Generation Exploiter

Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does many things. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (early 2021).

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182 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    People want to have their cake and eat it to. Its an impossible but common desire.

    More seriously, the refusal to want to pay cultural workers is a symptom of modern technology more than anything else. If you know where to look and how to get it, the internet provides nearly unlimited media choices for free or very low cost. Young people are more likely to know these things than older people. They develop some rather elaborate justifications for getting their entertainment for free and do so.Report

    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:

      People want to have their cake and eat it to. Its an impossible but common desire.

      I don’t see what the big deal is. If you want to eat a cake, don’t you have to have it first? The one implies the other.

      It’s like when someone accuses another of being “a modern-day Cassandra.” Uh….Cassandra happened to be right.Report

      • I joke, but I do agree with your comment.Report

      • Also using Luddite as an insult. The Luddites were right. Their livelihood was destroyed by new machinery.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        It took me years to figure out that expression, but eventually I realized that it meant wanting to eat the cake and then continue to have said cake in your possession.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        They also wanted to halt the process that has since led to a 10- to 20-fold increase in standards of living. They weren’t wrong, but they were selfish assholes who tried to keep western civilization in a state of preindustrial squalor in order to preserve their own privilege.

        Still a pretty good basis for an insult.Report

      • They lost their livelihood and means of support in exchange for a system in which they were replaced by unskilled workers who were paid a pittance, which is exactly what they were opposed to. You cay say they were short-sighted and didn’t see the boons that would come, but honestly I think saying that being opposed to being run out of work makes them privileged assholes is stretching it.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        They pursued their own interests without worrying about what was best for society as a whole? No wonder free-marketers despise them.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:


        Brandon is right that the Weaver jobs were eventually replaced by a better standard of living for the world and better paying jobs but it took about 40-50 years for the replacement to happen. It wasn’t an overnight thing and many economists and hardcore market purists seem to forget that.

        There is also the fact that hardcore market purists tend not to see the world the way the rest of the world sees it.Report

  2. LeeEsq says:

    The issue of authenticity also comes into play. There has long been a suspicion that monetarily successful musicians and artists weren’t really artists. Real artists were supposed to be starving and not really getting buy and doing what they do for love not lucre. Its part of the cult of authenticity. One alleged reason why indie bands were better was their lack of economic success. That made them more authentic than stadium rock bands like Bon Jovi or pop acts like Madonna. We seem to be able to tolerate poor artists that can’t make a living off their art and to a lesser extent rich artists. The in-betweens, people able to make a solid middle-class living from art, make people uneasy for some reason. One justification for not paying cultural workers is that for generations, people assumed that poverty and the artist’s life went together.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to LeeEsq says:

      That’s a great point. I remember what you used to see was musicians making music that people loved when they were an underground band and hated as soon as enough other people loved it. The thing with “selling out” is it supposedly puts them out-of-touch with their fans. But that connection is based on those musicians being sufficiently poor that they’re trying to get you to come and buy their tee-shirts after the show!Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Incidentally, I thought my brother posted this.Report

    • Jim Heffman in reply to LeeEsq says:

      “Real artists were supposed to be starving and not really getting buy and doing what they do for love not lucre.”

      See also Jim Davis versus Bill Watterson. (Or, for that matter, Bill Watterson versus Berke Breathed.)Report

  3. LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

    First off, how much did artists ever get paid? When did this idea come about that art should be a lucrative career? Aside from the lucky few who got favor from a Medici patron, how many artists historically enjoyed lucrative compensation?

    Second, how much of the current devaluation of art reflect the breakdown of the cultural norms that used to govern art? If art is whatever I decide it is, doesn’t it logically follow that it is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it, just like any other commodity like wheat or PC chips?

    Third, isn’t the devaluation a reflection of how much technology and industrialization have democratized the production of art? It used to be that no one except the idle gentry or lucky few prodigies could even have the time to make art, much less master the difficulty of the mediums. Today we have more leisure time, and technology has made the mediums easier than ever to master.Report

    • These are all great questions, but fairly complicated ones, so I’ll try to answer as best I can with my somewhat limited knowledge. So, for the first question, as I understand it, the big shift in how art is produced comes with the mechanical reproduction of art. So, previously, artists worked under the guild and patronage system and the wealthy could have art and artists survived, although many were essentially workers, while a few great artists did fairly well. But, they all essentially worked for patrons.

      With mechanical reproduction, artists produced work that the general public could own. Generally, whoever had the machines to reproduce the work made the money. Think of the history of the blues- the artists didn’t make the money, but the people who could record and press those records did. With music, there was a very small window of time where musicians actually made a lot of money, but that era is over.

      What was supposed to change with digital technologies was we don’t really need those middlemen anymore. If you want to buy music directly from a musician, a text directly from a novelist, or a print directly from a painter, you can. What happened, though, in the case of music is there have been companies that have said, yeah, but I can get it to you for a lot cheaper than the artist can just by not paying the artist, or paying them a few cents.

      Music before the machine age is a bit different from the plastic arts because there were amateur musicians, or traveling minstrels basically who survived by playing music from town to town and not under a specific patron. That’s what I think we’re returning to now, although it’s hard to imagine many people are going to choose that life for very long.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Rufus F. says:

        These days I’m more interested in the writers’ problem, but many of the same points apply. A small number of “great” artists do well — Charlie Stross regularly points out on his blog that the large majority of “successful” novelists don’t make a living at it, they supplement their retirement, or day job, or spouse’s income [1]. A successful novel generally requires a supporting staff — both story and copy editors, cover artist, promotion, etc. Publishers often cover these costs in hope that they’re investing in the next Rowling. Current efforts to find a business model are being driven by the middlemen. Rowling and the other high net-worth novelists could afford, without even noticing, a million-dollar-per-year online clearing house to make the “supplement” authors’ work available at price most people would pay over waiting on the library or making the effort to pirate with almost all of the income going to the authors.

        [1] Consider The Cuckoo’s Calling, written by J. K. Rowling under a pseudonym. It was received as “a stellar debut” and sold something less than 1,500 copies, clearly supplement range. Once it got out that it was Rowling’s work, the publisher had to run off another 140,000 copies to meet demand.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Rufus F. says:


        It is sort of amazing that selling approximately 1500 copies of a book is considered decent.
        Or is that just a weekly sale?

        I wonder what it says that books sell in the thousands range or less or the hundreds of thousands range.

        The big issue is that there are always some success stories in the new ways of doing things even if most suffer. There are the handful of exceptions who figured out how to make a 6 figure income from self-publishing e-books. Romance writers seem to know a lot about branding and fan interaction. Same with SF and Fantasy authors. I often find this reader-author or other artist relationship to be a bit odd and not what I want but damn do I see people melt like butter whenever Patrick Stewart does something funny. A friend from college is now a romance book writer and sometimes I see how she interacts with her readers on social media. It is a lot of details into personal life. There is a part of me that thinks this could backfire and lead to some kind of stalking.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Romance readers tend to be women, right? A woman author of romance writers stalked by a woman fan sounds like an intriguing premise in all sorts of genres.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Rufus F. says:

        1500 copies is good for a first book. It’s not a good sign if the second book does no better.Report

      • aaron david in reply to Rufus F. says:

        I believe that Blood Meridian only sold 1500 in its hard cover edition.Report

      • Kim in reply to Rufus F. says:

        storytellers and musicians often played for sex. As is the case now. It made it prudent to leave town a lot.Report

      • Kim in reply to Rufus F. says:

        you’re rather assuming authors aren’t already being stalked/harassed by their compatriots. Given the numerous pranks that contingent likes to pull…Report

    • I think, for the second question, you’re talking about conceptual art, which dates back to Duchamp’s ‘fountain’ in 1917. This is how I take “art is whatever I decide it is”. I’m not sure how that affects what people are willing to pay for art. It seems like people might be unwilling to pay for something they don’t believe is art. I recently watched a film that someone uploaded to Youtube specifically because I suspected it would be garbage and I was right. On the other hand, people seem more inclined now to steal art that they value highly. So, it’s hard to say.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Rufus F. says:

        When faced with challenges like Duchamp and Koons and Rothko (really? the painting is just one color on the entire canvas?), I’ve thought hard about it and decided that “art” is some kind of communication, necessarily through some sort of medium, that is intended to and actually does communicate a concept from artist to audience. Whether it has economic value or aesthetic appeal are questions of economics and aesthetics. But the essence of art is communication through some kind of medium.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Rufus F. says:

        RE: Rothko.

        I’ve said this here before, but think of Rothko as ‘Eno as a painter’.

        Of course, if you don’t like Eno, this may not help.Report

      • dhex in reply to Rufus F. says:

        burt – rothko’s scale and depth really need to be seen to be believed. dude painted some huge, huge things.

        gylph’s eno comparison is apt. i find him the most musical of all painters, and probably the most visually soothing despite his own personal sorrows.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

        There is a book called “Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That: Modern Art Explained”.

        It has a bunch of crappity crap that your five year old could have done alongside of explanations why your five year old could not, in fact, have done this.

        There was an example given of hundreds of pieces of wrapped candy (red, white, and blue, of course) dumped in the corner. These pieces of candy represented people who had died from AIDS in a particular period of time.

        “While a child might dump candy in the corner”, I’m paraphrasing here, “the child would not have the candy symbolize deaths.”

        Luckily, the book is small and easily thrown.Report

      • Chris in reply to Rufus F. says:

        i find him the most musical of all painters, and probably the most visually soothing despite his own personal sorrows.

        What is a poet? An unhappy man who conceals profound anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so fashioned that when sighs and groans pass over them they sound like beautiful music. His fate resembles that of the unhappy men who were slowly roasted by a gentle fire in the tyrant Phalaris’ bull—their shrieks could not reach his ear to terrify him, to him they sounded like sweet music. And people flock about the poet and say to him: do sing again; Which means, would that new sufferings tormented your soul, and: would that your lips stayed fashioned as before, for your cries would only terrify us, but your music is delightful

        I have to say, I find Rothko’s work visually appealing — the sort it’d be nice to have in a print on a wall above a couch, say, but I don’t find it in any way moving. Decoration, rather than art, I suppose. I say this as someone who loves modern art, particularly expressionism, so it is not like I’m constitutionally opposed to his sort of work.Report

      • dhex in reply to Rufus F. says:


        taste being what it is, i’ll merely say intent matters. and if it weren’t for the inherent presumption of judgement from the “art world types” i think americans would give less of a fig about who could do what and be ok with either enjoying or not enjoying a particular work.


        i getcha. i do find his work very moving, very emotional, but i also have mild synesthesia so colors (or especially animated gifs) have soundtracks and whatnot that helps me fall into them. seeing them up close from time to time was a great perk of living in nyc. the scale is incredible.Report

      • Chris in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Interesting. I wonder what other artists you appreciate because of the somewhat unique perspective your particular synesthesia gives you.Report

      • Kim in reply to Rufus F. says:

        I think I saw that exhibit of free candy. I don’t think I ever got that it was about AIDS though…

      • Glyph in reply to Rufus F. says:

        There was an example given of hundreds of pieces of wrapped candy (red, white, and blue, of course) dumped in the corner. These pieces of candy represented people who had died from AIDS in a particular period of time.

