think it leads directly toward an answer of "too bad you can't tape your favorite songs from the radio anymore." And the realization that the internet is the new radio. And library. And friends willing to lend stuff. And more.

  118. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Jon,

    "And the realization that the internet is the new radio. And library."

    Actually no, they're not. Both broadcast radio and library systems pay artists. Most library systems cut authors and other artists a slice of the revenue from late/lender fees. Not very much, but at least they make the effort. All commercial radio stations must pay licencing fees to BMI and ASCAP, who then distribute this revenue on a "per play" basis to signatory artists. The internet is actually more analogous to radio in the 1920s, before these hard-won agreements were negotiated by publishing rights organizations and the AFM.

  119. Rodrigo S Says:

    Don't the labels turn right around and kick the money back to the radio stations for the publicity? I thought that's what "payola" was all about.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payola

  120. Johnny Sack Says:

    Hey walk- I caught your stealth argument against a minimum wage there. Screw you

  121. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Rodrigo S.

    "Don't the labels turn right around and kick the money back to the radio stations for the publicity? I thought that's what "payola" was all about."

    I have no idea. "Payola" or "pay for play" is a 50 year old paradigm. Radio stations don't control their own playlists anymore, that's all done at Clearchannel-monopoly-central lol. I'm sure there's some skeevy corporate jiggery pokery going on, there always is, but I have no idea what it is these days.

    The ASCAP-BMI stuff has nothing to do with record labels though, that's publishing/performing-rights stuff. Labels will sometimes dip into it through in-house publishing raids, ie. "we'll sign you if you give us half your publishing," but that would come under the heading of "really bad contracts you shouldn't sign."

    "For all that it's harder to sell a record these days, the music scene is more vibrant than it ever was and there are more musicians than there ever were."

    It's unarguably true that there are "more musicians than ever," but they also make less money than ever. In fact most "musicians" (and I'm using the term loosely, the rise of rock and roll, and particularly "punk rock" in the 70s, has in many ways been the Triumph of the Amateur. A lot of people playing in indie bands are, by the standards of any professional musician, clueless wankers) don't make a living at it. Digitalization is only partially responsible for this (and by "partially" I mean "completely demonetized the recording side of the business") but the plain fact is, most of the ways people made a living with music when I started playing professionally in 1972 are no longer viable. I don't have any glib solutions, and I'm aware that "life is change" and all that, but it's simply true that change has not been good to the professional musician in recent decades, making-a-living-wise.

    Whether the "scene" is "more vibrant than ever" is an entirely subjective call. In terms of access, yeah, as a "consumer" you have a much easier time getting at formerly hard-to-find exotic ethnic and world musics. On the other hand, I'm not seeing the kind of iconic, paradigm-shifting musicians out there that we've seen in the past, no John Coltranes, Charlie Parkers, Jimi Hendrixs, James Browns. Not even any Princes. The "farm team" system of club circuits, label A&R talent scouts etc. that nurtured these people and gave them the space to develop no longer exist. Sure, that system was often preditory, but it did allow musicians to eat while developing a personal style. Nowdays you have to do all that stuff yourself, and until you've actually been in the position (as I have been) of having to finance and produce your own recordings, book your own tours, do your own publicity etc., you have no idea how much time and energy that sucks away from being a musician. It really blows, man. When I hear people complain about how much "music sucks, noe" (and use that as a justification for not paying for it) I point out that even people fairly high up the food chain now only play music part time. Their main job is raising money for recording, booking tours, costing out expenses on the road, and running a PR firm.

  122. Rodrigo S Says:

    @One Dissillusioned Guy

    "Digitalization is only partially responsible for this (and by "partially" I mean "completely demonetized the recording side of the business")"

    http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/industry/retail/pricewaterhouse-coopers-u-s-music-market-1007295152.story

    You keep mentioning this, but all the figures I can find (such as presented in the article above) suggest recorded music is a business still worth billions of dollars with prospects for growth. At least some artists have to be making good money on recorded music, though I get that in a lot of ways it has to be harder than it was.

  123. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    Try looking somewhere besides industry puff pieces in pet publications like Billboard

    http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2012/08/overall-recorded-music-sales-expected-to-decline-by-2013-chart.html

    In any case, the question is not "is the industry growing" but "is any money reaching the artist." I think you'll find, with even a rudimentary search, that average income for professional musicians has been in decline for some time.

    It's really no different that the rest of American life; a massive transfer of wealth to the top.

