When I was in college for journalism, the changing world of the practice was a hot topic. How does journalism survive in a world where people expect to jump on the internet and find all the information of the world for free? Such is the struggle of the artist in this day and age. Writers, painters, musicians and many other professions involving creativity have struggled with the fact that – like it or not – their work ends up accessible on the internet for free. As bloggers, we are also artists who are enabled by the internet, but our work is just as easily stolen. Where do we stand in this world?
One of my goals for improving my blog has been to pay for images I use here. Right now, most of my images are from Flicker and include their title, creator and the creative commons license that allows me to use the photo. This doesn’t look to spiffy to me, but I’ve seen a couple of bloggers get in trouble for misusing images. I don’t want to be one of them.
Still, there’s a part of me that’s not satisfied. I recognize that using these images, even with the permission of the creator through a creative commons license, still means that artist gets nothing. I aspire to make an income someday through my writing and I’m sure many of the people creating these photos think the same. Even though I can find photos for free (the one here is from SplitShire and doesn’t require any credit to be given), I’d rather pay something – even if it’s only a few cents – for the photos I use. I have seen their photo and deemed it worthy for my blog. Why shouldn’t I give them something? If someone copied my entire blog onto their website, I’d expect to receive something. I don’t have a copyright for nothing.
Maybe this is only something I think about because I have my hands is so many creative writing endeavors and like the idea of making a full income on that writing. Bloggers who have no concern for that may not think twice about the photos they use. They certainly don’t think spending a dollar per post on photos is a worthwhile investment.
Here’s the real question in all this. How can art survive without commission? How does a small artist become any bigger if people aren’t willing to pay something for their work?
I argue that, if you create great art, people will pay. Of course, you have to give people way to do that (which is why I sometimes thing of throwing a PayPal widget on here, but I’m not sure how weird that is), but I honestly think the average person will willingly choose to pay what they think something is worth in order to access it.
Having mentioned this before, some friends have claimed no one will do that. They cite people they know who are huge movie buffs with crazy entertainment system setups and they have no problem never paying for the movies they watch. I argue that’s because their choice is between a price they think is too high and no price. Radiohead once offered fans the ability to pay whatever they wanted for their music. If they wanted it for free, they could have it, and right off their official site no less. Guess what? The average price was not free. Fan freely paid the musicians what they thought their music was worth.
I don’t think pirating anything and everything on the internet will ever go away, but I do think people will be willing to pay an artist what they think they are worth. Those without expendable income may consume an artist’s work for free, but their fandom may grow with their income, allowing them to contribute in the future.
Honestly, I don’t have a huge problem with things being available for free on the internet. When there is an artist, author or musician I truly appreciate, I go out and spend my hard-earned money on their work. If someone’s art isn’t up to par and I don’t feel like it’s worth my dollar, I’ll settle for a YouTube video.
Do you think people would pay something to artists they enjoy if given the option to pay what they want? If everything was paid for that way, how would we see popular music and movies change? Would they?