At a get-together last night, the topic of intellectual property came up, and, in a digital age where everything can be transmitted and downloaded and bit-torrented, what should be paid for and what should not. I’ve had this conversation lots of times and regular downloaders usually bring up a couple of points—Point One, that either the money you pay goes straight to the record label/production company/publisher/newspaper and not the actual artist/crew/journalist. And Point Two, that as an artist, you shouldn’t be in it for the money. If you’re a real artist, you don’t even care about money, you care about sharing your work with the world.
Point One is tricky, as in certain industries this is a more valid point. I will say I used to think the same thing about TV shows and movies and then met my boyfriend, who worked in the film business, and explained that proceeds from DVD sales go straight to the crew’s healthcare funds.
But it’s Point Two that really gets me. Because most artists don’t want to be paid so they can get rich and own a yacht (or even a big house). We know that there are much better ways to make money than through art. Most artists want to be paid because they want to keep making art.
Put another way, making art costs money. Finding supporters offsets some of those costs. Get enough supporters, and you can continue to make more art. And that’s good news for the people who enjoy said art. And the artist.
There are some amazing artists who truly don’t want anything in exchange for their work—and more power to them for finding a hobby that they love to share with the world—or for having the financial means to give away the things that they make. But just because someone’s an artist, just because they love what they do and would and will continue to do it even without being paid, it shouldn’t be expected. Just like you wouldn’t expect a chef to feed you for free just because she’s passionate about cooking.
So speaking of supporting awesome creators, I have to give a shout out to a good friend and amazing journalist, Blaire Briody. This summer, she’s heading to North Dakota to cover the oil boom (basically the modern-day gold rush), and get a first-hand account of a fascinating story that is not being covered anywhere else. She’s raising money on Fairstreet.com to fund this project—and without the funding, the project simply won’t happen. Not a dime is going to a media mogul or a newspaper with vested interests—everything goes to allowing awesome, independent and honest journalism to happen. Which I think we can all agree we need more of.