        [stops stuffing ‘free’ candy into pockets, sidesteps away from corner with shifty eyes and bulging cheeks]Report

      • dhex in reply to Rufus F. says:


        “Interesting. I wonder what other artists you appreciate because of the somewhat unique perspective your particular synesthesia gives you.”

        a lot of the more lysergic examples of the 20th century, generally. album art to a certain degree, especially when it’s particularly appropriate.

        also weird hatred of certain colors (100% magenta and teal, to be sure) so the last 18 months of early 90s revivalism have been pretty rough on my eyeballs.Report

      • Chris in reply to Rufus F. says:

        My own taste ranges largely from pre-impressionism through expressionism (with a nostalgic affection for the Dutch Renaissance), and I’m particularly fond of people who use a lot of color: Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee, Cezanne, though I also have a fondness for Manet and his contemporaries who tended to be kind of grim. I’m wondering how the really loud canvases of some of those works would affect me with even a mild color-based synesthesia.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Rufus F. says:

        “I’m wondering how the really loud canvases of some of those works would affect me with even a mild color-based synesthesia.”

        Well, there’s a way to find out. ALL art is lysergic, when you are tripping balls. Even Christopher Cross.

        Er, so I’ve heard.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:


      • Glyph in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Have you ever seen an exhibition of the pre-impressionists…ON WEED?Report

      • Glyph in reply to Rufus F. says:

        @chris @dhex @jaybird – somehow, this seems appropriate to post here:

      • Chris in reply to Rufus F. says:

        That is surprisingly awesome.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:


      “If art is whatever I decide it is, doesn’t it logically follow that it is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it, just like any other commodity like wheat or PC chips?”

      Yes, but only if agreed upon by the seller. You can’t just walk into some guy’s wheat farm and take what you want and say, “Well, I wouldn’t pay for this.” If the owner of the music — be that the musician him/herself, the producer, the record company, or whathaveyou — doesn’t want to sell it at the price you want to pay for it, then there is no deal.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:


      Hasn’t the radical mass production been true for a long time? There were self-published novels in the 19th century. Hawthorne self-published his first novel. The thing about rock music was that it was always supposed to be done by a bunch of kids in their garage.

      I think you are right that things are getting more democratic and less centralized and new technologies allow people easier access.Report

  4. Kazzy says:

    I’ve argued this with friends… I just can’t understand how they can be so blasé about piracy/copyright infringement/theft/whatever it is. Especially given their viewpoints on other, quasi-related topics. If you don’t think something is worth paying for and the person who creates it and/or owns it thinks otherwise, then you should have no expectation to own it. It boggles my mind that people try to construct arguments to the contrary.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

      FTR, I’m 31 and have pirated so little in my life, especially once it became clear what all that meant.Report

    • ScarletNumbers in reply to Kazzy says:

      I just can’t understand how they can be so blasé about piracy/copyright infringement/theft/whatever it is. Especially given their viewpoints on other, quasi-related topics

      Because they don’t see it as theft.

      Why don’t they see it as theft? Because the artist isn’t being deprived of anything tangible.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        So if I don’t see something as theft, I can use that as justification to do it? Because I’m pretty sure that eating food while I grocery shop and not paying for it is ‘sampling’, not ‘theft’.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to ScarletNumbers says:


        In your example, the grocery store is being deprived of something tangible.Report

      • scott the mediocre in reply to ScarletNumbers says:


        Because I’m pretty sure that eating food while I grocery shop …

        You do see the rather important difference that the apple which you “sample” is then not there for the next person to “sample”, right? A nondurable rivalrous good in economics lingo.

        I don’t mean the above to condone intellectual property piracy with the above, but rather I mean to point out that economic models and intuitions based on rival goods fall badly apart when we try to apply them to nonrivalrous goods, hence I think ScarletNumbers’ comment.

      • notme in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        They don’t see it as theft because of 50 odd years of liberal social policies has devalued property rights. It’s the “they didn’t build that” liberal mentality.Report

      • Chris in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        Liberals. Liberals liberals liberals. Liberals! Liberals liberals, liberals.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        Like the goddam socialists running Ford and Chrysler.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to ScarletNumbers says:


        I understand that they are not identical. My point is that just because someone feels something isn’t wrong doesn’t make it so. My friends can insist that piracy is a-okay all they want. That doesn’t make it so.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to ScarletNumbers says:


        Yes, but you said you don’t “understand” how your friends are so “blasé” about this topic.

        @scott-the-mediocre and I are explaining their point of view, so that you may understand.Report

      • Dan Miller in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        @kazzy If it’s theft to download a song, surely it’s also theft to change the law so that works that would have entered the public domain have their copyrights extended retroactively. Which isn’t to say that downloading music is necessarily morally right, but it does have two implications:

        1) Using the law as a moral guidepost in this realm is problematic at best
        2) There’s a strong danger of double-standards hereReport

    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:


      I share your thoughts, too. A friend of mine knows someone who essentially steals e-books from the local public library. I’m not sure how this person does it exactly, but it involves “borrowing” the book and somehow re-saving it on the e-reader in a different form so it’s not retaken back by the library when it’s due. (And I think this is different than just disabling the wi-fi on the e-reader.)

      The catch is, this person makes a very good wage, and it’s hard for me to think that he/she *needs* the e-book so as to justify stealing it.Report

    • Guy in reply to Kazzy says:

      I try to make it a policy that I only pirate media I can’t acquire legitimately. Generally, that means rips of untranslated Japanese videogames (early Fire Emblem, Fate/Stay Night). If for whatever reason I don’t have a legitimate way to interact with your (published) art, I feel justified in acquiring it illegitimately. Now, this only works because I have a particularly odd view of intellectual property. I do not feel that it is real property; rather, intellectual property is something we treat as property for economic reasons because doing so allows us to maximizing the number and kind of artists/inventors our society produces. I also don’t feel particularly bad stealing from large, wealthy corporations for this reason, though I try to avoid it.Report

    • Jim Heffman in reply to Kazzy says:

      “I just can’t understand how they can be so blasé about piracy/copyright infringement/theft/whatever it is.”

      As others have pointed out, it’s that they don’t see it as theft.

      The other half of that is that they don’t actually see it as valuable. Because the paradigm of our time is that Google and Wikipedia make everyone think they’re an expert at anything. Rocket science? Cake decorating? Writing and playing a song? Just Google it. Surely there’s an Instructables video for how to do it out there. Certainly someone on Yahoo Answers has figured this out. And all I need to do is follow the recipe.

      It’s live lived under ISO 9000 certification. Anyone can do anything, you just need a sufficiently-detailed command media document.Report

  5. Patrick says:

    I don’t know that this is the right frame, though.

    Many younger folks will pay to crowdsource music, I’d guess a higher percentage of them than older people, even accounting for relative wealth. Many younger folks will pay to see their favorite performers live; they’ll go out of their way to try to promote performers they believe in.

    I think their attitude towards piracy is not very much about entitlement. It’s the older generation I’ve noticed who has a bigger attitude of entitlement, and for many of them it is an issue of, “I already paid to get this music on vinyl, and then I paid again to get it on cassette, and then I paid *again* to buy it on CD, so for fuck’s sake it’s mine now and if I just copy a friend’s MP3 I’m just getting what I’ve already paid for three times over”.

    The actual “I just have a right to free music” folks? I don’t see many of them.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Patrick says:

      The crowd sourcing argument is interesting. I’m 34 and this makes me just old enough to be suspicious of crowdsourcing and like it is a too radically new way to do things. I am very willing to purchase a CD, or tickets to an event but I don’t want to have to pay money upfront for said things. That seems like too much faith for me. What if the item you crowdsource turns out to be something you dislike?

      I much prefer the old system where a CD or movie or play was produced. I got to read reviews and then determine whether I wanted to spend money on it or not.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Patrick says:

      “The actual “I just have a right to free music” folks? I don’t see many of them.”

      These are exactly the folks I have interacted with. The logical contortions they engage in to justify what I think ultimately amounts to greed (“I want something but I don’t want to pay for it”) are remarkable. One went so far as to say he was helping the artist because he might like the music and then choose to buy a ticket to the show. He was doing the guy a solid. We should probably be applauding him, I guess.Report

      • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

        “One went so far as to say he was helping the artist because he might like the music and then choose to buy a ticket to the show”

        what if he’s not wrong, though?

        there are many cultural factors involved, but one of the bigger incorrect ideas is this notion that every download = lost sale. no more than every cassette dub was a lost sale back when.

        if he’s holding himself up as some kinda hero he’s probably a weenie, but given that the phrase “depressive black metal” brings up 5.8 million results on google…there’s so much fish there’s no longer any sea.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        It is possible that their action was, on net, beneficial to the artist. But they do not get to make that decision unilaterally. I may think it is in your best interest for you to stop eating saturated fats. That doesn’t make it acceptable for me to go in your house without your permission and throw out all your steaks.

        If the artist says, “I want you to pay for this music,” it is wrong on a number of levels to say, “No. But, trust me, I’m doing what is best for you.”Report

      • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:


        i think the steak thing is very inaccurate both in terms of how these exchanges are experienced by the downloader as well as what actually happens. if someone wasn’t going to buy someone else’s music, no amount of downloading or not downloading is going to change that. downloading/youtube is a slight uptick toward the “might buy” in what is otherwise a not gonna happening

        “If the artist says, “I want you to pay for this music,” it is wrong on a number of levels to say, “No. But, trust me, I’m doing what is best for you.””

        so is a non-rights-holding youtube upload, like those featured in every music post on this site, more like pirate radio, piracy, some other kind of damage, etc?

        this ship sailed so hard so long ago. i wish the yunguns thought more about music like i do, but on the other hand bandcamp flacs, yo.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        I’m not arguing that the impact is the same. I’m arguing that violating someone else’s wishes is wrong. If I want you to pay for the music I’ve created or leave my steaks in the fridge, it is wrong for you to take my music for free or throw away my steaks.Report

      • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:


        “I’m arguing that violating someone else’s wishes is wrong.”

        you don’t really mean that.

