In a March post, post-Gutenberg asked,
As more writers and artists without formal qualifications but with undeniable gifts find audiences for their work on the net, will micropayments finally take off?
So far, so-called Millennials – the generation in their twenties and early thirties now shaping our experience of the net — have shown little enthusiasm for [...] experimenting with micropayments — direct transactions between buyers and sellers [...]
Many ardent campaigners for the so-called ‘Freemium’ economy willingly pay small ransoms for the latest gadgets – even when these are only minor improvements or enhancements of last year’s versions, and are designed to fatten the profits of the hated capitalists. Few of them learn to cook simple meals from scratch: they are happy to pay huge mark-ups for bland microwaveable fare cooked and packaged by giant corporations, or to patronise fast-food chains.
Why is it seemingly only art that turns them into Scrooges?
For people working in the arts, the grim news last week – ‘European Parliament Kills Controversial ACTA’ — marked surging public support for depriving them of any protection from online piracy:
The European Parliament rejected the controversial global Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in a crucial vote on Wednesday. […] ACTA, abbreviation for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, mandated that signatory countries implement legislation to criminalize certain types of downloading content such as music and movies, from sites not sanctioned by rights owners …
ACTA was killed by a vast online social network expressly formed to oppose paying creative artists for downloading copies of their work. There were some eye-popping attempts at justifying this European vote in the comments section of a furious protest against ACTA’s defeat by the Scottish novelist Ewan Morrison: ‘Throwing out Acta will not bring a free internet, but cultural disaster’.
To study that thread is to pick up a persistent undercurrent of jealous resentment – whose real target is not, as so many of those commenters claimed sanctimoniously, the ‘content conglomerates’ or multinational music publishers and film studios charging inflated prices for CDs and DVDs. It is the musicians, actors, and other ‘content-producers’.
One commenter seemed to speak for many in this post:
Culture is shared and owned by everyone.
Floggin plastic discs, is a business, and nothing to do with culture.
A flurry of comments belaboured the point that artists must simply accept that technological change has made it difficult or impossible to prevent people from helping themselves to art free of charge.
At post-Gutenberg, we wondered why these stalwart defenders of freeloading have yet to form a movement against paying farmers for food. As tillers of the soil use air, earth, and knowledge of crop-growing ‘owned by everyone’, why not risk arrest and imprisonment by ganging up to pirate vegetables, eggs, milk and poultry from fields and farms unprotected by fences or other low- or high-tech barriers?
As heatedly as they insisted on freedom for themselves, the commenters crowing about ACTA’s defeat demanded that artists – especially musicians – work on their terms. These go beyond requiring musicians to ‘share’ recordings of their work for nothing. Never mind if they are brilliant composers with crippling stage-fright, or who would simply prefer not to perform live, these audience members know what is best for them … and some wrote strings of posts making essentially the same demands:
The world has changed, and it has been changing for well over a decade now. A generation have grown up expecting free music and it’s nothing to do with being ‘radical’ or ‘hip’, it’s just the norm.
I suggest becoming a renowned performer rather than relying on CD sales.
To put it bluntly : adapt or die.
This little rant is of course based on the assumption that the grotesque wealth that has, in recent history, accompanied success in music or acting or writing is in any way desirable.
Pirating is wrong, but […] maybe the artists need to perform more. Those “used to be musicians” might still be if they’d got out of the studio and into the pubs and clubs like their predecessors did.
So music will once again be about artists performing live, instead of corporate fatcats presiding over billion dollar industries.
What a tragedy.
Most of the people you are talking about and their businesses, those in the creative industries, willingly use and exploit the free internet to give a wider audience a taste of what they are about and to use its capacity as free advertising for their events. The bonus of this is that live events which had been dying have now been invigorated.
[Musical artists must] do what most musicians have always done, flip burgers during the week and live for the gigs on Friday and Saturday night.
… [U]nregulated web will lead to musos having to play guitar solo on street corners for thrown coins. can’t see anything wrong there.
If you create something outstanding and expect to live off the work for the rest of your life, and your family for 70 years after your death, then you must charge a sufficient amount to invest the proceeds and live off the investment income.
Otherwise you need to continually produce new works, or perform existing works.
We did not have more than a few minutes to test our impression of artist-envy in a search engine trawl. Two results – not enough to prove anything, but admirably frank, and revealing:
From a post titled ‘Why we are insanely jealous of artists’ on Jason Kallsen’s Vinethinking blog:
At a certain point, usually in our youth … we stand alone in front of the mirror with thumb raised and sing along to a song that is pounding out of the stereo. And during our dream sequence, we see thousands of screaming fans before us, cheering us on. Yes, deep down, at some point, we all want to be that person.
We love artists, and we are jealous of them for two reasons: they live their life doing what they want to do without permission or apology, and their career creates legacy projects naturally. [his bold type]
From Momus’s click opera blog:
I’m jealous of artists especially when a shiny new copy of ARTFORUM arrives. I flick through the pages looking at the ads.
It’s important to be jealous, without rejecting. Jealous and full of desire.
I’m jealous of the super-elite art tribe who ride the global flow from one biennial to the next.
And I’m ultimately jealous of the fact that our society has evolved to such a level that we indulge people as if they were children, and let them act out the whims and games of children in public, and pay them for it. It seems that being an artist — in the West, or in China — is the ultimate evolutionary point of the individual. Perhaps it’s a point we’ll recede from as times get tougher later this century, but a world without these selfish, clever, silly children isn’t a better one.
Jason Kallsen points the way to the right solution – which is most definitely not to deprive artists of copyright:
[W]e can all live fuller lives than we probably do. Even if you are chained to a desk (for now) find an outlet that allows you to creatively do whatever the hell you want to do. A painting class, doing more personal writing, visiting museums more often, taking the camera around town on a daily mission to make one great photo, etc.
It is only a small leap from there to the reason why this post-Gutenberg blog was started last September – to campaign for changing the ownership structure of media to let members of the audience become co-owners, and give them the chance to perform and publish themselves. See, for instance: ‘Co-owning media is on the horizon …‘.