I love a good café latte, well actually I've recently switched to the Aussie Flat White, which is slowly steaming its way into North American cafés (There is a difference between the two - ask a barista.) But this (tiny) rant, is not really about the coffee, although I will mention that the ecological and social costs of cup a latte are probably much higher than the price one typically pays at most coffee outlets. No, this is a reflection, a comparison really, between what we are willing to pay as societies, for a cup of coffee versus the price of a creative work.
Photo Credit: David Shankbone
What piqued my curiosity happened to be a conversation overheard as I stood in line waiting to buy... a coffee. A couple in front of me were discussing where to find the cheapest books. About to self-publish my own novel, my ears perked up. The first person complained that there weren't enough options @ $0.99 or better still, for free. The second person commiserated then made some website suggestions. I watched them pay well over $10 for their coffees and sundries. As they walked away, I couldn't help but wonder..
When did the currency of creativity devalue so drastically? And when did the price we're quite willing to pay for a speciality coffee, or a nicely packaged bar of chocolate, rise so high?
OK. you say, I'm only saying this because I am a creative artist. True, I am, but I have been fortunate enough to be able to transform my creativity into work that does pay. That's not the point.
Photo Credit: Rugby471
It can take years to write a good book. YEARS. Then you have to either find a publisher or self-publish in which case you have to market the hell out of it to sell any copies. It can take months to write a good song - then you have to record it, probably pay for studio time, musicians maybe, mixing and mastering. It all costs a lot of $$$$. So when someone says they want to find a book or a song for free, what that says to me is that the person does not put any dollar value on creativity. And because so many people now expect to be able to have books, songs, music, films, newspaper articles etc. for free, doesn't that mean that as a society we are collectively declaring that creativity in all its forms no longer has value? Or if it does, a minimal one.
We certainly don't think that the creators of these works deserve to be paid. Or perhaps we just don't think about it.
Suddenly we feel we're entitled to it all.
Photo Credit: Avsar Aras
We still want great novels, fabulous songs, stars to worship, films to inspire and trustworthy news, but we are no longer willing to pay for it. Instead, we expect thousands upon thousands of artists, writers, actors, film makers and journalists to basically work for nothing. Maybe I'm crazy, but this does not make sense to me. I fear it leads us down a slippery slope. Or perhaps we've collectively drunk the Koolaid Meme of the starving artist.
Let's hope I'm wrong. But I think it is worth having a conversation about.
That's my (tiny) rant for today! Back to work...