        “i wish bob were dead” say far too many people, where bob=someone’s loved one.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        A bit pedantic, no? If you are entering into a transaction with someone, all parties should agree before proceeding. The moment someone attempts to access something that someone else has the rights to sell, they are initiating a transaction.Report

      • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:


        brohugs and all that, but…

        “The moment someone attempts to access something that someone else has the rights to sell, they are initiating a transaction.”

        does this apply to things like homophobic/bigoted wedding photographers? because there are so many caveats involved that i think it makes this particular analogy useless given the context of music and the internet.

        again, i want to go back to this

        “so is a non-rights-holding youtube upload, like those featured in every music post on this site, more like pirate radio, piracy, some other kind of damage, etc?”Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        Regarding YouTube uploads, I actually don’t really check out the music posts because I never have the time to listen. So I can’t really speak to what is going on there. When I do check out music on YouTube, it is almost always authorized videos because those are usually the first search result.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

        Speaking for the posts I do, I generally choose whichever is the ‘best’ YT upload (best sound/image quality and/or most interesting video) of a given track to feature here, which may or may not be the officially-sanctioned upload (if there even is one).

        So I’m probably standing on the shoulders of pirates here, pretty often.

        BUT! I have never uploaded music to YouTube.

        BUT! I have on occasion downloaded stuff that was not officially-sanctioned AFAIK.

        BUT! When I was doing that ^^^ more frequently than I do now, it was in the heady days of mp3 blog aggregators; mostly, I would nab a bunch of single tracks, listen to them, then either A.) delete them, B.) save them for further investigation, or C.) buy the dang album already, if I liked what I heard. I found out about (and bought) a lot of music in this way that I probably never would have heard otherwise. This usage struck me as pretty much an updated more convenient version of ‘radio’, as far as my exposure to new music goes, except I didn’t need to keep a finger poised over the PAUSE button on my tape deck all the time. When I do it now, it’s generally bootlegs or out of print stuff that I couldn’t purchase legally anyway.

        BUT! I buy more music and music-related items than the average bear, and I always try to make sure my favorite artists get some dosh via paying for some music (either hard copy or download), or traveling to see them play (sometimes long distances, as next February when we’ll be going to CO to see Sleater-Kinney). I buy the shirts too. I’ve purchased the same album in different formats. Multiple times, sometimes.

        BUT! Even pre-internet, I purchased a lot of my physical media used, so the artists weren’t getting my money in those cases, and despite occasional attempts by the industry to shut resale down, that was generally considered legal. I also made and received mix tapes/CDs for/from friends, and on occasion copied whole albums for myself or others.

        My point is there is a complicated matrix of ‘exposure provided / remuneration owed’ going on I think.

        By many measures, I have put more (WAY more) money into more musicians’ pockets than most people ever have or will.

        But I could have done more, in some instances.

        But in some instances mistakes would have been made, the blind purchase would have been regretted by me, it wouldn’t have been worth it IMO, that money would now not be available for me to give to a worthier artist, and I would have felt ripped off.

        Ever buy an album sound unheard that was just crap? You can’t take it back and say “this is terrible, give me my money back”. Nope, you are stuck with it now. This is another way in which art differs from other products, in terms of cultural expectations and the implied contract between buyer and seller.*

        And I know I have, in my own small way, helped enlarge the fanbase (and so hopefully the paying customer base) of certain acts. Even if by only one or two people.

        I don’t feel ‘entitled’ to others’ music; but if I hear it and I don’t like it and I don’t buy it, no harm, no foul to anyone.

        If I like it, I’m probably buying something from them in the very near future. Win-win.

        * You know, if I had time, I’d try to explore this one further. It seems to me that art (well, and food, and underpants) is handled very differently than most consumer goods.

        For the most part, if I buy something and it sucks, I have a limited amount of time in which I can return it, few questions asked. “Didn’t meet my needs/missing features/poor interface”. “Cheaply made”. “Didn’t look/feel good on me.”

        Prior to purchase, we try on clothes (multiple times, if needed), we test drive cars (multiple times, if needed), and have a return period; but purchasing a movie or record or a book is a leap of faith.

        In this, I am reminded of traveling sideshows – maybe you bought a ticket to see “The Ferocious Prehistoric Ape-Man!!!”, only to find some guy in a fleabitten, mangy gorilla suit once you entered the tentflaps; but they have your money now, and there’s one born every minute, yadda yadda.

        The current setup may have its problems, but I’d wager it at least results in fewer customers feeling ripped off, since they have more control now of making sure their money goes where they feel it is most deserved, via a ‘sampling’ norm.Report

      • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:


        vevo does have a ton of seo weight, but i was amused to find that “miles davis youtube” brings up a full album rip of kind of blue as the first result (ymmv due to geolocation, search history, etc).

        my point being that there’s a whole lot of ways this sort of transaction begins, and it’s a lot more complicated than i think you give it credit for. when you do listen to an unauthorized yt upload, are you morally culpable in some way for not fedexing some dosh to the band in question? what if it’s an illegal remix? what if it’s negativland?

        my general experience largely mirrors glyph’s, sans the sleater kinney. i buy a lot of music from a lot of people i would not have heard of if someone didn’t toss me a youtube link, authorized or not.

        used cds is another interesting conundrum – do artists deserve to get paid more than once if the product is sold more than once?Report

  6. Saul Degraw says:

    Interestingly James and I are sort of working on a piece about why theatre artists can’t make a living based off of two articles from The Stranger in 2008. I almost included the Iggy Pop article.

    The issue seems to be very complicated. On a surface level, the Internet has turned the culture of buying music into one of streaming music. On the other hand, the movie executives thought that TV would be the death of them but movies are doing quite well. There was a time when indie bookstores were going way but they seem to be on a comeback. Amoeba Music and Rasputin Music are still big in the Bay Area.

    I once bought a ticket to a show and it can’t with a download of the band’s new album. So it seems the more successful/smart bands are going back to touring as their primary revenue generator instead of releasing albums. Of course touring takes a toll.

    It is always hard to tell whether one is in a paradigm shift until decades later. We might be in one or this could be rough bumps. There are a number of people who talk about the rise of the gig economy and that jobs are going to change radically.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The movie industry is an interesting example though. Like you say, TV didn’t hurt them. But the rise of piracy killed the DVD market, which is why they’ve become so over-leveraged with tentpole movies in recent years. There’s almost no midrange market at this point- it’s mostly microbudget indies or $300 million movies for the summer. What’s behind this is sheer terror.

      Touring might become the same sort of thing now. I can see established moneymakers like U2 or Bon Jovi mounting big tours and small bands surviving off playing locally and working day jobs. But for musicians in the middle, it’s hard to know if touring really makes economic sense.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Rufus F. says:

        “But for musicians in the middle, it’s hard to know if touring really makes economic sense.”

        “Tell Me Do You Miss Me”, a documentary about Luna’s final tour which you should see if you like the band, argues it doesn’t.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Rufus F. says:


        I would say that streaming killed DVDs more than Pirating. I still like DVDs because not everything is available to stream. Though I do think that there are too many 300 million dollar blockbusters I think that such things can be attributed more to globalization. From what I’ve read, 300 million dollars of superhero plays equally well in North America, Asia, Europe, and Africa. Human dramas and comedies that please North Americans might be perplexing or boring to Europeans and Asians.

        There are also plenty of culture war fights about this in the U.S., how many times are no action movies criticized for focusing on the urban, the educated, and upper-middle class? The answer is a lot.

        Yet streaming does allow things to be made that would normally not be made or released. Netflix and Amazon are releasing original content. Indie movies can now be released on demand or streaming and be seen across the nation instead of going through a touring circuit that is still maintained for reasons unknown. High Maintenance is a webseries that is expertly produced and done for the web.

        The band that gave me a free download for buying a ticket was Stars. I think they are a medium sized band. They generally play concert venues that hold a few thousand people like the Fillmore and not small clubs or large arenas.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Action movies tend to get the widest international distribution because they are fairly understandable across cultures. Seeing good guys beat up bad guys is fairly universal. Dramas also do well internationally because the elements that move them are still universal. Most people understand the pain of losing a relative, having your life turn inside out because of sickness or an accident, or unrequited love. Comedies tend to be very cultural specific. What Americans find funny could easily be offensive everywhere else.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F. says:

        @rufus-f, Elijah Wald talks a lot about the death of what he called the musical middle class in his book, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock n’Roll. There used to be hundreds or thousands of local bands and orchestras of all sorts filled with musicians making a decent lower middle to middle class living. The many musical teachers also used to be part of the musical middle class. The record industry, by making live bands and orchestras more irrelevant, and the decreasing number of people learning how to play musical instruments destroyed this. Internet downloading is delivering the killer blow.Report

  7. Michael Drew says:

    Universal. Basic. Income. That’s the answer to this problem in this world of zero information-transmission costs.

    We pay you an income to make whatever art you want to make (or to do whatever the hell else you want to do)(and yeah, you still have to save up for the supplies/instruments/equipment, etc. (just like you do now) – does that make it a bad deal compared to what you’ve got going now?). If it ends up being worthwhile to enough people as well as possible to keep behind an effective paywall (virtual or physical) in such a way that you can make money at it, great: welcome to the business world! But if not, you’re still getting paid.

    Does this make you sad because you’re not making “special artist money” over and above what you’d make if you chose to collect your check by sitting at home watch Adult Swim? Too bad; get over yourself. You’re not making something that happens to attract enough demand and work through present distribution systems in such a way as to earn you positive income.

    Or maybe: get back down under yourself even further. You’re economically not in a position other than that of the downsized manufacturing employee or the manual typesetter. But!: you think that the art you make has some intrinsic, expressionistic human value. I think it probably does too. So don’t get over that part. Believe in its value regardless of what economic return it brings you in an exchange economy of largely arbitrary dynamism. Don’t get hung up on that; instead, embrace a belief in a right (in a wealthy society) to a basic income that will at least help you sustain yourself while pursing a creative life worthy of the trouble of existing. (You can supplement the basic income, which will (and should) probably suck balls, with either/both traditional labor-in-exchange-for-$ and/or selling your creative work product).