  124. Chris Says:

    So many people don't know the difference between crowd sourcing and crowd funding and are totally misreading this article.

    99designs.com represents all that is evil and soulless in the design world. Hundreds of people do variations on the work. Only one person gets paid – a small amount – if they are lucky. That is, if the sponsor of the "contest" doesn't jut simply steal a design and run off with it. It diminishes the value of every designer's time and worth, causIng many talented artists to simply switch careers because it is no longer worth their time and effort. So not only is the value lessened, but the overall quality of the talent pool continues to drop. There is no upside to anyone but the contest runner, who is taking outsourcing to the next level. Hence the name "crowd sourcing".

    Kickstarter – artists, film makers, engineers – get paid up front if their idea is wanted by enough people. The risk is on the investor. If it doesnt raise enough money, then the entrepeneur is free to try to fund it themselves, and nobody has lost a thing. It is a wonderful tool for a variety of markets.

  125. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Chris,

    "It diminishes the value of every designer's time and worth, causIng many talented artists to simply switch careers because it is no longer worth their time and effort. So not only is the value lessened, but the overall quality of the talent pool continues to drop."

    This, times two. I'm old enough to remember when the ranks of "musicians" were not populated exclusively by pot-fogged faux-hippies, punk rockers, trustafarians, and various and sundry other types who had no real expectations of return on their work beyond a chance to live on ramen noodles until such time as they became rock stars. The dreamers have always been with us and always will be. Trained, professional musicians are an endangered species.

    Music is a craft as well as an art, and the great artists of the past invested a lot oof time and effort in studying and honing the technical part of their craft. This was possible, in large part, because music was a job as well as an opportunity for artistic expression. I could throw out examples all day long, but the first that springs to mind is Charlie Parker. Parker spent the early years of his career as an annonymous sideman in the big bands of Jay Mcshann and Earl Hines. On a salary. When he became well known enough to front his own ensembles he recorded, and he did not finance these recordings himselves, record companies did. He played clubs and concert for which he received a wage or a fee, not door receipts. Parkers job was creating music, not managing a booking agency, running a venue, or creating a record label/publicity agency, all of which modern musicians are obliged to do. And, absurdely, we're supposed to be happy about this. We're supposed to find it "empowering" or something. What it truly is, is a massive drain on our time, energy, and creative facilities.

    I've seen a lot of truly first rate musicians give up in the face of this.

  126. Rodrigo S Says:

    "I've seen a lot of truly first rate musicians give up in the face of this."

    Not to sound crass, but put me in contact and I'll hire one to play a tiny violin. Virtually every professional has to deal with some amount of businessy stuff that has to get done so their practice can function

  127. Rodrigo S Says:

    If the business side is too much of a drain, then sign with a label, contract your own agent, get a 20-something to hop on the twitters and talk you up, or what not. DIY is not the only option (just the only option if you want to keep all your winnings)

  128. Phillip Says:

    Hey-

    @chris
    @oldguy

    I love where you are taking this, but I think you are looking at it a bit wrong from a value of work perspective. This isn't the flow of new creation, it is the addition to the stock of culture. The point of digitization is that nothing is ever forgotten, and everyone has access to all of it, minus whatever new content has yet to be added.

    I believe that the creation of art is one of the most valuable things a culture can do. But I don't think it can be monentized, it has been forced into the category of public good.

    But most of all, I know that I have been poor, but with internet. And even if I couldn't spend a dime and I didn't want to steal, there is more cultureout there, unconditionally free, that I could spend my entire life doing nothing but consuming it and never have to pirate anything. That's what you are really up against.

    As are the record companies. And as long as we condition survival upon producing something monentizable, we are all going to end up miserable.

  129. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Rodrigo,

    Virtually every professional musician I knew when I started 40 years ago (including me) regarded his career as a small business, so I'm not suggesting musicians are strangers to the business paradigm, we're not. What I'm talking about is a massive paradigm shift where ALL of the risk and labor-intensive stuff has been transferred to the artist. Again, this pparallels the rest of American life, where people are expected to accept extremly modest remuneration for increasingly higher levels of risk and insecurity which, stangely enough, the people at the top don't have to deal with. Sure, they sometimes suffer setbacks but, again, I've never seen a Sprint executive working a day job.

    "Not to sound crass, but put me in contact and I'll hire one to play a tiny violin."

