Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Money for artists when art is free

Anything that can be distributed digitally tends towards free, even if people are willing to pay. The money usually needs to come from somewhere else, then, and things that are not free: merchandise and experiences. Meeting someone, talking with them, getting their autograph, seeing them perform their work live, are all experiences that cannot be copied. Official merchandise (mugs, shirts, physical copies of books, music and movies) is relatively easy to copy or knock off, but what you can't copy are the actual props, set pieces and costumes used in filming a movie or TV show. Their uniqueness and history is their value, rather than their shape or materials.

How does this relate to books? As ebooks become more popular and their price tends towards free (however slowly it gets there), the money in writing will have to come from more public appearances by authors, or by selling autographed artifacts, or, most likely, the rights to make movies and TV out of their works. They can't very well sell off the artifacts of their writing in this digital age, or rather, they can, but there aren't enough of them to make money from. "This is the very keyboard on which So-and-so wrote my favourite book!" It's a one-off discussion piece, but selling your keyboard after every book would be hardly worth it. You'd have to sell Skype time or perhaps charge for personal correspondence, which is not just annoying but unwieldy and off-putting.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It will be interesting to see where the world ends up.
PPS - Public appearances and tours will become a lot more important, I expect.

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