    But to ever have a chance to receive a guaranteed basic income, you need to go out and demand it. Demand it like you believe you deserve it – or they won’t believe you do. Because if you do good work, even if it doesn’t register in the current vagaries of the exchange economy (but also if it does), you do.Report

    • Doctor Jay in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Yep. J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book while on the dole, if memory serves.Report

    • Jim Heffman in reply to Michael Drew says:

      “Universal. Basic. Income. That’s the answer to this problem in this world of zero information-transmission costs.”

      Keep in mind that what you’re doing here is agreeing with the people who say that creative work isn’t worth anything and that creative workers shouldn’t expect to make money off of it. You’re just saying “well, people should be able to get money from something else then”. You’re saying “get a day job”, with a slightly different picture of what the day job would look like. And sure, it’s a nice picture, but it’s not an answer to the actual problem that Rufus is pointing to.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        That’s fair, except the part about not offering an answer. It’s not an answer that disputes his premise (which is that you’re not going to be able to rely on professional artistry for a decent income anymore, or more broadly that people will take things for free if they can get them that way legally (so maybe cries of exploitation in other contexts ring hollow?)); it’s an answer that deals with it in the context of people who make things of value that are nevertheless hard to get people to pay much for, or to whom it’s hard to get what people do pay directed back toward them.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        …free or near-free, that is.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        ” it’s an answer that deals with it”

        But I think what we’re all hoping for is a better answer than just “deal with it”. Like, an answer that says to artists “what you are doing is valuable and people will give you money for doing it”, rather than “society considers all of its members to be equally valuable, now run along and play”.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        “Here’s something new to institute in order to help you deal with it” is, like, almost the polar opposite response in spirit to, “deal with it.” Way to pick out the words that most aid you mischaracterization of my response, though.

        And, whatever answer anyone is seeking, that is the one I’m offering. I am open to ideas about how to transform the exchange economics here, but I don;t know what to tell you other than that I’m pessimistic about it. It’s also hard to define whom we’re concerned about. Obviously, the present system does work well for some artists. So how do we define who deserves to make more as an artist and who really only deserves the few beer shillings they currently are able to scrape up?

        If there are clear distortions in the current systems that are denying artists their fair due, I’m all for straightening those out. I am just skeptical that those really add up to a fundamental change to the problem rufus is concerned about for a large number of artists, though. though.

        Also, in fairness, Rufus’ post is maybe more concerned with moral evaluation than with amelioration (answers), so my focus on a solution may be more of an imposition than anything else. His basic point I think applies more broadly than he even suggests: in general, what do we make of those who talk about exploitation of those employed in the process of production, while simultaneously being happily willing to take the lowest price they can get on pretty much anything? (In fruther fairness, the latter set doesn’t necessarily fully subsume the former.) It’s not really just about the low marginal cost environment of sales of electronic media copies; it’s about modern industry relentlessly eliminating margins and reducign costs in markets of all kinds. But I think he was in fact particularly concerned about the status of creative professionals in that

        My response is that, economically, I don’t see these folks as special. But in human terms I do. But not special enough to deserve a special “artist income.” Just “an income,” which, being the special people they are, they will likely put to use in the creation of art. (I would be open to (the expansion of) limited subsidies for the specific costs of the creation of art.) Also, not being special economically, they do deserve to have people look at their industry closely to see if there are artificial and unjustified distortions that unfairly restrict their ability to profit from their creative endeavors. But, like I say, I am skeptical that there are such distortions to the extent that fixing them would represent the kind of “answer” that you and I are discussing, and which we may be imposing on Rufus’ intention in writing the post.Report

  8. Saul Degraw says:

    I think there is a big issue lots of people were told by their boomer parents to do what they love and there is still a cultural issue that if you do what you love, then not being paid is okay. I don’t agree with this but it exists as a general idea to the public especially if what you love is an artistic field of some kind.

    There are artists who seem to accept the mantra of accepting poverty or destitution like this people:

    “Expect poverty. Theater is a drowning man, and its unions—in their current state—are anvils disguised as life preservers. Theater might drown without its unions, but it will certainly drown with them. And actors have to jettison the living-wage argument. Nobody deserves a living wage for having talent and a mountain of grad-school debt. Sorry.”

    For context, this article came out in 2008 during the height of the recession and the theatre community was hit hard by the recession but the Seattle community was hit especially hard and there were not enough professional jobs to go around. This could make being radically anti-professional attractive. Of course no one would suggest lawyers become anti-professional and do everything pro bono because of the law market crisis.

    I agree or am intrigued by some suggestions in the article and actively repulsed by others.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      That quote doesn’t support your thesis. It isn’t saying that actors should expect poverty because they love what they do. It is saying that the industry can’t make most of its actors rich and remain financially solvent given the current economic and social climate.

      If no one wants what you are selling — and lots of people are trying to sell it — you can’t expect to get rich.Report

  9. LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

    The Universal Basic Income makes a lot of sense, for this and other reasons.
    The marketplace solution for art is the jackpot system, where a tiny sliver attain distribution wide enought to get all the rewards, while the others make nothing.
    We could accept this if we wanted to. Its not like our world would crumble without new art.
    But, like orphan drugs that don’t have a wide enough market to justify their research and development, we would be deprived of new art which needs a non-profitable space in which to be created. Had J.K. Rowling gone to work as a waitress, would we have ever seen her writing?

    From an essay by artist Molly Crabapple:
    “Art is sometimes seen as gnostic freedom. But being an artist means you’re in thrall to cash.
    My last art show would have been impossible without the money and network of contacts I’d built. I never could have hauled massive slabs of wood up to my old fifth-floor walk-up—never could have painted them in the lightless room I once shared with three roommates. Without an assistant, I never would have had the time to paint my show. Without sponsorships, I never could have afforded the paint. Sometimes, curators look at the work, and say, “Why didn’t you ever paint like that before?” I’d answer, “Because no one gave me enough money to be able to.”

    • Had J.K. Rowling gone to work as a waitress, would we have ever seen her writing?

      Interesting question. The industry is full of stories about now-famous writers who held odd jobs of various sorts and fit writing around that schedule. When Stephen King’s Carrie was accepted for publication, he was working as a teacher and was struggling enough financially that he had had his phone disconnected. The publisher had to send a telegram informing King that the novel had been accepted.Report

  10. aaron david says:

    A couple of thoughts:
    1. The age when music is most influential to people is the late teens/early twenties. This is most often the age when people have the least disposable income. When I was that age, we bootleg taped everything.

    2. As long as I can remember, record companies made money of of the album, bands made money off of performing. A symbiotic relation, as bands need the exposure that record companies can provide (getting radio stations to play, getting records in stores) while RC’s need the band to go around playing, and generally acting as rock stars to drive record sales.

    3.The sheer amount of music available for free (see Dhex’s comment above) makes finding good music that appeals to more than the bands friends and parents difficult, especially as old methods die (radio? music store recommendations?.)

    4. Those three things lead to a perfect storm of “why should I pay for it at this time.” In the end though, I think that this will lead to people paying for the experience of seeing a band, vs. owning just a few bits in the cloud.Report

    • The age when music is most influential to people is the late teens/early twenties. This is most often the age when people have the least disposable income. When I was that age, we bootleg taped everything.

      I resemble that remark :^) I’m old enough to remember FM radio stations in college towns that, in the middle of the night, would play new albums from beginning to end without commercial or announcer interruptions. Everyone knew why they did it. As digital emerged, college students in particular often had access to computing and bandwidth resources entirely out of proportion to their income. Of course, most people today have access to computing and bandwidth those college students would have killed for.

      This is one of the reasons that I assert the content owners can’t win a technology war — they have to reveal their bits to smart people with huge computing resources, which is pretty much a guarantee that encryption and other protective methods will be cracked eventually.Report

  11. Jaybird says:

    You know, I listen to a handful of my favorite albums on youtube rather than in iTunes, even though the songs *ARE* in iTunes. Youtube has a better interface.

    Wait. I forget the point that I was making. I suppose, technically, I’m “stealing” by listening to an album that I haven’t paid for rather than the exact same album that I have paid for. I don’t see it that way, though. (I mean, hell, I bought Disintegration twice on tape and once on CD. I feel entitled to listen to it on Youtube.)

    But there’s also a problem: why in the heck would I pay to buy another album if I could, instead, listen to Disintegration? Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

      In general, the music on YouTube is there legally; it’s paid for by ads, just like when you hear it for free on the radio.Report

      • dhex in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        “In general, the music on YouTube is there legally”

        this is a fairly broad statement, and depends on a number of factors. if you’re prince, sure. it gets a bit murkier past that point, even with watermarking and the ad generation based upon that.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Well, it’s more that there is so very much awesome stuff out there now that novelty, as a good in itself, is in constant demand but, after novelty wears off, I can’t help but wonder about the saturation in the market.

        Are you really going to do better than Quadrophenia or Thick As A Brick or Superunknown or Miles Davis or, shout out to my main man, Bach?Report

      • dhex in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        “Are you really going to do better than Quadrophenia or Thick As A Brick or Superunknown or Miles Davis or, shout out to my main man, Bach?”

        given that there’s constantly new music, new efforts, new fans, etc, the answer is undoubtably yes. with the caveat of “yes meaning yes for some people, not so for others”.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Well, I’d say that Homer was off by a couple of decades but I’m more thinking about the issue of music being ephemeral for the entirety of its existence until a mere handful of generations ago.

        We’ve gone from “if you were a singer that wanted to be part of three-part harmony, you needed a spouse who could sing and you needed to have a kid who can sing” to “we’ve got every single song ever recorded right here”.

        Artists are no longer competing with their peers. They are competing with history.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Ah, I gotcha.

        1 was a commercial success, and topped the charts worldwide. 1 has sold over 31 million copies.

        In addition, 1 is the fourth best-selling album in the US since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking US album sales in January 1991, and the best-selling album of the decade in the US from 2000 to 2009, as well as the best selling album of the decade worldwide. It is also the fastest selling album in history.

        The fact that my debut album, a kaleidoscopic aural sampled beat collage of screaming goats, armpit noises, and vuvuzelas, came out the same week in 2000 as 1 was a real stroke of bad luck. I’m sure it would have caught on otherwise.Report

      • In general, the music on YouTube is there legally; it’s paid for by ads, just like when you hear it for free on the radio.