    And the next time you or anyone else complains about how crappy the music scene is, I'll use this same "tough shit" argument. I'll repeat this slowly and clearly, again; what's happened in the arts is exactly what's happened in, say law and finance. The best and the brightest, at least some of whom in the past might have wound up doing truly valuable work in urban planning or community law, largely go to Wall Street now (where the money is) to construct funny money "financial instruments" that crash the economy. It's why we have so few GPs now; the enormous cost of medical school is more easily amortized by becoming a plastic surgeon.

    "If the business side is too much of a drain, then sign with a label, contract your own agent, get a 20-something to hop on the twitters and talk you up, or what not. DIY is not the only option (just the only option if you want to keep all your winnings)"

    Again, it behooves you not to make sweeping statements about a business you know nothing about. "Sign with a label"? Unless you're Britney Spears, you won't me signing with any labels. Labels, for the most part, don't "develop" talent anymore. They'd much rather you did all the work of recording a CD, touring, building a fan base etc. At which point they may or may not offer you a distribution deal on their imprint. This is exactly what I'm talking about (and what you continually refuse to acknowlege) All risk and expense has been transferred to the artist. I can hear you winding up to start going on about "yeah, that's why you don't need record companies anymore" but the fact is, the "official" music business is still where the superstructure is to bring products to market. For every indie band who makesit big self-distributing their own product, there's a thousand who get lost in the vast forest of internet detritus. 99% of the the tracks on i-tunes don't sell enough to be even statitically measurable.

    Really man, we could argue specifics all day here, but the bottom line is this; I've been in the music business for forty years, and I see through my own lived experience (and the statistical evidence backs me up) that's it's much, much harder to make a living now than it was 40 years ago. There's a lot of different reasons for this, you're right, it's not all Napster. But having to assume ALL of the risk and expense of recording and then trying to sell something that most people now think they should get for free really doesn't help. Why is it so difficult for you to understand that?

  130. One Dissillusioned Guy Says:

    @Philip,

    "As are the record companies. And as long as we condition survival upon producing something monentizable, we are all going to end up miserable."

    Contrary to the long screeds I've been posting here, I actually see this in very simple term; How much do we, as a culture, value music/art? The way we keep score in this society is money, so, since we're seemingly unwilling to compensate artists in this or any other way, we obviously value it not at all.

  131. roymacIII Says:

    Actually no, they're not. Both broadcast radio and library systems pay artists. Most library systems cut authors and other artists a slice of the revenue from late/lender fees. Not very much, but at least they make the effort.

    Paying artists or labels is definitely not the norm for any library I've seen. I work in one of the largest library systems in my state and we send not a dime of our late fines to artistss and I've never heard of one around here that does. I'm not saying that none do, but I've not heard of it, and would be very very surprised if even a large minority of libraries did that. Certainly not most.

  132. Rodrigo S Says:

    @One Dissillusioned Guy

    "But having to assume ALL of the risk and expense of recording and then trying to sell something that most people now think they should get for free really doesn't help. Why is it so difficult for you to understand that?"

    I agree with you that it has gotten harder, and I agree that trying to directly sell something that most people don't think they should have to directly pay for is a really difficult way to try to do business. I guess I'm reading a subtext that might not be there – that things should go back to the way they used to be, and that nobody is making it – and that's why I'm arguing with you.

    To some extent, yeah, there has been risk shifting going in throughout society. It's not just a music thing. But it's also not necessarily a bad thing for people who are good at what they do, or for the consumers who ultimately support the whole endevour – even though it's a dynamic that creates winners and losers, and I think we ought to do more to make sure that everyone can at least get by.

    But as a consumer, would I want to go back to the days when I had to pay $25 (in 1990 money no less) to buy an album with two good songs on it and when the only other alternative was to catch whatever was on the radio? Or to the days of having to troll through dozens of crappy records (that I probably had to buy) to find something good that wasn't being promoted in my area? Hell no. That was some bullshit, and everyone bitched about it, but people had no choice.

    Why should we mourne the death of the ecosystem that market control permitted the labels to create for a very few musicians? Music seems as good as it ever was, and there is more of it to choose from than there ever was, performed by more artists than there ever were. You deride today's performers as amatures, but that is some arrogant shit to say about people who are going out there and crushing it without a clique of king makers to ease their way by refusing to distribute 99.99% of their potential competition.

    "Contrary to the long screeds I've been posting here, I actually see this in very simple term; How much do we, as a culture, value music/art? The way we keep score in this society is money, so, since we're seemingly unwilling to compensate artists in this or any other way, we obviously value it not at all."

