Monday, May 09, 2005

Please don't be angry with me Foxy

This was originally going to just be a reply to foxy's comment on my Clipartoon #56 post, but it ran so long I figured I would turn it into my Monday post. I hope you aren't annoyed with me when all this is done Foxy. The last person that this happened with was Jenn and she forgave me. I hope you will to. I also don't expect to change your viewpoint on this issue, I just wanted to clarify mine. Her comment is as follows:

The people who are upset about it all are the artists who have done the work and are trying to make a living from their music. Everyone wants their music but no one wants to pay for it...meanwhile they (the artists) are supposed to subsist and pay their bills and eat like all the rest of us. It's like having someone swoop in and grab your paycheck just as it's being given to you and saying "you don't need this, I'll just be taking it and spreading it around a bit." So why work if you're not going to get paid? Pretty soon the artists have to give up and get another job so they can live too... Yeah, alot of parasites along the way make some money but it's the artists themselves who are really getting ripped off.

I know the above is true because I've interviewed tons of those 'artists' and believe me, they worry quite a bit about it. Their work, their music, is not only how they make their living but they feel proprietary about their music just like proud parents feel about their new offsprings. It's what makes good artists go bad... End of rant... ~:^)

My reply, incoherent and incomplete as it is:

How do you explain the artists that aren't upset about it? The ones who see this as a new way of spreading their music to a far wider audience than they could with the older forms of distribution? The ones who feel that targeting their fans with lawsuits is actually hurting their sales more than filesharing is? Personally, I'll eat a brick of babies before I'll buy anything by Madonna or Metallica again. What about the artists that are using this new technology and emerging mindset as a way to market their music and sell their own pressings of their own CDs and making far more for themselves then they would after the money trickles down to them past all the layers in the older, over priced system, and greed infused industry?

Personally, I don't listen to music that often, I've mentioned before that I don't even have a radio in my car. But (as I've also said before) file sharing, specifically the first incarnation of Napster, turned me on to bands that I doubt I would have noticed before. Bands that I have subsequently supported by buying their CDs, attending their concerts, purchasing their merchandise (stickers, t-shirts, DVDs) and supporting in ways that I wouldn't have if I had never heard of them. And it's pretty safe to say I wouldn't have heard of them on the radio since they aren't "marketable" like Britney and the other prepackaged "artists" that seem to be the bread and butter of the pop industry.

No, not everybody who downloads MP3s will also support the artists in a monetary way. Some people are content with keeping what they've gotten for free, but here's the unanswerable question: Would that person have spent a single dime toward these artists if the files had not been available? I don't think they would. Even if they did, I doubt they would in their lifetime spend as much on them as I did at a single Aquabats concert. The artists would be better off if the RIAA would focus it's energy on people like the ones who sold Heather her two pirated CDs rather than going after an individual who downloaded a Metallica CD and suing him into oblivion. In Heather's case she was a fan trying to support the artist and instead added to a pirate's pocket. (Although in hindsight if she was buying the CD from eBay it would have been used, which is the realization that triggered my addendum after proofing. Even though she bought those two used, she buys a heck of a lot of CDs new. And the point is still valid because those people don't just sell on eBay.)

It comes down to this: I'm happy and willing to support the artists that I enjoy when I can afford to. The more affordable they are able to make it or the more they can give me for my dollar, the more support I'm willing to give. It's value for dollar, and as prices go up everyone is going to be looking for the best way to spend their money. Many times I've told myself I don't have the $20 for artist "A"s latest CD and then wound up spending more than $20 on artist "B"s stuff combined because the initial price point was lower and I saw a greater value in it. Actually, that happens far more on DVDs with me than CDs, but the principle is the same.

As to an artist up and quitting due to P2P* is there a single artist, one single artist, who has given up doing what they love because they think too many people are getting their work for free? How many artists have the luxury to NOT have a day job or another means of generating income until they get going? I read once that Madonna was one of the hottest "entities" to be shared in torrents awhile back because, let's face it, everyone likes to touch a virgin for the very first time, yet I never once read that she was suddenly having to hold down a day job at McD's due to lost sales as a result of all that unwelcome popularity. In fact, didn't she just make her final payment on England a few weeks back?

