I recently watched Searching For Sugarman, a great documentary about a musician named Sixto Rodriguez who was 1970s era musician. See the film because the story is very inspiring to all artists, not just musicians.
Like the story of a majority of musicians, the film focuses a small bit on the fact that Rodriguez never received any money for his songs, when in retrospect someone, perhaps the record label, made a whole lot of money.
In the analog-era, when media-art was distributed on physical things, vinyl records or motion picture film, there was a clear way to exchange money.
In it’s simplest form, an artist created something (be it a physical record or film) and then sold or rented that physical something in exchange for money, which the artist then used to pay his rent and buy food so that the artist could create more things.
Of course we all know how it actually worked, where the so-called middleman – be it the film studio or the record label – steps in and helps to sell the artist’s work and then uses “creative accounting” to keep all the money for themselves. I’ve a friend who wrote a brilliant screenplay for very successful film which cost thirty million to make, and grossed three hundred million at the boxoffice, (not counting very lucrative DVD sales) and yet that film, amazingly, is still not in profit and my friend has not received a penny of his profit participation money.
Now in the digital era which we live, there’s still the middle man issue, but worse for the artist, copying or bootlegging a work of media-art is as easy and as fast as a few clicks on a computer. Songs and films are on You-Tube and you can watch for free. This is all great, when one wants to see a performer perform, hear a new song, or a watch clip from a TV show or movie – you just watch it for free. Hurray!
But it’s terrible if one wants to make a living creating films, music, or art – for how does the media-artist pay his or her rent when there is no way to convert the art to money?
In coming blogs I am going to explore the complexities of these issues in search of, if not a solution, perhaps a direction of a solution. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions today and as we go forward.