Thursday, March 21, 2013

Arguments Against a Fuck You, Pay Me Mentality (Part 1)

As any good drug dealer knows, the first one's always free.

There's been a whole lot of talk, probably since the dawn of time, about not giving away your work for free.  And I agree, kind of.  Yes, we should get paid for the things we are better than other people at doing, if there is a market for it.  However, in almost any business, there are many things that are given away for free or at a loss.  Loss leaders, promos, demos, giveaways, coupon deals, etc...  The point is that there are things that come for free (or cheaper than market value) in this world, but only because those freebies are statistically likely to earn more profit, at least in theory.  That being said, the whole 'Fuck You, Pay Me' manifesto that many people in artistic communities have been espousing ever and ever more loudly is nice because it creates an arena for discussion about the problem of the starving artist, instead of letting it be swept under the rug like those months old cheerios in that spot you just hadn't gotten around to vacuuming yet.  The problem is that it is being used as a catch-all excuse for punishing the Wrong Goddamn People.

An Argument Against Universal Truths

If you ask someone to author some art for you, you should pay them.  If you are looking for collaborators on a project, this is often a bit of a different story, I think.  This is a topic that I've been thinking about lately because I am putting together that damn book I keep talking about: Out of Place, Out of Time 2.  When I did the original, I asked people if they would like to contribute.  I was putting out this book anyway, regardless of whether other people were getting in on it or not, it was a topic I was interested in writing stories about and I had a lot of free time right around then (because I was unemployed and broke).  I made it as clear as possible from the get go that I had no money to pay anyone.  Most responses were very positive, there were a few people that said I should not be asking for free work.  This is where the black and white view that people take on the whole "Fuck You, Pay Me" argument gets incredibly exhausting.  Yes, I would love to pay everyone, there wasn't the money for it.  Had the book taken off, I had prepared a handy dandy Excel spreadsheet that would have tabulated percentages for everyone who contributed.  Instead, it sold about 35 copies which netted us a grand total of approximately $75, i.e. about $2 per story, which would have literally been more expensive to get to all the contributors than the ~$25 that I would have netted.  I didn't promise anyone riches, I think I was fairly upfront about the whole thing.  There's a line, is what I'm saying.  A goddamn line.  Not every argument is subject to a universal truth.

Stealing to Stay Alive (Inside)

Another arena of this argument is the ubiquitous nature of the Internet snatch thief's tool set.  What is the level of deviancy in downloading an album or a comic book? Shockingly enough, I did my fair share of stealing art in the good old days of being a poor student, and it exposed me to a ton of culture that I never would have seen otherwise, granted, that doesn't help line anyone's pockets, but sorry, I'm not sorry.  Now that I have a real job and can afford to pay for things, I do.  And now that I'm working on breaking into a writing industry that is quite fucking difficult to crack, I understand that those songs and books and ideas and dreams that I stole when I was broke were not the only thing I took.  I took money out of someone's pocket.  For real.  But again, I'm not sorry.  And here's why.  Art is food for your mind and society right now as far as I can tell is fucking starving.  Without those things I stole, I would have gone hungry too because I didn't possess any other way to get them.  I know it seems ridiculous. But really, really think about it, without art, what the hell are we?  Language is an art, philosophy, our understanding of science grew from the minds of artistic geniuses (references can be made available if you are too lazy to use a free Google search to find your own favorites).  Yeah, art should be available.  That argument notwithstanding, people should be willing and able to pay what they can for it.

If An Author Writes in a Basement, Does Anyone Give a Damn?

The place where the Fuck You, Pay Me line of reasoning comes from is completely justified, and hell, if you think you should be paid for everything you do, you're more than welcome to try.  However, there are certain things that I won't pay for.  What we have in our media frenzied society now is a deluge of art.  A lot of it is shitty, amateurish dreck.  But such a vast pool of work gives rise to a people driven meritocracy.  The things that get recognized are often the things that someone worked their ass off to create.  Sometimes they're not.  I never claimed we have a perfect system.  However, I know, KNOW, that a lot of people who are the loudest defenders of the Fuck You Pay Me mentality also give shit away.  This does not make them hypocrites.  It makes them businessmen (and women).  There is a model that many of us are trying to follow and it depends on being recognized for putting out good work.  If you don't have some way to prove that you put out good work, you are often left out in the cold.  How do you show people that your art is worth their time?  Give them little freebies.  Art d'oeuvres.  Blogging, or flash fiction work well for writers.  They give you a portfolio before you've been lucky enough to be published.  Hey, you want to know what my writing is like?  Check this shit out.  Same deal for physical media artists.  Sites like Deviant Art exist for a reason.  So yes, I understand Fuck You, Pay Me, but if you ride that train forever and never get work, how do you grow your passions?  Someone has to see them.  We, as artists, have a responsibility to make ourselves accessible if we hope to make it to the big leagues.  Or, I suppose, we can be unflinching and get nothing anyway.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Start of Something?

It was cold that night. Rain fell like hammers from a sky the color of industrial grade smoke belched by grey coal. I pulled my hat down over my eyes and marched forward through sheet after sheet for miles until I got to my grubby destination and yanked the door near off its hinges. Warm air blasted my face. I stared into  the fire, burning hot and mean in the hearth, while I slipped inside. The rain ran off me like dreams off a Vegas stripper and fell to the floor in puddles that reminded me of pools of blood.
"I'm here," I said, obviously.
"Obviously," came the reply.