        Of course, now that YouTube provides APIs, you can download a copy of the music to your local hard disk sans the advertising (test case: an amateur compendium of two hours of The Eagles downloads in about four minutes). FFmpeg strips out the (minimal) video in less than a minute. The quality is less than I might want for a Corelli concerto grosso played through reasonably good electronics and speakers, but it’s more than adequate to play through a USB amp/speaker sitting on my desk, or in a car moving at highway speeds.Report

  12. Road Scholar says:

    My take on this is that historians a hundred years hence will look back on the era of artists making (sometimes scads of) money from a royalty system as a temporary, technology-dependent phenomenon. Prior to the invention of the phonograph musicians made bank by playing music. If you wanted to eat tomorrow you played music tonight. Same deal for actors wrt motion pictures. It goes back a bit further historically, but the same thing applies to storytellers and the printing press.

    In each case you had the development of a technology that enabled the recording and widespread dissemination of an artistic work but which was beyond the economic reach of the average consumer. This enabled the creative content provider to control the distribution and ensure that every, or at least close enough to every, copy of the work was paid for by the consumer the same way every attendee at a play or concert could be made to pay. Thus did art become commoditized — democratized wrt to consumption, professionalized wrt production, and homogenized wrt content — and, not incidentally, fortunes were made. If not by the artist, then at least by someone.

    Digital technology came along and blew the paradigm all to hell.

    Sure, you could make decent copies of LP’s onto cassettes given mid-range consumer equipment as well as cassette-to-cassette dubs and, a little later, videotape dubs of movies. But each successive generation of copying doubled the noise level ensuring a sort of soft upper limit to the playability of those successive copies. That and just the general cumbersome nature of the process limited the economic damage to the content providers.

    But when music went digital and cd-rom drives became commonplace in computers all that changed. Now you can rip an album to your hard drive in less time than it takes to listen to track one and burn it onto a blank CD while you listen to track two. And it’s a perfect copy; the hundredth generation sounds exactly like the original. Even all that dates me a bit. Just sync it to your phone or portable media player. Email a copy to your friend.

    I’m not defending piracy on that basis; just pointing out that the twentieth-century paradigm for the movie and music industries was predicated on twentieth-century technology which has yielded now to twenty-first century technology and the paradigm has to change simply because it doesn’t work anymore.

    And why the hell should it? Why should we expect that that old paradigm of work today and get paid forever to continue beyond its natural technological lifecycle? That’s not how most people make a living and I’m not sure exactly what the hell’s so special about artists in that regard.

    Up above, someone was lamenting the lack of mid-budget movies being produced. Well, duh. If you want my ass in a theater seat you need to give me a reason to fork over the cash. And quite frankly, that means something that can’t be satisfactorily viewed on the forty (or fifty or sixty) inch, high definition, surround sound theater in my living room. And that’s likely to entail a certain amount of spectacle and a $300M budget.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Road Scholar says:


      You might be right but that might not necessarily be good. We are already talking about how the mid-20th century in North America and Western Europe might have been the exception rather than the rule in terms of income and a mass middle class that included blue-collar workers. Sometimes exceptions are good and we should find ways to make them the norm.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I hear what you’re saying, @saul-degraw, but this all smells a lot like someone congratulating themselves on their cleverness for buying that piece of land that rises in value and then crying about the unfairness of it all when the market crashes.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Road Scholar says:

      I don’t know that they should get paid forever, but at what point should they stop getting paid? Let’s say Stephen King wrote The Shining in 1977, which Wikipedia swears is true. So, if I go buy a new edition of The Shining at the bookstore, he still gets paid. At what point can we say, “Okay, Stephen King, it took you (say) two years to write The Shining and you’ve been making money off it for nearly forty years. Enough is enough!”?Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Right now the law says his state gets paid for 75 years after his death.

        Whether it should be that long or not is another question.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to Rufus F. says:

        I honestly don’t know. The evolution of copyright law and the norms of the publishing industry are interesting. As I understand it, it wasn’t that long ago that the norm was for authors to be paid by the word by the publisher who then owned the right to create more copies. In that paradigm copyright was clearly a government-granted monopoly that would need justification with that understanding.

        I’m much more sympathetic to the more direct, fruit-of-your-labor, paradigm of copyright held by the author. I’m less sympathetic to any copyright extending past the life of the author and I don’t know what the hell to make of buying and selling IP and IP held by immortal corporations.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Rufus F. says:


        A lot of writers used to be paid by the word/page. This was common with the Victorians and into the 20th century especially with pulp mags. Maybe a writer would get 5 cents a word or something like that. There is an old joke that Dickens was paid to write by the word and it shows.

        Authors are not why the copyright law was extended though really successful ones did benefit. The copyright law has been extended because of the Mouse. Lots of big companies now are sitting on lots of iconic and valuable IP. There is no way that the copyright holders of Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Superman, or Spider-man, etc. are ever going to give that up,

        But everyone would rightly cry fowl if Congress extended the Copyright for Mickey Mouse but not for Carrie or even for a less popular novel.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Road Scholar: I think you and I would have about the same idea on this. It’s hard for me to say to Stephen King “You didn’t write that!” if he did, so I don’t have a problem with him getting paid until he dies for something he did at age 23 or whatever. But, it does seem weird to think of his great-grandkid getting paid for writing The Shining, when he didn’t.

        I think it’s pretty much Disney and the Joyce family fighting to extend copyright until forever at this point. In both cases, my understanding is it’s partly about protecting their source of income and partly about preventing someone from putting out a product that would bring shame to the name. There were some Joyce letters that got published that the family found embarrassing and one can just imagine what uses will be made of Mickey Mouse once the copyright is up.Report

      • Kim in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Mickey Mouse pornography is already legal, I’m pretty sure — it should be covered in fair use (under parody, presumably).Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Road Scholar says:

      It was possible for musicians to make significant amounts of money before recording came along. Most of the really economically successful musicians were composers like John Philip Sousa or Verdi or Brahms but they did exist. Jenny Lind was a singer of international renown before the phonograph. Likewise, celebrity actors weren’t a creation of the movie industry even if it was rarer. Sarah Bernhardt became internationally famous in the world of theatre. Drew Barrymore’s ancestor, Maurice Barrymore (real name Herbert Blythe) was a very popular theatre actor who died in 1905, just around the time movies were becoming a big form of entertainment.

      Recorded music, movies, radio, and television made it possible for more people to become famous musicians and actors by providing wider distribution and exposure. Everybody in the world could potentially buy and listen to a particular record or see a movie.Report

  13. ScarletNumbers says:

    It was only 30 years ago that Universal sued Sony, trying to make the VCR illegal.

    Yes, really.

    It turns out that the VCR was a tremdendous boon to the television studios.

    The parallels are obvious.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

      Which tangentially brings up one I don’t understand. Pretty much every home basketball and baseball game is televised on local cable, and it’s a huge boon to the teams: it’s a new revenue source, it’s great marketing, and it doesn’t seem to hurt attendence at all. Still, the NFL insists on blacking out non-sold-out home games, not even making it a team option. The Raiders, for instance, need desperately to build a fan base some of whom will buy season tickets, and having so many games blacked out kills them. What the hell is the NFL thinking?Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        The Raiders also need a stadium where there are not issues with raw sewage overflow.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Interestingly, I went to a lecture on the case involving the As and San Jose from a legal prospective. San Jose tried to court the As but the MLB said no because the MLB has an antitrust exception and other sports do not. The Supremes have said it is up to Congress to fix this as an issue.

        Baseball is divided into territories. Officially the Giants territory is SF, Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Marin Counties. The As official territory is Alameda and Contra Costa County and maybe further East and North in California.

        Football can’t officially do this without running afoul of the antitrust laws but I wonder if there is some kind of informal agreement that is similar.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Given that the NFL has become the top sports league in the country, it’s hard to argue that they’re making stupid business decisions.

        But damned if that one makes any sense to me, either.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Though the NFL has relaxed their blackout rules recently, including largely looking the other way when stadiums juke their seating arrangements (e.g. there’s no way the Skins are still actually ‘sold out’ for all their games, but having a half a gazillon ‘club seats’ isn’t counting against their total. Then there’s the Jags and their tarps). The NFL also isn’t apparently fighting very hard the FCC proposal to jettison their (the FCCs) slightly different set of blackout rules)

        My understanding also is that the business relationship between the Nat’s and O’s and their shared cable network is complicated, and while some people are making money, not everyone is, which of course is rubbing people the wrong way. And hockey and basketball in DC are partnered with Comcast, whose executives will probably get their social security benefits taken away when they’re 86 years old.

        (but then again, the business model has obviously changed over the last decade, because the O’s and the Caps used to be a staple on the Washington UHF airwaves).Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to Mike Schilling says:


        1) Believe it or not, the case in which the Supreme Court said it was up to Congress to repeal baseball’s anti-trust exemption was decided in 1922.

        2) The NFL’s bylaws also gives its franchises territorial rights. However, one important distinction is that the NFL gives equal rights to both the 49ers and the Raiders (as it does to the Giants and the Jets).

        MLB actually gives equal rights to the Mets and the Yankees. This might be because the Mets were an expansion team, while the Athletics moved into Oakland in 1968, 10 years after the Giants moved to San Francisco.

        As an aside, the Mets screwed the Yankees on this in 2012. The Yankees’ AAA affiliate is in Scranton, and their stadium was being renovated. The Yankees wanted to move them to Newark for just the 2012 season, but the Mets vetoed the deal. Since Essex County, NJ, is just as much Mets territory as Yankees territory, they had every right to do so.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        The 1922 decision is what created the exemption. The Supremes reiterated the decision a few times since then.Report

  14. Saul Degraw says:


    One thing I’ve noticed that writers, actors, and directors can do to support themselves is teach. I don’t mean in a formal academic setting but there are always weekend retreats, evening workshops, masterclasses and the like where would be actors, designers, and writers (who might already have a substantial education) go to stay fresh and get feedback on their work from people who have or had careers.

    This is done by a lot of literary novelists (the type that less a few thousand or so of each book) but I’ve heard even Neil Gaiman has done weeklong writer workshops. Presumably people pay a significant amount of money to be in a week long writing class with Neil Gaiman.