    But there is no "we, as a culture". There's no collective decision to pay some people but not to pay others, no cultural conspiracy to say a bad secretary should be paid more than a bad artist. The world just needs more bad secretaries than bad artists.

  133. Phillip Says:

    @Rodrigo

    But we do value music and culture in our society! It forms a gigantic part of people's personal identities and is almost omnipresent. Just about every single person has strong opinions and deep emotional responses to music.

    The issue is that with the advent of the internet, music has become a public good. (non-rival, non-excludable). The only point you can capture value is the point you first release it- which is where kickstarter fits. But because it is so hard to make money off of it, the market will only supply a tiny fraction of he demand. This is true for national defense as well, which is the classic example of a public good.

    Point being, there should be government support of artists. Trying to make money off of value is, in this case, a fool's errand. And from what you say, most professional musicians seem to be coming to that conclusion.

  134. Rodrigo S Says:

    "The issue is that with the advent of the internet, music has become a public good. (non-rival, non-excludable). The only point you can capture value is the point you first release it- which is where kickstarter fits. But because it is so hard to make money off of it, the market will only supply a tiny fraction of he demand."

    I think you have to go back to the tape to evaluate this argument. Recorded music is still a multi-billion dollar industry and paid digital distribution models are in their relative infancy. A ton of money is being made on recorded music, and a lot more will be made in the future. So it's too simplistic to say that the only way value can be captured is at release – lots of people are managing somehow. Similarly, I don't think there's a music shortage. As you said, it's almost omnipresent. There are more bands out there with more music than you can shake a stick at (this is part of why it's harder to make money, too). It seems like there's an over supply of music rather than an under supply.

    "Point being, there should be government support of artists."

    As long as we can pitch in a few dollars for lowly economists, I'm all in on this idea. =)

  135. OnedisillusionedGuy Says:

    "@roymacIII,

    "I'm not saying that none do, but I've not heard of it, and would be very very surprised if even a large minority of libraries did that."

    You're right, I stand corrected. It's the British and Canadian library systems that do that, it's part of their national copywrite law, which also, iincidentally, contains provisions for "neighboring rights," ie payments to artists who played on a session but do not hold copywrite to the composition.

    Broadcast radio though, just not get to play CDs for free. All radio stations must be signatories to ASCAP and BMI agreements and pay llicencing fees to those entities, who then distribute them to artists.

  136. OnedisillusionedGuy Says:

    @Rodrigo,

    "I guess I'm reading a subtext that might not be there – that things should go back to the way they used to be, and that nobody is making it – and that's why I'm arguing with you."

    Well then we're arguing at crosspurposes then. I neither wish nor think it possible for thing to return to some imagined golden age of recorded music. Record companies (the majors anyway) were and are a lying, duplicious sackfull of bastards to deal with, although as I pointed out they didn't steal ALL of your money and copyrights, just most of it. And they were a structure that was, at least up to the 70s anyway, in the business of developing long-term careers for their artists.

    What I've been objecting to all along is this notion that I'm supposed to bbe somehow happy about all these fantastic opportunities to spend my limited time, energy and resourses doing all these myriad things that other entities uses to do 9for a cut, of course). And it pisses me off to be painted as some kind of effete whiner who's angry because he can't become a millionare playing stadiums as "easily" as I once could. That kind of stuff has always been a crap shoot, and I didn't get into music for that reason anyway. I did it because I really love playing the saxophone, and found that, much to my surprise and delight, I could make a modest living at it. I've watched that living progressively eroded over the years, and if I try to point out that making it increasingly impossible for musicians to get paid for their efforts might not be such a kewl thing, I get lectured on what a dinosaur I am for not getting onboard this wonderful new digital train we're all going to get rich on. Often by people who haven't the foggiest notion what the realities of life as a professional musician actually are.

    It's the same old shit, really. I used to get screwed by my record company. Now I get fucked when my "internet distributor" goes under, taking hundreds of my CDs with it. Same shit, different pile.

    The question is, and always has been, do you value recorded music as a necessary and beneficial part of your life? If you do, you should have a problem with musicians getting paid.

  137. OnedisillusionedGuy Says:

    Sorry, that should be "you should have a problem with musicians NOT getting pad."

  138. Rodrigo S Says:

    @ODJ:

    If you have recordings for sale somewhere, point me in that direction. I've got some acquaintances who are fans of the sax and it's getting to be that time of year.

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