The Audacity of Hope (ing You’ll One Day Make A Living.)

You guys are really missing out today, as I had prepared a fantastic blog with charts and graphs and boobs and tails and pandas (true story) and witty rhetoric and charming banter (maybe) but you have our president to thank for ripping those delights right from under your wanting eyes.  So let’s get this out of the way before I blow a gasket. 

Storm, Arizona, 2011

I was thinking about contributing to a magazine that features film photographers last week so I got on the website to poke around and check them out.  You can order a PDF version for a couple bucks or a printed-on-demand version for a couple more.  This is an excellent idea, catering to both sides of your market.  And then I read at the bottom “Regrettably, we cannot offer free issues to contributors.”  I don’t know how to say this in a polite way, so I’m not going to.  Your magazine can get fucked.

If you aren’t going to pay me for my submissions, the LEAST you can do is offer free issues to those who are providing the very content which is selling your magazine.  Exposure is great.  Publicity is great.  But essentially, I would be giving you something that costs me money so you can give me something that costs you nothing.  And then you’d profit off of the thing I gave you that costs me money.  At best, this is a dick move.

So I’m fuming about this for most of the day and I’d juuuuuuuust about let it go when I get this in my inbox.  Obama Solicits Designers to Work – Unpaid – on … Jobs Poster!  Surely this is an Onion article, right?  What a good laugh!  Our president with millions set aside for his campaign is asking you, dear artist, to submit your design for his jobs poster at your own cost.  And, give up ALL RIGHTS to any submitted design whether it wins or not.  Except, its not a joke.  For your country, patriot!  I feel like any minute Yakov Smirnoff is going to stick his head in the room and say “In States Of America, Jobs Poster Makes You!”

I’m going to play the devil’s advocate to myself for a minute.  Let’s say you didn’t go to a fancy elitist liberal arts college where you majored in graphic design, so you are not choking on $36,000 in debt.  And let’s you are a designer who works solely on a computer…no drafting table or pantone cards or pencils.  And let’s say, for the sake of argument that someone who knows a guy got you a copy of the $1200 Adobe Suite for free, which you use to make all your designs.  Lastly, what if your computer is the only expense you have and maintain in order to make your art.  That’s $2000.  Would some awesome calculus genius tell me how long you’d have to work for free giving all of your intellectual property away before you paid off your $2000 computer?  Mr. Obama, you are making it difficult to be an artist.

I’m ham-fisting my point here, because I fail to see the benefit in keeping starving artists starving.  But, I also understand the disconnect.  Much art is consumed at little or no cost to the consumer at all.  Paintings in a museum or songs on a radio or the design on a macaroni box…I can enjoy all of these things for free.  The internet has expanded this free-ness to the extent that many of us, myself included (to a point), think that the internet is kind of a swap-meet of sorts, where no real money should change hands.  (This is a grey area, admittedly, and I’m still struggling with it myself.)  But to ask for content, be it a magazine or a president, for the sole end of promotion or profit, with no exchange of benefit for the creator is criminal.  To answer this with “it will be great for your portfolio” or “this could lead to more work later” is what con artists say to visual artists.  So let me close the gap for you.  They do not give cameras away for free.  They do not give oil paints away for free.  They do not give away 10 key calculators for free, either, which is exactly why accountants don’t do shit for free.

Being an artist is expensive on all counts from the moment you decide you will be one until the moment you quit being one or die.

We are one of the only industries where people feel JUSTIFIED asking us to work for free.

Paying your dues, collaborating, donating…these are things we all do.  But giving away content to for free to so someone else can profit is bad for every one of us.

You, as an artist, giving content away for free, makes it incredibly hard for working artists to make money.

Next week, Panda boobs.  I promise.

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