Art Money

Stop creating and get a real job

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I don’t know that I agree with Nick Carr’s assessment that the Bebo deal is equivalent to sharecropping. Anyone who contributes anything to any social networking site should be aware that what they contribute will eventually be monetized in some way by the site owner. In other words, if you want to give it away for free so that others profit, I don’t necessarily have a lot of sympathy.

I did like what Broadstuff had to say on the issue, though.

A good rule of thumb with the mass Tech Media is that when such howls of outrage are heard, the howlee is generally onto something. And what Bragg is articulating in essence is this simple thought – the only real difference between the New Music Aggregators and the (automatically despised) Olde Aggregators is that the Olde Industry actually paid the artists something.

That, in a nutshell, is the bottom line on this discussion. It’s not whether the artists knew they weren’t going to get paid or not, but the fact that we hold social networks like Bebo up to high acclaim while sneering at the old record companies, when both groups profit from the efforts of the artist. However, it is only the old companies, those badies, that actually pay for music. Even if the payment is considered miniscule, it is pay and is a whole more than you’ll ever get for your efforts at Bebo or any other site that promises you “fame”.

The intrinsic value of fame on Bebo aside, I am irked to see this discussion used, yet again, for the cry that all art demands to be free and that artists should be happy with getting attention. If artists want to pay the rent or buy food, then they should get a “real” job, and quit whining because people download their stuff for free.

According to people like Michael Arrington all recorded music should be given away for free, and artists make their only income from concerts. If they can’t make their living from concerts, or busking for tossed dimes in the subway, than they should consider music to be their hobby, and get a job digging ditches.

Of course, if we apply the Arrington model to the music industry, we should be able to download all the songs we want–as long as we’re willing to sit through an ad at the beginning and in the middle of every song. Isn’t that how Techcrunch makes money? Ads in the sidebar, taking time to download, hanging up the page. Ads at the bottom of the posts we have to scroll past to get to comments? And in between, loud, cacophonous noise?

It angers me how little value people in this online environment hold the act of creativity. Oh we point to Nine Inch Nails and Cory Doctorow as examples of people who give their work away for free but still make a living. Yet NIN levies an existing fame, selling platinum packages at several hundred a pop to make up for all the freebies, and Doctorow has BoingBoing as a nice cushion for the lean years. They bring “fame” to the mix, and according to the new online business models, you have to play the game, leverage the system if you really want to make a living from your work. We don’t value the work, we value the fame, yet fame doesn’t necessarily come from any act of true creativity.

All you have to do to generate fame nowadays is be controversial enough, say enough that’s outrageous, connect up with the right people in the beginning and then kick them aside when you’re on top to be successful. You don’t have to have artistic talent, create for the ages, or even create at all–just play the game. If you do it right, you get Techcrunch. If you do it wrong, there’s the ditch.

Though I may not agree completely with what Nick wrote in the previously linked post, I agree wholeheartedly to what he wrote in a follow-up post, written in response to Arrington’s statement, Recorded music is nothing but marketing material to drive awareness of an artist.

As a poem, one assumes, is nothing but marketing material to drive awareness of a poet. As a sculpture is nothing but marketing material to drive awareness of a sculptor. As a film is nothing but marketing material to drive awareness of a director.

In the fallen world of the social network, “awareness” is the highest, most noble accomplishment that anyone could possibly aspire to. Because, you see, “awareness” is a monetizable commodity.

In a world where the only measure of success is attention, can anyone truly be great?

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