    I just googled to find what looks like a typical example. You get a writer or two, some literary agents, find a nice but somewhat rustic location for the weekend and go at it. I couldn’t find out how much the workshop costs but the same non-profit also offers editorial services and a typical manuscript evaluation seems to cost about 1850 dollars.

    I know there is rockstar camp for really rich guys but is there an equivalent of a rock band retreat where your band can be critiqued by Ted Leo or Steve Albini and maybe record a track or two or would that completely destroy any semblance of bands being a kind of subversive act?Report

  15. North says:

    I think part of what one suffers in the subject of art is a corollary to the old maxim that “everything is worth what it’s purchaser will pay for it.” My corollary: “everything is worth the lowest amount that its seller will sell it for.” The problem that artists face is they’re confronting the ultimate sellers’ market. There are hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of people with artistic talent and a full time non-artistic job. They are content to create art and distribute it on the internet in exchange for quite literally nothing but the attention and comments of their audience. Art is their hobby, their pastime and they’re grateful that people will give them enough attention and time to become their audience.

    The only way you beat that is by producing art so popular and in demand that it has enough mechanical oomph behind it to turn the gears of the legacy art distribution systems. The paradigm, it has shifted. Artists are all competing with every amateur theater group on the planet now.Report

    • Glyph in reply to North says:

      Artists are all competing with every amateur theater group on the planet now.

      You might say that the artists that had backing, such as with labels or publishing houses, and access to the old limited distribution channels those backers enabled (and those that aspired to be like those artists), have lost (or are losing) that relative ‘privilege’; while many others who would have been forever unknown and excluded from the system, are now able to storm the castle walls of public awareness.

      Some go down, some come up; the wheel keeps turning.Report

      • North in reply to Glyph says:

        Yes, it’s great news for everyone except professional artists and their gilded gatekeepers. Then again, thinking back on 30 dollar CD’s and the like my sympathy levels shrivel to ash.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Glyph says:


        Yup one day it will all just be fanfic for things that came out before 2014. That will be a great day…


      • North in reply to Glyph says:

        Less seriously: everything in art is derivative Saul ol’ boy so that high horse you and art snobs ride has hooves of clay.

        More seriously: that kind of sneering posture is both ungrounded in reality (amateur artists make tons of original content) and also is perfectly designed to accelerate the public alienation from and concordant eventual extinction of the high arts.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Glyph says:

        North, I’m going to have to side with Saul on this one. The current scenario might seem great for audiences because people have access to more free or low cost entertainment than they did in the past. It could come back to hurting us in the future because the Internet model is going to be harder on the more literary novels and poetry than the previous model. Artistic quality could face serious decline and that would be a bad thing.Report

      • zic in reply to Glyph says:

        @north is right, art is derivative. But that’s not an argument on not paying artists, either.

        Read Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        @leeesq @saul-degraw

        This makes little sense if you stop to think about it.

        1.) It takes art, to make art. Ideas inspire ideas.

        2.) Via technological change, more people have greater ability to make, disseminate, and experience art, more cheaply, than ever before in human history.

        3.) Therefore, artistic quality could suffer a serious decline?Report

      • North in reply to Glyph says:

        Lee, I don’t believe for a moment that paid artists are going to cease to exist. I simply think that the structure is shifting and those, like Saul, who are pining for the old ways it was done are longing for a phantasm. I’d also question why any liberal or artist would mourn the loss of a system where the artists got a buck, the executives got fifty bucks and the public got the shaft.

        For the record, I favor a guaranteed minimum income or basic income so do whatever the fish you’d like – including making art.

        I bridle at the Saul/Freddie flavor of scorn and vitriol that gets poured out on amateur artists primarily because of how self-defeating it is. “You idiot peasants don’t know fish about culture, now hurry up and subsidize us before we drown.”Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        Funny, I tend to see the commodification of art and rise of mass culture that arose in the first part of the last century as significantly more harmful to the quality of art than anything that’s happening today. In fact, given how harmful what’s happening today is in some ways to both of those things, particularly the former, I have hope that it will make art better.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to North says:


      “Artists are all competing with every amateur theater group on the planet now.”

      I would divide amateur theatre groups into two categories:

      1. True community theatre where it really is just a hobby and there are likely a lot of untrained people.

      2. What can be roughly called professional-amateur. These are people who have training, possibly at the graduate school level but most likely a solid undergrad degree but who know that they will always or almost always have a day job. These groups put on original work and I think there is an inkling of hope that they will be able to quit their day jobs one day permanently or at least go from some kind of office work to assistant professor of theatre somewhere. Maybe get a staff position at a regional theatre.

      Theatre has always been a weird example because of the strange economics? How do you differentiate between people who are doing theatre in suburban Wisconsin, young people moving to NYC right after graduation and working in cheap walk-up rental theatres, and people who move to a place like Portland or Seattle because the living expenses are cheaper but always have a day job. I know people from undergrad who have their own theatre companies. These are well-respected and can get smashingly good reviews and coverage in the NY Times. I think most of them have day jobs or flex jobs.

      I said this before: There are a few theatre artists that get lucky and can do it full time without being independently wealthy (or married to someone who has a job that covers the necessities). The bigger class of lucky ones have flex jobs that allow them to work remotely or not at all when in shows (real estate agent or tutor or proofreader are popular choices). Most probably have to rely on being food servers and bartenders because you can quit those jobs easily or go on auditions during the day and work at night.

      I am also enough of romantic to resist the economic explanation of everything. I don’t think economics should rule over all and I dislike how it has largely divorced itself from any discussion of morality or ethics.Report

      • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        In that particular bit, Saul, the term amateur theater is standing in for the vast majority of artists who have training, or don’t, but are happily offering what they can make/do for free on the internet.

        This fact lurks under all professional artistic endeavor: the null hypothesis your potential purchasers are considering is not “I pay no money and get no entertainment/art” but rather “I pay no money and get only what I can find on the ‘net for free” and that changes the choice dynamic considerably. I see no easy way to change this dynamic nor do I even remotely see it as a bad thing.

        I have some small sympathy for your romance. That said the value of economic arguments is that they are (at least in theory) solvable. Numbers have optimal outcomes that can be objectively determined. Morality and ethics are squishy and are have a strong potential to be unresolvable. I am strongly in favor of setting policy with an eye towards economics and a cynical suspicion of feelings.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        The problem is that humans are emotional and social creatures, not programmable robots. If we were programmable robots, economics would be perfect. I also don’t think is as free of bias and impartiality as its adherents claim the field to be. I find it odd that the blogging and wonk world as gone economics mad over the past few years and thinks a little bit of Econ 101 explains everything and can bring us all to utopia.

        There is a large status quo bias in economics and in seeing what is as what should be. This is a rather clever rhetorical trick for always being in the right.Report

      • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I agree Saul, the difference, I suspect, is that I think that areas where human preferences are irrational, emotional and individual is a place that organizations and especially government is probably best simply steering clear of.

        Of course none of the numbers loving wonks have ever claimed they would lead society to utopia, merely a state of affairs better than what existed before and I think numeracy has had a pretty good track record as compared to the “to hell with the consequences- intentions are what is important” style of policy making.Report

  16. zic says:

    @rufus-f excellent piece.

    I think the open-source model is what we’ll see going forward; free sharing of digital media, with working artists (most particularly musicians) paid for performance. If you like their work, you’ll pay to see someone perform. I see similar things happening in the technology side of music; you would not believe some of the tools people are developing that are open sourced on GitHub.

    But I just want to point out that this is a rather US-centric view. I have friends in European countries who are paid to play music. My brother-in-law, who’s been called things like the Mozart of computer music (better to say he was Mozart’s piano maker, really) was paid by the French government to develop his software (max) in France for a couple years. Most of the music made my musicians in Northern European countries is supported by government because the people there have decided it is of value to their culture. It is also unavailable to purchase in the US; not in the itune store, because of differing copyright law and the proclivity of us consumers to illegally distribute that music.

    So there are other models out there that better value and support artists, and until and unless those artists break into the elite, becoming world-wide stars, we never even hear about them, hear the music they’re making. But they’re paid to compose and perform because their nations deem it worth investing in that mastery. Just like here, in the US, we deem it worth while to have people develop weapons systems.Report

    • Kim in reply to zic says:

      Japan pays people to put Yamato Nadeshico into their works. Is this good or bad? It is … somewhat manipulative, no?Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to zic says:

      Pay-per-view live web performances, if I’m getting you right, @zic. That’s an interesting format I hadn’t heard about. It seems like there might be potential there.

      Is the difference in file sharing between the U.S. and Europe mostly a cultural thing, or are the legal and enfacement regimes very different? I realize those usually go together, so that the answer might be, “Yes.”Report

      • Kim in reply to Michael Drew says:

        They are in Russia, where video games are much, much cheaper than in America (same games)Report

      • zic in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Pay-per view is one format. Crowd sourcing another. But there are socialist models, too. Again, I go back to that we pay for new weapon systems; if our social priority were weighted toward musicians instead of war, we would pay musicians instead of defense contractors.

        Another is government paying performers to perform, or supporting performance spaces so that the cost of performance doesn’t put ticket prices out of reach. (We’re considering touring Denmark, for instance, where my husband can get paid to perform his original compositions; not by the audience, but by the government as a public service that benefits the citizens and visitors to Denmark.)Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Michael Drew says:

        zic, on a related note; European countries tend to subsidize culture more than any other country. African and Asian contries might attempt to protect traditional art forms to make sure that they aren’t overun by Western forms but European countries go further. A lot of cultural institution that are run as for profit-business elsewhere are run as NPO in Europe. Dance studios, as in the Arthur Murray type, come to mind. According to my European dancer friends, dance studios in Europe are run as NPOs and not as commerical businesses.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:


        Of course, that’s in keeping with a lot of the major arts institutions in Europe traditionally being agencies of the state, full stop. Vienna State Opera, etc.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Michael Drew, I honestly don’t have a problem with major art institutions being agencies of the state. It keeps the arts alive and keeps them affordable at the same time. Both good goals for government in my opinion.

        According to a CLE I attended on art law, the state owned museums of European countries have been much more willing to return art stolen by the Nazis to the rightful owners than our semi-private American ones.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I don’t think it’s the best model for the U.S., nor for this era broadly. It encouraged the art that those societies, or their states, wanted, and IMO produced some pretty compelling work thereby. Broadly, though, I think that a more decentralized approach to art is right for a multicultural country and era like the U.S. and the 21st century. Which is not to say that I’m against the NIH/NEA model, given that they maintain a focus on diversity. Government does have the power to promote the art that a nation (or for that matter county) makes, allowing for some discretion about merit or cultural significance, and I don’t think that’s a power it should leave on the table. But I don’t think it should be in the business of directing and controlling major artistic currents, often to political ends, as various European states did in the 18th-20th centuries.

