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Friday, January 16, 2009

Pay The Writer

This can apply to anything creative these days, but please especially note the following clip if you're in the music business.

It's video of famed writer Harlan Ellison (author of essays, books and TV scripts for Star Trek, The Outer Limits, The New Twilight Zone and Babylon 5) getting very agitated when asked to provide clearance of something he did regarding a past interview.

Ellison has a good argument. At some point the creator has to get paid. The current digital strategy says to give it away to establish the brand, but that only works for so long. Creative people must get paid if they're expected to continue creating.


Larry Jones said...

Wow, somebody needs a hug. Let's hope he doesn't come after you for using that clip.

Ellison is pretty good with words, but doesn't he have an agent or a manager or somebody who can talk business with people who want to use his stuff and who won't alienate everyone they come in contact with? If this is how he negotiates it's a miracle he has any money at all. I suspect it's just Harlan putting on a colorful show to enhance his "legend," as he no doubt perceives it.

More to the audio point, the digital cat is out of the bag, and it's now possible to reproduce content at a cost that is near zero. There is no way that the "value" of a recording, once released digitally, is not going to go to near zero. You can say it's wrong or unfair to the artist or writer (don't get me started on the record companies), but it's reality, and you can't deny it, any more than you can deny gravity.

My model for the future of musical artists is:

1.) Put out your music packaged in interesting ways that will make people feel OK about paying you for a hard copy when you release it, and don't get all sour and cranky when later on it gets "shared" on the internet.
2.) Put on live shows that connect so powerfully with people that they will be happy to pay to see you perform. (Corollary: Don't charge a month's salary for your shows, either.)
3.) Forget about private jets and five-thousand-dollar alligator skin cowboy boots. That ain't art.

I'm with you that the creative people should get paid for sharing their talent, their labor, their inspiration. What's your proposal?

Unknown said...

Larry is right. He should have an agent, but he probably doesn't want to pay for one.
I'm a musician and I haven't had a pay raise in 30 years. The dentist certainly costs more as do my strings and everything else.
It gets frustrating!

I basically give my music away hoping that the more folks exposed to it the more chance others will record it an pay royalties.
I have had some success with this strategy, but it's mostly through other players that my music gets passed along and valued.


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