I realize that my post yesterday about sailing the oceans of indie publishing without breaking the bank touches on a lot of issues facing indie artists today. Often indies are told that because we’re not ‘big name’ artists, we should be happy working for no pay, ‘for the experience’ or ‘for the exposure’. We should smile and shut up while our work is illegally shared because it’s ‘getting out there’. This was definitely not my intended message with yesterday’s checklist, and so, of my own accord, I’ve decided to do a short post for balance that addresses the other side of the coin when we’re talking about saving money on indie work.
A lot of artists have a conflicted relationship with unauthorized downloading. We want our work to get out there, a lot of us have lefty political views that cause us to be concerned about the gentrification of art that comes from putting a price tag on it, and let’s face it, a lot of us don’t have a ton of money either.
But, we do want control over what venues our work appears in, who profits from it, and of course, we want to control the price of our own work and who takes credit for it. In the end, we can’t make the money we need to live and keep working (especially if we do this full time) if no one feels the need to pay for our work. That ultimately results in art becoming unsustainable and the fans that downloaded illegally getting less of what they wanted in the long run. It’s always a unique and personal issue for every artist, and most of the time, no two artists completely agree on the true nature of the problem, or the solution.
However, one sentiment I have heard expressed over and over again, from a variety of different kinds of artists, is that if the person who downloaded had only taken the time to send them a short email asking for permission to use the work, or for a free or discounted copy because they are low income or some other thing, they probably would have said yes. Often, creators just want to be in control of the distribution of their work. If you talk to them, you may be able to get that book you want, and assuage your conscience.
If you have the money, and you’re making unauthorized downloads of works from small presses without also owning a paid copy, give your head a shake. If the price doesn’t work for you, by all means, don’t pay it. Find something cheaper. There’s lots of legal free material out there now. But refusing to abide by a seller’s terms and taking their wares anyway will always be stealing.