        Government should generally seek to promote the art & culture its society creates, not seek to direct and influence it. Ultimately on the margins it will have to make choices in how to do that and we can debate the values to use to make those choices, but broadly it should simply seek to represent and amplify the culture that’s created by the people. Within the bounds of, and this is a strange word to use but it feels right to me, health. If you create art that tends to promote really unhealthy ideas or choices, like murder or suicide terrorism, then I think that should be a strike against your art in terms of being included in government programs to promote the nation’s art in a representative way. But inside that constraint, the government should seek to promote representationally the art that the society makes.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

        For some reason, I’m reminded of the Mapplethorpe kerfuffle.

        Personally, I find myself sympathetic to the argument that says that we shouldn’t use tax dollars to pay for some of Mapplethorpe’s more, ahem, interesting photos.

        Hell, we can discuss Serrano if you want (Rufus: yes. Immersion (Piss Christ) was, in fact, one of the most important pieces of the 20th Century if not the most important piece). How much of taxpayer dollars should go to pay for Serrano’s work? (Hey, have you seen what he’s been doing lately?)

        Let’s put Kinkaid on the table. Why shouldn’t his work be discussed in the same breath as Mapplethorpe’s, when it comes to whether it deserves funding?Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

          Obviously Mapplethorpe was on my mind in writing that, too.

          Generally, my response is that, to me, the problem of whether to fund a Mapplethorpe every few decades is a problem I want to have when weighed against the problem of the government leaving all of its ability to promote the cultural product of its citizens on the table out of fear of such controversies. It’s a good problem, and a manageable problem. Yes, it’s an inevitable problem that you can’t ever get exactly right, but I don’t see the where it’s really that much of a drawback. The Mapplethorp debate seems to me to be an example of the government actually spurring a vital debate about a number of subjects: what is art, what is American, what is the government’s role in promoting art, etc., etc., etc. With the stakes being that a few dollars in part promotion might get spent on this guy, or that woman, or not at all. And at that, something as controversial as Mapplethorp only seems to come up once every few decades or so, even with politicians intentionally trying to stoke them. Americans seem to take them for what they are: philosophical/aesthetic debates taht are mostly not worth the time, but for the few for whom they are, deeply engaging. And no one’s getting killed. No one’s even getting censored. A few dollars are being spent that some would rather not.

          All in all, worth it from where I’m sitting.Report

      • zic in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Why must we always describe the middle by the extremes when it comes to 1) sex, 2) drugs, and 3) art.

        Some woman give unclear signals and dude doesn’t get lucky, so consent is bad.

        Some star overdoses on a cocktail including wee, so a little weed is bad.

        Some artist made nude gay pics funded by public money, so publicly funding art is bad.

        Lot more women give clear signals. A lot of people smoke a little weed. A lot of people make art. It is not defined by the feet of the legs, but by the middle of it’s wave.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

        And what if, instead, the money went to pay for a Kinkaid exhibition?Report

      • …As far as your references, I don’t know them. I’m inclined to say they should be on the table for discussion. Being on the table for discussion, though, doesn’t get them funding. There are hundreds of thousands of artists. There’s no right answer as to who should get federal funding. There’s no configuration of NEA grants that everyone (nearly anyone, really? – only a very, very few get their druthers) would flat-out endorse. That’s the beauty of it. You’re promoting the culture representationally: you can’t do it perfectly or objectively. Some feel there should be limits, or even other values than just representation; some felt funding Mapplethorp violated those values or limits and said so. Great!Report

      • @zic

        No one said consent is bad. They said consent is complicated, and you pretty much agreed.Report

      • zic in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @michael-drew I was specifically referring to one of the analogies Vikram used; where the guy didn’t get that this particular girl wanted him to become a rapist, a signal he didn’t get, and one, apparently, a lot of men think they face.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Thomas Kinkade. I assure you, you’re familiar with his work.

        There’s no configuration of NEA grants that everyone (nearly anyone, really? – only a very, very few get their druthers) would flat-out endorse.

        You know, I think that there are a handful of grants that could get everybody (or everybody except the Birchers, anyway) on board together. Murals at the post office depicting the glorious American farmer and his way of life. The occasional monument recognizing some people who died for whatever reason. Statues of people on horses. Everybody loves those.

        The problem is that while there is no one kind of art that will get freakin everybody on board, there are kinds of art that will get most freakin everybody on board. Unfortunately, that art is a lot closer to a Kinkade than a Serrano.Report

      • zic in reply to Michael Drew says:

        There’s no one highway project that everybody approves of, either. You handle it the way you handle other things; block grants to states and agencies such as the National Endowment or the Arts. You give it out through farm agencies to bring art into rural communities. You find great curators in local communities, be it a small town gazebo or grand museum hall, to put art shows together for the community, to find and cultivate artists working within their communities.

        But no, not all the senate need to agree on a particular event or artist, just that events should happen and art deserves public support.Report

      • But how does the equate to coming to the conclusion that “consent is bad.” And did he say he saw her as wanting him to become a rapist or is that your thing? The point was, it’s not always the case that the withholding of consent reflects the heart’s true desire, but the withholding of consent still is the withholding of consent. And his consideration of the policy options later in the piece makes clear that he, if anything, thinks that that fact should be more emphasized and clearly delineated than it has been, even if writing that into law he thinks may not and up actually having all that much effect of behavior.

        You’re pretty much just broadly smearing his argument because you didn’t like the picture portrayed by just one of the examples he used, about which he didn’t make the point your saying he did.Report

      • j r in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Why must we always describe the middle by the extremes when it comes to 1) sex, 2) drugs, and 3) art.

        You do realize that you just complained about people going to the most extreme case in any given conversation… while simultaneously taking other people’s observations to their most extreme case?Report

      • @jaybird

        You’re missing the beauty part. Neither freakin everybody nor almost freakin everybody has to be on board for all the grants. All you have to do, and all that’s done, is to generally decide you want to promote the nation’s art, appoint a board of people with some familairity with the subject, trust them a little bit (though there is always an ongoing appointments process), appropriate some funds, and just not completely freak out about the results. And the evidence is in: when you do the first four, the resulting freakout is absolutely manageable enough to make the system sustainable, and arguably just a vital ongoing public discussion about our art and culture.Report

      • As to Kinkade, i assure you I wasn’t familiar with his work. If he were to be funded, I would have no problem. I think he should be on the table. But no one as a legitimate grievance that any particular artist doesn’t receive funding in the first instance. Awarding grants and then taking them back due to public pressure is a different, more complicated question, however.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

        a signal he didn’t get, and one, apparently, a lot of men think they face

        Oh, it is already time for another episode of zic mansplains it all?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @jaybird, I would have no problem with government funding a Kinkaid exhibits in addition to Mapplethorpe exhibits. There is nothing wrong with more accessible art getting a fair share of government money and support in addition to the more controversial and less popular art.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I should clarify my position on government funding. I generally think that providing direct funding to artists is a bad idea because it opens yourself up to hucksters and culture war fights. What the government should do is patronize cultural institutions like museums, zoos, theaters, sports stadiums, race car tracks, and dance studios to make them accessible to the maximum number of people. To make things fair, the definition of cultural institutions should be significant large so that as many people have ready access to their cultural preferences as possible. Like I said, European countries subsidize dance studios and I see nothing wrong with that. If an American government wanted to subsidize sports or mainstream Broadway musicals and theater than that would not be a problem either.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

        A federalist approach? Well, we’re going to have a Mapplethorpe or Serrano or Ofili every, oh, 10 years or so… and associated fallout.Report

      • @jaybird
        Not sure whom you’re addressing. I value a Federal role as the U.S. can rightfully determine that an artist based in Alabama is significant to U.S. culture in a way that Alabama doesn’t determine she is signficant to Alabama culture. I don’t know of anyone who’s saying that states and counties and cities shouldn’t do the same thing at their level to their hearts’ content. I believe they do. I forget the name for that (which is the dominant one for most policy areas in the U.S., not just culture promotion) in @james-hanley ‘s taxonomy of federalism – “shared federalism” or something like that – between the strong and the weak versions.

        But that’s what I support in this area. And that’s what we have. And the “fallout” is manageable. *Very* manageable.Report

      • LWA in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Of course the need for, and design of roadways is a lot easier to perform objectively than art.

        Government funding for art is, and always has been about promoting one worldview over others; there isn’t any possible way to objectively determine why this work gets a grant while that one doesn’t. Even the most strenuous effort to be objective only results in the granting bodies reacting to their own internal biases and viewpoints.Report

      • @lwa-liberal-with-attitude

        So does that put you against it?

        I would argue that a given set of grants in a year could be diverse enough so that overall, certain worldviews aren’t being significant promoted over others, merely promoted side-by-side with each other. And if not in a year, then across years. If, over time, certain worldviews are being clearly favored or others excluded, then there can be a discussion/argument about that.

        I don’t see that as necessarily all bad. I certainly don’t see it as negating the general function of promoting the nation’s cultural product, especially that which is representative of our culture and diversity and which is likely into be overlooked and undersupported through private or commercial avenues.

        Maybe your value assessment of the enterprise is different, though (which would mildly surprise and interest me). So I wonder, is it?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Well, on one level, I see the fallout as manageable in the same way. We’ve got 50 states, hand out 50 block grants and let 50 flowers bloom. 49 states will fund pedestrian art and, in the 50th, we’ll have some sort of weird scandal. Headlines will discuss how “Federal Funds are going into the pockets of perverts” because the guy in charge of picking the art in this 50th state decided that he wanted to put up something that ends up poking middle America in the eye. Depending on the timing, it’ll be something that politicians running for election or re-election are asked to comment upon. And every time this happens, it’ll work to the favor of the Republican Party (at the very least, I can’t remember an art scandal of this sort that didn’t work to the favor of the Republicans).

        Of all of the silly culture wars to start, this one strikes me as having the least upside.Report

      • I can’t remember an art scandal of this sort that

        I think the key point is you’re an outlier if you remember one of any sort. Manageable.