The ones that I've heard bitching the loudest about this – and it could just be because I don't hear from a wide enough variety of sources, or they happen to have the PR machine to broadcast their complaints the furthest – are the ones who have already made a ton of money under the old system, sell their concert tickets for around $200 a seat, and have been PAID, but don't want to risk any kind of decrease in that pay by trying something new.

It might be a surprise, but I do have some insight into how an artist feels about his/her work. When I first started putting my artwork on the net I was sooo worried about someone ripping it off and selling it as their own. Vain? Sure. I'm no Brom, Frazetta, Sorayama, or any other famous artist. But I'm still an artist of sorts and I would like to get paid for what's mine. Obviousy.

The only thing that has changed since I first posted an online gallery of my crap in 1997 was my attitude toward the whole thing. I realized that I can't stop people from taking my work and selling it even though I've told them not to. I've set up a CC license that allows for non commercial use of my art, and modification as long as the person who modifies it allows others to do the same with what he/she made (although the CC site seems broken at the moment) but that won't stop someone motivated to make money from my work. In spite of this possibility I know that it is in my best interest for people who like what I have done here to take it and pass it along to their friends and tell them where they found it. Then when I've upgraded my store (which I will be doing early next week) and started offering things a "fan" would like to own, they can encourage me to do more or show their appreciation for what I have already done by buying something from it. If they don't, will I stop? No. I'll continue to mess around here as long as I enjoy it whether I get paid or not. Artists create; they have to.

End of my rant.

Okay, not the end of my rant. In the first go-thru of proofing this mess I remembered this and didn't really want to find a spot to squeeze it in since I'm lazy as all hell, so here's my rant-addendum:

All this doesn't even BEGIN to touch on purchasing a CD used. $0 of that sale finds it's way back to the artist. So if the same CD that was bought new once is resold used 20+ times, does that decrease the value of that artist's work, take money from his pocket and kill his desire to make music? What if each person made a copy of that CD before selling it to Media Play? The person bought the CD used, ripped it, then resold it, still used for a portion of their money back (usually half of what they would sell it for as trade or 1/4 for cash). Is the artist being ripped off? Bread taken from the mouths of his children? For a sale that he was paid $0 from? Good lord, we better break it down! If the CD was $20 new, bought once, the artist made "x" amount from the $20 that was originally charged. Let's call it $3. That CD is then sold by the original purchaser to a used CD place for $5 cash. Already that person made more than the artist did off that one CD. The Used place sells it for $13 (since it's a new release). They made $10 more than the artist did, so he's already missing out on $12 that others made from his work (except, yes, the initial person is actually down $15 and the shop only really made $8 from the sale so let's use that figure as the amount the artist is "missing"). Lets say over the course of the week that same CD is bought and sold 20 more times. The shop has then made ($8 x 20 =) $160 off of that artist's work and beyond the initial $3 he made from the CD when it was new he hasn't gotten a dime of it! The humanity! Yet it's legal! And what if a "fan" ONLY buys CDs used? What kind of thieving bastard is THAT?!

Bah. It's all smoke and mirrors. Ultimately, the only value there is to anything beyond what is needed to survive is what people are willing to pay for it.

The fact that file sharing has taken off like wild fire, to me, proves less that world is full of filthy thieves and more that people aren't happy paying so much money for variable sound on a platter. Instead of spending so much time and money trying to shove the evil back into P2Pandora's Box it would be better spent looking at the current system of distribution and sales, what people don't like about it, what the new system can offer, why it's more appealing and how to utilize it to make things marketable for the artists. Apple did that with the iTunes music store and made some serious bank for themselves in the process. It's down to being the rock or the stream. The rock will stand firm, resolute, inflexible but the stream will win in the end by both skirting around the rock and by eroding it.

---
P2P = "peer to peer" and I used it as a fast way of saying "filesharing", for those of you who might be my readers that aren't in the "know" as it were. I don't know who you are, but you might be there and I didn't want you to be in the dark. And, unlike saying "WWW" in the place of "world wide web" it is actually one syllable faster to say out loud and eight characters faster to write. Knowledge is power!

No comments:

"Boring a hole in the patient’s head creates a door through which the demons can escape, and - viola! - out goes the crazy."