        And as to starting silly culture wars, beyond not knowing if you mean block-granting the system or if your view applies to the current NEA system, I’ve already said I don’t even see much of a war here. The culture war has moved on to other things. But I’ve also described at length what I see as the upside, and how I don’t even think that the arguments that ensue are silly. They’re engaging and educational. And no one’s getting injured, and not very much money is at stake. Yours is kvetching in search of a tsuris (I looked that last one up).Report

      • LWA in reply to Michael Drew says:

        As currently constructed, I don’t see any way by which funding art is different than funding a statue of the Ten Commandments (or Baphothet or the FSM) in front of the courthouse.

        It isn’t as commonly seen this way, because the “traditional” (i.e., 19th century American) funding of art was premised on the idea that Euro-centric Christian worldviews were so self-evident as to not need the recognition otherwise.

        The Moderns didn’t help, since only the aesthetic changed, not the underlying notion that there was a proper universal zeitgeist. So grants are given to people of color, of non-European nationalities, to nearly any and all viewpoints.

        Any and all viewpoints that is, within a certain range. That range being the secular academic viewpoint shared by the loose collection of art educators, critics, gallery owners and practitioners, who sit on the boards that administer grants and decide what is or isn’t art.
        This isn’t some nefarious conspiracy- its just that we can’t possibly shake our personal viewpoints.

        I suppose we could try to widen the boards, increase the number of grants available, and that might help.

        But as pointed out already, the number of artists working, and the volume of art created is staggering; maybe if the NEA had the budget of the Pentagon and Homeland Security combined it could do the job.Report

      • @lwa-liberal-with-attitude

        Uhh… hmm.

        Well, they’re not different, in the sense that… you’re giving people money to make art… or at least sculptures, pictures, etc. The intents behind erecting the Ten Commandments at a courthouse and promoting the art that the country makes is fundamentally different, however, although you may deny it.

        Broadly, though, it sounds to me like the difference between us is in the question of execution. It sounds to me like diversity and representativeness are/would be the values you would endorse for an effort to promote the country’s art by the government. You just don’t think it can realistically be representative enough to avoid being objectionably selective, while I think it’s quite doable. That may reflect a difference in how much value we see in the basic enterprise, though.Report

  17. Kazzy says:

    I know some proponents/practitioners of piracy who point to this comic as justification. When, in fact, I think it shows just how ridiculous their position is.

    HBO created (at great expense) an in-demand product and offered it for viewing for people willing to subscribe to their service. Eventually, it will be available through other means but for the time being, they limited access to people who paid the subscription. The individual in the comic did not want to pay for the subscription nor did he want to wait for it be available through other means. Yes, he was willing to pay for it, but only on his terms, ignoring the terms set forth by the creator of the show. Sorry, buddy, you don’t get to watch the show then. Or you have to wait a few weeks/months for the DVDs to become available.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

      I’m not clear that Rufus is saying that the problem is only piracy (obviously piracy is a problem in this context), or if the problem is more fundamental to the economics of the current system. I.e. the unknown songwriter and Beyonce can both sell tracks on iTunes for $1.29 a copy, but only one of them will be able to pay the grocery bill from it.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Right- a lot of it is the economics of the system. If the small artist sells on iTunes and gets nine cents per track, they have to sell the same amount as Beyonce, but probably won’t. Nine cents is actually pretty good. On something like Spotify, they’d have to get four million plays a month to make minimum wage.
        Here’s a helpful visual:

      • morat20 in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I don’t know about Spotify, but if it’s like Pandora in terms of licensing (and I bet it is), then it pays better than radio already.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Thanks, @rufus-f .

        I’m curious… I pay for very, very, VERY little music. Maybe 3-5 songs a year on iTunes… if that. I listen to the radio, Pandora and Spotify (both free versions), and occasionally watch videos on YouTube (pretty much always ‘official’ versions). All of these are ad supported and I don’t utilize any sort of ad blocking technology (unless you consider changing the dial). So, given that I spend maybe $5/year for hours and hours of music… am I among those ‘unwilling’ to pay for music? I will say that I considered paying for Spotify before they came out with their free mobile service and were either Spotify or Pandora eliminate their free models, I’d probably pay for at least one (depending on the pricing). And if I opted not to, I’d simply limit myself to the radio or the CDs I bought a decade ago.

        I could probably construct an argument wherein I am not very much different from my piracy-loving peers. And I would probably counter that argument by saying that I am utilizing a model that the creators/owners of the music agree to voluntarily… though the word ‘voluntarily’ is doing a lot of heavy lifting there.

        Now, an interesting question arises in terms of quality. Would I be more willing to pay for music of greater quality, either in the form of buying tracks/albums that I like but which are unavailable through the free means? Yes. The few songs I do purchase a year are of exactly this type. Would I be more willing to pay for the various services I used if it meant greater overall quality within the music industry? Probably not. I’m not much of a music-phile and can generally find stuff that suits my interest from what’s out there. Plus I’m not convinced that there is some army of lost musical talent that abandoned their instruments to pursue more lucrative but less artistic work. Of course, maybe that very dynamic is what you and Saul are getting at and sets the arts apart.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I think it’s really what’s available to you that makes the difference. It occurred to me as I’ve been reading this thread that most of us would be very willing to buy music we love directly from the musicians at a decent price if it were clear how to do so. I know bands that use Bandcamp because they get something like 90% of the price when a song is downloaded. So, let’s say an album is 15 bucks in the store and 10 bucks on iTunes, where the musician gets something like 94 cents per album. So, if there was a site with the same quality download and the album sold there for 8 bucks, but the advantage was the band got $7.20 of that, I think it would catch on, at least with music fans.

        On the other hand, something like that probably already exists and I don’t know about it. I still just go to the shows and buy the music from the band if I like them. I do listen to bands on Youtube, which as people have said is problematic as well.Report

      • @rufus @kazzy

        I was thinkking about iTunes in the same way a bit. The key innovation, beyond not needing to distribute material media, it seems to me, is track selection. Albums are cheaper than they used to be, but not an order of magnitude. Maybe 60-70% what they used to be. But you don’t have to buy albums to get songs legally. You can buy tracks. Now, this should overall not be a pure reduction in overall demand for music; it should mean many more copies of popular tracks selling and fewer tracks that you had to buy (even on a single) to get a popular track (legally). But even if there were prefectly even demand tht was just rearranged to reflect track preferences, that’s still like 7 or 8 out of 10 tracks for which demand plummets. That’s 70-80% (obviously these are rough estimates) of an artists work for which demand collapses. And you’d think there’d also be even steeper sorting among the most popular tracks from the most popular artists compared to less popular artists, since no one’s making you buy whole albums, so there’s no way to redeem your overall product in the market as against the dominant popularity of certain tracks. It doesn’t matter, in other words, if an album is 80% filler anymore; much more of the population’s music dollar is going to the top tracks (hence the popular artists) than used to go to the top albums (which were the top albums because they contained the top tracks).

        So that leaves me wondering what people who want to supprt less popular bands *should* be doing to pay a fair, to say nothing of comfortable-living-conferring, price for the music they listen to, if buying their stuff legally on iTunes doesn;t get it done. Other platforms with other models may work, but it seems to me that platforms that don’t offer the flexibility of iTunes are unlikely to gain a great enough share of the market to make them lucative for less well known bands. And to the extent they do, the same problems will surface, persumably. (Maybe not.)

        One model that I’ve seen is the name-your-price service directly on the website. Essentially, the music is free, but you’re asked to give (or pay, if you prefer) what it’s worth to you. Maybe a suggested price is given, or maybe you can buy only the album, or five tracks off of it or whatever. The band still sells on iTunes, because it’s unlikely to ever make sense not to do that given the reach of that service.

        In any case, the question I’m going after (finally) is not so much what will work for bands, as the one I think Rufus was really getting at in the post – What is the listener’s responsibility in order to keep the music alive? Do you just give money to them over and above the market rate for the tracks created by the purchases of people who might like to listen but wouldn’t really care if they couldn’t? Maybe answer to that is just, “Yeah, that’s exactly what you do. If the market isn’t providing them an income from their art that you think they deserve, even if you can get their product for less, you just go to their website and give them what you’re able or inclined to give them consistent with the income you think they deserve. Period.” Just as an ethical answer, that might be the answer. The problem is that practically speaking, that’s not going to reliably provide them with an income. I don’t think.Report

  18. Kim says:

    An interesting thought: What if we’re not seeing “free free free” so much as “More More More”?
    People undoubtedly consume more music now than in the 1970’s (and listen to each piece of music less).
    What if that’s the preference being revealed? That they’d rather have 20 crappy rap songs, rather than 1 piercingly sweet one?Report

  19. Tod Kelly says:

    “My musician friends have all been sharing this Globe and Mail article, written by Elizabeth Renzetti, about the problem facing musicians, writers, and most other culture workers right now: “Namely, that everyone wants to listen, and no one wants to pay.”*”

    I wonder about the truth of this. I’m not necessarily disagreeing, mind you, I’m just not sure that it’s as true as everyone thinks. When i was growing up, most people rarely bought music, a smaller number of people sometimes bought music, and a smaller group (myself included) spent way, way, way too much money on music. This same things seems to hold true today. The difference to me is that while most people today who rarely buy music download it, whereas when I was growing up most people listened to the radio all the time.

    Which isn’t to say that “free” music isn’t an issue; it is. I just think it’s more complicated than people think.Report

  20. Roger says:

    The issue today is no longer pirating, it is streaming. It no longer even makes sense to pirate –streaming is too convenient and of too high quality (Deezer has tens of millions of tracks at CD quality for less than fifty cents a day). My remote control now has more selection than every “record store” in the state combined.

    I suspect the real issue with streaming is the variety and quality available. For me to choose a song or performance today it has to be better for that moment than Beethoven, Mozart, Miles, Coltrane, Muddy Waters, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Michael Jackson, and everything else that particular artist has ever recorded previously. The junk is quickly discarded.

    This has changed the economics of the industry and the winner is the consumer. It has never been better time to be a consumer of quality music. Not even remotely close. Again I now have a library of VIRTUALLY ALL MUSIC. the question isn’t just whether to listen to the Ninth, it is which performance out of dozens is best.

    My guess is the best performers will flourish. Other artists will need to listen to what consumers are saying with their choices and either improve their quality, settle for less or quit wasting their time producing dog food the dogs won’t eat.

    Absent contractual violations or cheating of record companies, I see no exploitation. I see consumers expressing their values. This is not a good thing. It is fishing awesome.Report